This time last year, Cathy Schulman was basking in glory as one of the two Oscar-winning producers of surprise best picture choice Crash. Currently, her time is taken up with something perhaps less glamorous but still, she says, exciting: the "entrepreneurial re-building" of Mandalay Pictures.
After more than a decade working for independent Hollywood production companies and as a producer in her own right, Schulman was named president of Mandalay Pictures - part of Batman producer and ex-studio chief Peter Guber's Mandalay Entertainment Group - in January.
Past Mandalay projects have included Sleepy Hollow, Donnie Brasco and I Know What You Did Last Summer. But lately the company's feature production has tailed off - its most recent release was autumn 2005 diving thriller Into The Blue.
Now, says Schulman, "the commitment is to allocating resources and capital to growing this business significantly. The output of pictures will be much greater than it has been in the recent past."
Some of the projects will be the kind of studio-based movies for which Mandalay is known. The company renewed its financing deals as well as its first-look worldwide distribution deal with Universal (it also has a non-exclusive international sales relationship with Summit Entertainment). Priority development projects include a Universal-based remake, in partnership with Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes, of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds and an adaptation of true-life crime book Mafia Cop.
Some of the output, however, will come from a new division, Mandalay Independent, that Schulman also heads and into which she will bring her own slate of projects (with the exception of her forthcoming Warner Independent/Participant Productions-financed activism documentary An Indifferent World). The independent films could also be distributed under the company's Universal deal, through the studio's Focus and Rogue labels.
The launch of the independent division is part of what Schulman describes as "branding" Mandalay for the future. "Independent film is so important," she says, "because in that area you can make pictures more quickly and there's more control over the storylines, so you can maintain clarity through the process. It's a way to incubate ideas and attract talent that can then be transferred into studio pictures."
Heading the resurgent Mandalay production operation may also give Schulman the chance to move on from what has been - the Crash Oscar apart - a difficult time in her career. Over recent years she has been involved in two high-profile legal feuds, one (now concluded) with Michael Ovitz, the other with indie film mogul Bob Yari.
"I wear my battle wounds as badges of honour," says Schulman. "Whatever people have to say about these lawsuits, what I can say is my work and my achievements never stopped. It's made me a much stronger executive, a much stronger producer."
Selected producing credits The Illusionist (2006), Crash (2005), Thumbsucker (2005), Godsend (2004), Sidewalks Of New York (2001).
Experience: Previously ran Bulls Eye Entertainment and APG, the production division of Artists Management Group. Worked as an executive at Savoy Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures and Sovereign Pictures and was director of programming at the Sundance Film Festival.