It took Christian Mercuri a while to find his niche when he joined Nu Image/Millennium Films six years ago.

But after working with company co-founder Avi Lerner on the Los Angeles independent's production side, 'I moved over and started doing sales with Danny (Dimbort, partner to Lerner and third company principal Trevor Short). And I found I really liked the international market, I liked the clients.'

That fondness for the foreign side of the business is just as well, given Mercuri's schedule for his first market season as Nu Image/Millennium's president of international sales.

It began with global TV bazaar Natpe in Las Vegas, continued with the European Film Market in Berlin, and now, with the US writers' strike over, preparations are in hand for what should be a bustling Cannes.

Mercuri has a full slate to go with his crowded schedule. At the EFM, he was working on Morgan Freeman/Antonio Banderas thriller The Code, a few remaining territories for Robert De Niro/Al Pacino crime story Righteous Kill, and new projects Direct Contact with Dolph Lundgren and Lies And Illusions with Christian Slater and Ving Rhames.

He also began talking to longstanding clients about Ninja, a ninja warrior versus yakuza assassin clash that Nu Image has in development.

Berlin was a bit too soon, however, to get into serious conversations about what is expected to be Nu Image's biggest movie ever. 'Everybody wants to talk about Conan, but we're still in the script stage,' says Mercuri of the recently announced project that will bring Robert E Howard's Conan the Barbarian character back to the big screen for the first time since Arnold Schwarzenegger wielded the sword in 1984's Conan The Destroyer.

Nu Image, Mercuri reports, is 'still throwing around ideas' for how the film, to be distributed in North America by Lionsgate, will reinvent the mythical warrior franchise. 'But for sure we'll have a first draft by Cannes,' he promises. 'We really want to concentrate on getting the best script and the best director we can to move forward.'

Selling the new Conan will take Mercuri another step away from his original career as a geologist and environmental engineer. From that unlikely beginning he moved to Los Angeles to get into the film industry, landed a job as Nu Image/Millennium's office manager in 2002 and worked his way up from there. He was promoted from vice-president to president of international sales last November.

The company has grown considerably over those six years, adding a range of bigger theatrical titles - including recent domestic releases Mad Money and Rambo - to its core action slate and buying US distributor First Look Pictures.

The growth has helped Mercuri expand his contacts in the international arena, as the company has widened its circle of buyers. And it has given him a close look at how Lerner, Dimbort and Short have built the operation.

'When you've been around three people that have so much experience and knowledge, you can only acquire knowledge yourself,' Mercuri says. 'I owe them a lot.'