Focus Features has joined forces with the international production arm of Universal Pictures to create a global financing, production and distribution entity on the heels of a successful 2008 in which both divisions’ films grossed more than $350m worldwide.
Styled as a one-stop shop for the world’s film-makers, the venture will allow the corporate siblings to share global resources, partnerships and expertise on local and global projects from inception through to sales and distribution.
Overseas distribution will be tailor-made to suit each film with Universal Pictures International distributing directly, Focus Features International licensing individual territories, or a combination of the two.
James Schamus continues as Focus CEO while Universal’s president of international production Christian Grass assumes the new title of co-CEO of Focus Features International. Focus Features president Andrew Karpen becomes president of the new entity while Alison Thompson will continue as president of international sales and distribution.
John Lyons remains president of production at Focus Features, reporting to Schamus, and Clare Wise will continue as senior vice president of production at Focus Features International and reports to Grass with a concentration on production and acquisitions in all territories outside North America and the UK. Focus’ acquisitions team led by Dylan Wilcox (since the departure of Jason Resnick last year) will be in Sundance scouting for acquisitions.
‘Focus has long been the only specialised film company with a truly global mission,’ Schamus said. ‘The goal is lofty and specific and that is to be politically, financially and aesthetically the place where any film-maker no matter what country they come from can best achieve success with their movie.’
‘It’s an extension of what we have been doing already,’ Grass, whose international production group has been in operation since October 2007, said. ‘We’ve worked together with Alison’s group on international distribution and there are so many touch points that already exist between us.’
Grass pointed out that the companies collaborated closely on such titles as: Mexican blockbuster Rudo Y Cursi, the cha cha cha production that just sold to Sony Pictures Classics and is sold overseas by Focus Features International and gets its North American premiere at Sundance on January 16; another Sundance entry Sin Nombre, which Focus will handle domestically; Park Chan-Wook’s upcoming vampire saga Thirst, a Focus and CJ Entertainment co-production; and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s upcoming Biutiful, which is being sold overseas through Focus Features International.
All titles produced by cha cha cha, the production entity founded by Alfonso Cuaron, Inarritu and Guillermo del Toro, will continue to be financed by Grass’ group and licensed for distribution overseas by Focus Features International. The international production group also recently boarded Pedro Almodovar’s Broken Embraces as a co-financier, with select international distribution rights handled by Thompson’s group and UPI directly distributing the film in Latin America.
Under Focus Features International, Grass and Wise will continue to oversee a three-year, first-look deal with Fernando Meirelles’ production company 02 Filmes in Brazil; the five-picture deal with cha cha cha in Mexico; an ongoing production partnership with producer Bill Kong and his Edko Films in Hong Kong; an overall deal with director Timur Bekmambetov and his production and visual effects company in Russia; and an overall production partnership with producer Stephane Sperry’s Liaison Films in France.
Projects from the international production group include: Heitor Dahlia’s Brazilian film Adrift that is in post-production and stars Vincent Cassel, Deborah Bloch, and Camilla Belle; Serge Gainsbourg, its first French co-production with Studio 37 and One World directed by Joann Sfar and due to begin shooting on January 19; Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds starring Brad Pitt and Diane Kruger, a co-finance deal with The Weinstein Company that is currently in production; the Media Rights Capital co-production This Side Of The Truth, a comedy starring Ricky Gervais and Jennifer Garner that is in post-production; and Shinjuki Incident, a co-production with JCE Entertainment directed by Derek Yee and starring Jackie Chan.
Karpen said the deal ‘further solidifies Focus Features’ position internationally’ and gave it ‘a ramped-up production pipeline with emerging and established film-makers from around the world.’
‘Through this new company, my team can continue to do what we have been doing but with even greater resources, talent, and infrastructure at our disposal,’ Thompson said. ‘We actively cultivate, acquire, and/or produce a diverse range of movies from a wide variety of sources: acclaimed and pedigreed Focus films, hot commercial fare, and product from third-party producers including studios, film-makers, and independent production houses. Christian’s team adds enormously to the possibilities at FFI.’
In addition to Broken Embraces, Rudo Y Cursi, and Biutiful, Focus Features International will continue to handle overseas sales and distribution on Alejandro Amenabar’s Agora starring Rachel Weisz; Lance Daly’s Irish festival hit Kisses; Chris Nahon’s Blood: The Last Vampire; and Brandon Camp’s Traveling, starring Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart, among others.