Building on its longstanding ties to the foreign local language community, Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) is launching its International Motion Picture Production Department.

Deborah Schindler, who since 2005 has run the East Coast motion picture production and development operation for Columbia Pictures, is promoted to president of the new division and will lead it alongside Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group vice chairman Gareth Wigan.

Wigan, based in Los Angeles, has been chiefly responsible for developing the studio's local language business over the past ten years.

Schindler will be based in New York. She was formerly Julia Roberts' producing partner at Red Om Films. Her credits include Maid In Manhattan, Mona Lisa Smile, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, and Waiting To Exhale.

SPE is the only major studio to maintain stand-alone, local language production units throughout Europe, Asia and Latin America, and has played an integral role in bringing the likes of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Kung Fu Hustle to global audiences.

Wigan and Schindler will be closely involved with the studio's recently announced film ventures in India and Russia. The new department will consolidate and build upon the studio's international production business. SPE is currently active in motion picture production in China, Spain, France and Mexico.

'Under Gareth's leadership, we have made great strides in building relationships with film-makers around the world and in producing and releasing terrific movies on several continents,' SPE co-chairman Amy Pascal said.

'And Deb and I have known each other since we both started working in Hollywood more than twenty years ago, so I'm thrilled we'll be working together on movie-making in the international market.'

'With the maturation of this business, Gareth asked Deb to join him and help us take our international movie production to the next level,' SPE chairman and chief executive officer Michael Lynton said. 'Making more films in other countries is clearly consistent with our financial and artistic goals over the next several years.'

Schindler began her film career as an assistant to Martin Scorsese, working on such films as Raging Bull and The Color Of Money. She was an associate producer on Scorsese's After Hours, and has also worked at 20th Century Fox and Columbia Pictures.