Tristan Whalley has been appointed managing director of Portman Film, the film division of Portman Entertainment, which is basking in yesterday's Sundance sale of North American rights to its $6m comedy Saving Grace to Fine Line Features for $4m.

Whalley, former marketing chief at Majestic Films And Television and subsequently CEO of sales and production outfit North And South, joins the company officially in a week which sees not only the Saving Grace sale but also intense buzz around Portman's hip New Zealand thriller Scarfies - also playing in the increasingly prestigious Sundance World Cinema section.

Saving Grace, a Portman co-production with Sky Pictures, will be released in the UK by Sky sister company 20th Century Fox, probably in the second quarter of this year. Fine Line is looking to open the film in the US this summer and Fine Line president Mark Ordesky described it as one with "breakout potential."

Whalley told Screen International about sales of Saving Grace to UGC in France, Advanced in Germany and CCV in Scandinavia. He also announced that Universal Pictures has acquired Australian and New Zealand rights to Stick Men, a comedy thriller about pool players, which started shooting in Wellington, New Zealand, on Monday this week.

Also on Portman's AFM slate is John Duigan's Paranoid, another co-venture with Sky Pictures which stars Jessica Alba, Iain Glen, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Ewan Bremner in a psychological thriller set in the UK. Advanced recently picked up German rights to the picture.

Whalley has acted as a consultant to Portman since late last year; the company was bought by the UK's South Beach Concepts, a publicly-listed former fast-food restaurant operator that has now re-named itself PrimeEnt. Chief executive of the new Portman is Tim Buxton.

"We want to keep a lean and mean company and gradually expand the film side," said Whalley. "That way we can make it a good platform for British and international producers."

Other Portman movies available at AFM include The Clandestine Marriage starring Nigel Hawthorne and Joan Collins and The Trench directed by William Boyd and starring Paul Nicholls.