Aggressive Nordic producer Zentropa is launching a Los Angeles production beach head while separately hatching a multinational partnership which is expected to involve Germany's Kinowelt and Fine Line Features.

Trust Film Sales head Thomas Mai will relocate to head up the LA office which already has two projects in development. Harvey Keitel has agreed to star in Scratch, a $3.5m picture directed by first-timer Cecilia Minuchi in which a chicken relays the stories of 60 human lives. Dennis Hopper will star in Sit Down, a drama set in a beauty parlour in the midwest which marks the directorial debut of Robert Dean.

Mai said that he wants the operation to act as a magnet for new US talent. "We'll give directors final cut and all the creative control that European talent is used to, but which US directors seldom get. We don't have a large budget to start with and the office will be fully set up when the finance for the first projects is in place."

Separately Zentropa's international arm, Zentropa Internationale, is talking to both Kinowelt and Fine Line about a slate of nine English-language pictures to be produced over three years. Kinowelt has already committed to the first three movies while Fine Line Features is in talks to become the North American partner.

"We want to have the same financial structure on all nine movies," said Internationale co-head Ole Sondberg. "We are negotiating with Fine Line for a North American deal but we need to have the right structure set up before it can be more concrete. It's a big deal."

Fine Line's relationship with Zentropa kicked off with Cannes competition entry Dancer In The Dark, the latest film from Lars von Trier which the US indie co-financed at script stage in return for domestic rights. Fine Line, which has an option to handle the next two films to be directed by Von Trier, is already working with Zentropa on at least one of the projects in the Kinowelt deal ' sci-fi picture The Last Born to be directed by Denmark's Niels Arden (Portland).

The other two pictures so far set for the Zentropa/Kinowelt deal are Moments Of Clarity which is written by Mikael Colville Andersen, and a film of Jostein Gaarder's Through A Glass Darkly to be directed by Susanne Bier (The One And Only).