In the latest senior appointment at Fox Searchlight as the studioprepares for its biggest ever year, company veteran Claudia Lewis has beenappointed president of production.

Lewis (pictured) will oversee the slate including development,packaging, budgeting, casting and production. All production executives willreport to her.

Fox Searchlight president Peter Rice called Lewis "hands-down thebest production executive in the independent business", adding that she hadplayed a key role in the company's expansion over the last 10 years.

"I am honoured by the opportunity to continue doing what Ilove - working with the world's most original and provocative independentfilmmakers," Lewis said.

Lewis has been an executive at the studio since it launched in1995 and most recently held the position of executive vice president ofproduction.

She has developed and overseen the production of more than 30features including Sideways, Sexy Beast, In America, Kinsey and The Full Monty.

Prior to joining the studio, Lewis was a producer with AddisWechsler and served as vice president of production at Avenue Pictures, whereshe oversaw production on The Player and Drugstore Cowboy.

FoxSearchlight's wide-ranging 2006 slate includes Danny Boyle's Sunshine, Richard Eyre's Notes On A Scandal, and Nicholas Hytner's The HistoryBoys.