The production arm of Icon Entertainment's new Australian distribution operation will be a joint venture with Shanahan Management, the highly-regarded actors agency headed by Ann Churchill-Brown. The new company, called Icon Shanahan Productions is to be run by Sally Chesher.

Five years ago the Australian industry was bemoaning its lack of a high-profile star system. Since then, the likes of Cate Blanchett, Russell Crowe and Heath Ledger have turned that situation around so dramatically that the relatively small budgets of the majority of local films are unlikely to ever entice them back.

At best, a deal like this could help broaden the national slate and kick Australia into the big league. After all, Shanahans represents Geoffrey Rush, Toni Collette, Judy Davis, Rachel Griffiths. Nicole Kidman, Sam Neill, Guy Pearce and Hugo Weaving. At worst it could fail to green light any projects -- Icon's former much maligned joint venture with Fox failed to produce anything. Icon is already producing television in Australia, however.

The head of Icon Film Distribution, Mark Gooder, expects the company to handle 10 to 12 films per year. What Women Want has now grossed A$22.2m in 10 weeks on release for distributors Roadshow.

Blanchett's agent RGM Associates, which also represents Anthony La Paglia and Adam Garcia, announced a year ago that they had formed a packaging division, RGM plus, and a strategic alliance with Devesh Chetty and Paul Choiselat's new company Black Rock Entertainment aimed at accessing development and production finance.