From the office of his Aria Films in London, the Italian-born producer Carlo Dusi is keen to expand his realm. "Historically, a lot of the films I have been involved in have been firmly in the arthouse sector," Dusi says. "That is a dirty word here, but not for me, being continental. I think we respect that area of the market a little bit more. I think that does still represent my personal interest... although tempered with an understanding of how the market is working at the moment."
Dusi has international experience, such as co-producing Peter Greenaway's Rembrandt project Nightwatching and executive producing 2006 Dutch hit Crusade In Jeans. And Aria has just finished its first feature developed in house: Gareth Roberts' Kill Kill Faster Faster starring Gil Bellows (which Shoreline is selling).
A stint at law firm Davenport Lyons exposed Dusi to the film industry via production companies, financiers and sales agents - essential for his move to financing company Random Harvest and setting up Aria on his own. While executive producing Random Harvest's Octane in 2003, Dusi faced the fork in the road. "At the end of 18 months, I had to decide whether to have a nervous breakdown or choose (between Random Harvest or Aria) - because with Aria I was actually executive producing Peter Greenaway's trilogy The Tulse Luper Suitcases, which was very complicated and very time consuming."
Aria won in the battle for his time. Formed initially as a consultancy in 2002, the company has moved to production out of Dusi's desire to be closer to the "control centre". He says: "Producing is inevitably a trial-and-error process at the best of times. At least if you have the control to make certain decisions and to take certain responsibilities, so you can become a better producer along the way."
Aria's new projects include Broken Lines, a $2.7m (£1.4m) contemporary London drama funded by Matador UK tax fund and private investment, directed by Sallie Aprahamian and starring Paul Bettany. Filmed and post-produced in London, the film should be ready for Cannes.
A more European project is Paul Morrison's Little Ashes (also budgeted around $2.7m), which was shot in and financed mostly out of Spain with some private equity from the UK. That film, a drama about the early relationship between Lorca, Dali and Bunuel, is already attracting buyer buzz (and a North American deal with Regent Entertainment). It is being sold by Katapult Film Sales.
Dusi will re-team with Morrison for Charlotte, a $5m feature to shoot mostly in Berlin. Samantha Morton and Marcia Gay-Harden will star in the story of German-Jewish artist Charlotte Salomon.
Back in the UK, Scottish writer-director Colin Hutton will make his feature debut for Aria with quirky romantic comedy Numb, a $2.9m (£1.5m) co-production with Lisa Neeley's Relish Productions which stars rising actor Charlie Cox of Stardust fame. David Brown is co-producer.
Dusi is keen to work on a variety of films. He says: "[My goal is] opening up to more mainstream commercial projects and to create a balance within the slate of projects I work on which has the artistically challenging and credible alongside the more commercially viable."