Cohen Media Group founder Charles Cohen and president Daniel Battsek talk about the care they give to prestige arthouse titles in both production and distribution.

Property developer and Cohen Media Group founder Charles Cohen says he has always been passionate about films but only caught the Hollywood bug after he collaborated on an Oscar-nominated independent.

“I was the lead executive producer on Frozen River and put up the majority budget,” says Cohen. “That was my first experience of production and I got a taste for it.”

The real-estate mogul is not used to idling away his time so he set up a company in 2008 with the goal of championing pedigree arthouse films. He hired former HBO executive Steve Scheffer in 2010 to head distribution activities and several years down the line Cohen Media Group has built a track record working with acclaimed titles.

The pipeline includes in particular French and foreign-language gems such as Gilles Legrand’s You Will Be My Son (Tu Seras Mon Fils), Pablo Berger’s Blancanieves, Ziad Doueiri’s The Attack [pictured] and Costa-Gavras’ November release Capital.

“We have released 11 films this year with more to come,” says Cohen over the phone from Toronto, where the company acquired Claude Lanzmann’s Holocaust documentary The Last Of The Unjust at the festival.

“There was a need to present intelligent, mature audiences with serious films that provoke thought and discussion. Many of the films we have are about issues confronting ordinary people, whether they be in Israel, France or the US.”

Product pipeline

Cohen has not stopped at distribution. His company acquired The Rohauer Library, a 700-strong catalogue now known as The Cohen Film Collection that houses treasures including Buster Keaton’s The General and DW Griffith’s Intolerance.

An ambitious production and remake pipeline will supply film and TV, the latter providing the impetus for a joint venture with See-Saw’s TV division on a long-form series based on Ben Macintyre’s D-Day landings book Double Cross.

On the feature production side, Cohen notes: “We are actively looking to place [the remake of] You Will Be My Son in Napa or Bordeaux. Most recently we optioned The Inventor And The Tycoon [by Edward Ball] and that could be either film or TV.”

In December 2012 Cohen brought in Daniel Battsek as president. The former president of Miramax and National Geographic Films, who headed Buena Vista International back in his native UK, will focus on ramping up production activities while keeping an eye on distribution.

The First Independent Pictures founder and former Artisan Entertainment executive vice-president of sales Gary Rubin arrived in January 2011 and plays an instrumental role in acquisitions and ancillary strategy.

Battsek describes his role as connecting the main film-related activities. He says Cohen can compete with all the established independent distributors and might gain an advantage once filmmakers see the tender loving care they can invest in individual titles.

On the production side Battsek says, “We are trying to get involved in movies and scripts we like at an earlier stage. You can have more input in the way those projects come to life and [take] a better financial position.

“So we are there for pre-buys, which I see as a kind of production involvement, like [Israel Horovitz’s] My Old Lady, now shooting, that is part of this overall move.”

Battsek is excited about a remake roster that includes the aforementioned You Will Be My Son, Eric Valette’s 2011 robbery thriller The Prey (La Proie) and a third collaboration with Rachid Bouchareb involving Pathé, going under the working title of Enemy Way.

An ongoing association with Bouchareb illustrates the premium Cohen places on relationships. Cohen released the French-Algerian film-maker’s Outside The Law in 2011 and went on to distribute Bouchareb’s English- language debut Just Like A Woman and The Attack, which the director produced.

“For a relatively small company in terms of manpower,” says Battsek, “we are branching out into a number of different areas and spreading our wings as much as we can. We have a strategic approach to this.”

Cohen Media Group

  • Recent distribution titles: Farewell My Queen starring Diane Kruger, Blancanieves, The Attack, Capital, Chinese Puzzle, Mademoiselle C
  • Upcoming production titles: Enemy Way (working title)
  • Remake titles: You Will Be My Son, The Prey (working title)
  • Book options: Double Cross and Operation Mincemeat (both by Ben Macintyre), The Inventor And The Tycoon