Los Angeles-based distributor and sales agent Independent Artists (IA) has signed a first-look deal with Spanish start-up The Seagull Productions (TSP). The initial five-year deal gives IA first-look for US distribution on all TSP productions, while TSP gets first-look as Spanish co-producer on IA films.

The deal will include the first feature from IA's newly launched production arm, director Raul Ruiz's $11m Box Of Rain, as well as TSP's debut film The Seagull, a $12m film set to star Ethan Hawke and Catherine McCormack. The two companies have also agreed to look for new projects together. "We want to produce European films with international potential," TSP head Eva Baro said.

IA CEO N. Lee Lacy and co-president for filmed entertainment Randolph Pitts said the agreement forms part of their international expansion plans, which are likely to include the opening of a UK office before the end of the year and development of more European co-productions. Launched at Cannes last year, IA's new production plans will encompass eight under-$25m films per year.

Box Of Rain, a thriller which originated at Chesler/Perlmutter Productions, is set to roll in Barcelona and Los Angeles beginning in October. The Seagull, a Chekhov adaptation co-scripted by TSP heads Baro and Toni Sole, will shoot in Spain in early 2001 with IA handling international sales.

Shaping up as a major European player, TSP recently closed another first-look deal for Spain with the UK's Nice Pictures International. TSP has confirmed its participation as co-producer on thriller Killing For Company, and may join at least four other Nice projects including comedy The Parking Lot, romantic thriller Karma and comedy Dog's Body.