Changes are afoot at Bleiberg Entertainment, where effervescent company founder Ehud Bleiberg is already plotting his next big move as a hugely successful year draws to a close.
A familiar face on the foreign sales circuit for many years, Bleiberg knew it was time to make a bold move two years ago after his longtime Los Angeles-based partnership with former Dream Entertainment partner Yitzhak Ginsberg dissolved messily.
"I wanted to reinvent myself in a way that used all my skills and allowed me to work with great content," he says. "I knew I had to take more risks." And so Bleiberg returned to his producing roots, which had put him on the map in his native Israel back in the late 1980s and early 1990s when he made films such as Himmo King Of Jerusalem and the 1992 hit Tel Aviv Stories.
He set up Bleiberg Entertainment in late 2005 and went to Israel in search of projects. There he found The Band's Visit, a drama by Eran Kolirin which he produced and took to Cannes this year. The film established Bleiberg as a force to be reckoned with, selling out virtually everywhere, including a North American deal with Sony Pictures Classics for North America, winning the Coup de Coeur award in Un Certain Regard, and taking eight out of 14 Israeli Academy Awards, among many others.
Bleiberg is flying, and it seems not even a technicality in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' guidelines can stop him. Academy rules stipulate that the significant amount of spoken English in the film disqualifies it as Israel's foreign-language Oscar submission. Bleiberg remains phlegmatic. "I respect the Academy... but they're mistaken because English is integral to the story. The only way the Egyptians and the Israelis can communicate is through English, and it's gibberish English at that!"
Bleiberg recently returned from post-production in Germany on Paul Schrader's holocaust saga Adam Resurrected, which Orson Welles tried and failed to get off the ground many years ago and Bleiberg describes as "the biggest passion of my life". The $11m film stars Jeff Goldblum as a former circus entertainer who is spared the gas chamber and ends up in an asylum for holocaust survivors. Willem Dafoe also stars in the film, which is based on Noah Stollman's adaptation of Yoram Kaniuk's novel. Gabriel Yared is in final negotiations to compose the score and Bleiberg is eyeing a Cannes 2008 launch.
Bleiberg's pipeline includes the adventure drama The Lie That Refused To Die, based on a book by Israeli judge Hadassah Ben-Ito about a young lawyer who sued the Swiss Nazi party for publishing the infamous anti-semitic fabrication, The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion. Next up to shoot is the $4.5m thriller Kirot by Israeli director Danny Lerner, which has been earmarked for a March 2008 start in Israel.
Bleiberg usually focuses on the production side nowadays but joins vice-president of worldwide sales Roman Kopelevich to handle foreign sales at the markets. At AFM, the company will be touting four titles from its new genre label, Compound B, headed by vice-president of operations Shannon Banal and acquisitions and development co-ordinator Nick Donnermeyer.