Focus Featureshas entered into a multi-year first-look production deal with veteran filmexecutive Stephane Sperry, Focus co-presidents David Linde and James Schamusconfirmed today (Dec 16). Sperry arrives from his post as co-president ofStudioCanal USA and the Focus deal comprises an exclusive advisory arrangementthat will also involve continued communication with Canal Plus, Studio Canaland parent company Universal Pictures. Sperry will be based in Los Angeles andParis, with the latter doubling up as Focus' French branch.

"StephaneSperry is a good friend and an even better business partner," Linde andSchamus said in a statement. "His formidable knowledge of theinternational film business and his creative relationships around the world areinvaluable and perfectly in tune with the Focus mandate. We are thrilled to beworking with him."

Sperry said in astatement: "After having spent 15 years implementing creative andcorporate partnerships, I am happy to be returning to my roots in filmproduction. I'm particularly excited to be working with James and David,who have demonstrated their commitment to bringing the work of visionaryfilmmakers to audiences worldwide. I look forward to working with them toincrease Focus' profile in Europe."

As co-presidentof Canal Plus' US operation since 2000, Sperry took charge of alldomestic film content investments. Before that he was executive vice presidentof programmes and strategic development for the subsidiaries division for theFrench company, which he joined in 1987 and also served as head ofacquisitions, where he developed the 5,500-title library. Prior to Canal PlusSperry served three years as president of Alliance International and four ashead of Island Records (France).

Focus Features releases include Far from Heaven, which won five New York Film Critics Circle Awardstoday including Best Picture and Best Director. Other titles include FrancoisOzon's 8 Women, theofficial French submission for the 2003 Oscars; Roman Polanski'sHolocaust drama The Pianist - a StudioCanal production which Focus pickedup for North America; and Neil LaBute's forthcoming drama TheShape of Things, which world premieres atSundance in January.