For Mark Horowitz and Andras Hamori, the recently launched international sales and co-production arm of H2O Motion Pictures is part new venture, part professional reunion.
The two executives previously worked together in the late 1990s, when Hamori was president of the Alliance Pictures production operation and Horowitz served as president of the Alliance Atlantis Pictures International sales division.
Hamori struck out on his own in 2000 to produce films including The 51st State, Max and Owning Mahowny under his H2O production banner. Horowitz went solo in 2002, becoming a consultant to companies such as Endgame, First Look and ThinkFilm.
They were re-acquainted two years ago, when Hamori asked Horowitz to handle international sales on his Hungarian film Fateless. It was then the idea of an H2O sales arm began to take shape.
"We've always had a good working relationship in terms of our taste in films and how we see the marketplace," Horowitz affirms. "And after that experience working together, we realised there was a market for the kind of films we wanted to do."
The result is a European/US sales operation - making its debut at Berlin's European Film Market with a three-title slate - that will handle eight to 12 English-language projects a year. The projects, as Horowitz describes them, will be "quality commercial" films. Some, like the nearly completed Hungarian-German Opium and the long-in-the-works People Who Knock On The Door, will be Hamori-produced H2O projects; others, such as Vox3's Crawling At Night, will be international acquisitions.
Central to the new operation's strategy will be the confluence of Los Angeles-based Horowitz's sales expertise with the know-how Hamori - who splits his time between the company's London and LA offices - has developed working with sources of soft money and other finance in Europe and the US. That expertise has most recently been employed on Opium and People Who Knock On The Door, which is due to start shooting in May or June in Ireland, the Isle of Man and the US.
Thanks to the European financing options, a good proportion of H2O's slate could come from Europe.
"There are a lot of great stories to be told out of Europe," says Horowitz. "But everything will be organic. It's all going to start with a good story and a good script. If it can be done organically in Europe then we'll certainly push it. What we don't want to do is put square pegs in round holes - to say, 'This takes place in the jungles of Vietnam but there's a great deal in Denmark.' We're trying to avoid that kind of stuff."
THE H2O SLATE
Opium (post-production) Drama about a psychiatrist whose work is overtaken by his morphine addiction and his infatuation with an asylum patient. Starring Ulrich Thomsen (Festen), directed by Janos Szasz (The Witman Boys).
People Who Knock On The Door (pre-production) Dark comedy based on the Patricia Highsmith novel about a troubled teen. Directed by Karl Golden. Co-produced with BBC Films.
Crawling At Night (pre-production) Romantic drama, to be directed by Kimi Takesue, about a Japanese sculptor and an aspiring singer who meet in New York.