Eric Abraham's Portobello Pictures (the company behind Kolya and Dark Blue World) is taking the plunge into sales. Here on the Croisette, the British-based outfit has combined forces with Italian outfit Fandango to set up sales banner Portobello-Fandango. Each company has two films in the market.

Portobello is introducing buyers to Czech director Jan Sverak's domestic box-office hit Empties (which has already grossed over $4 million in the Czech Republic) and to Alice Nellis' Little Girl Blue (produced by Sverak).

'Our joint Portobello-Fandango sales effort at the Cannes market is a toe-dipping initiative but may well become a lasting structure,' Abraham commented of the company's new alliance. '[Fandango boss] Domenico Procacci is someone I have known, admired and worked with for 15 years. He is a trusted friend. In addition to partnering him on sales, I am collaborating on his current film written by and starring Nanni Moretti - Quiet Chaos - which is in its second week of photography in Rome.'

Aside from Italy, where the film will be released by Fandango, Poland and former Yugoslavia, Empties is available in all territories. The film's festival premiere will be at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival on July 5.

The move into sales comes as Portobello is also boosting its film production slate. Christopher Hampton will soon deliver a screenplay of his recently revived play Embers which Jan Sverak will make as his English-language debut. Nellis, too, is writing a new Czech film for Portobello. The company is getting under way on development of its big screen adaptation of Jung Chang's Wild Swans. It is also developing a science fiction thriller based on the book by David Ely - A Journal Of The Flood Year.

Meanwhile, Portobello (which also has robust theatre, TV and publishing arms) has commissioned a host of new plays and TV films. These include Craig Warner's mother and daughter drama Consuelo & Alva, Stephen Davis' Ethel (about the Rosenbergs), and a new film to be scripted by Ronan Bennett about London gang culture.

There is also the strong prospect that Golden bear winner Mark Dornford May's next two theatre pieces in South Africa, a drum and marimba based version of The Magic Flute and a production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol in Xhosa will eventually be made into films by Portobello. Both stage productions will premiere in Cape Town in the Fall and then in November in the UK. An announcement will be made shortly as to when and where.