By Indiewire | Indiewire May 19, 2006 at 6:25AM
After an extended interim period following his appointment to lead Paramount's specialty division, John Lesher announced Friday in Cannes that the company's new name is Paramount Vantage. The group's former name, Paramount Classics, will remain a label within the specialty division, releasing an existing slate of films, including David Guggenheim's Sundance and Cannes '06 doc, "An Inconvenient Truth." Lesher and his management team will oversee both divisions.
[indieWIRE's Cannes '06 Market Daily column is being published in the Cannes Market News print dailies, produced by Le Film Francais and the Marche du Film. 13,000 copies of the English-language publication are available in all festival venues, hotels and throughout Cannes.]
Lesher, who took the helm of the Paramount specialty unit after his appointment last November by Paramount studio chief Brad Grey, linked the company's future success to their near-term and long-term releases. "The proof will be in the pudding and ultimately how we sell [our films]," Lesher told indieWIRE Friday in Cannes. "And like any company, it's also about the team -- and I think we have a great team." Lesher said he did not foresee any major staffing changes, but the company may add some additional staff "organically" throughout the year.
Paramount Vantage plans to release eight to ten films annually and will focus on, according to the announcement, a "broad range of titles, from sophisticated films with a strong art-house sensibility to smaller budgeted comedy and horror films."
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's latest, "Babel," which will have its world debut May 23rd in Cannes, will be the first release under the new label. Expected 2007 releases under the Paramount Vantage banner include The Coen Brothers' "No Country for Old Men," "There Will Be Blood" by Paul Thomas Anderson, Noah Baumbach's Untitled Project that will star Nicole Kidman, Jack Black and Jennifer Jason Leigh, "Year of the Dog" by Mike White and the Untitled Pastor Project, directed by David and Alex Pastor, whose short film "La Ruta Natural" screened at Sundance.
In addition to "An Inconvenient Truth," which features former U.S. Vice President Al Gore on global warming, the Paramount Classics label will also release "Hustle & Flow" director Craig Brewer's latest effort, "Black Snake Moan". The Classics label will focus on smaller, "review-driven" films in 2007 and beyond including foreign language acquisitions and documentaries.
"The Vantage name won't be ready until the end of the year in terms of logos," said Lesher about keeping the Classics name. "And I think films [acquired by the company] under the previous regime should come out under that name." (Lesher replaced Ruth Vitale and David Dinerstein, who co-founded the division).
As for Cannes, Lesher expects the festival to provide a strong push for both "Babel," which is in competition here, and "An Inconvenient Truth," screening in out of competition. And, like most of the large mass of industry attending Cannes, he hopes to find a title to add to Paramount Vantage's slate.
"I'd like to find something new, and [Cannes] is a very important international launching pad," said Lesher, who would be networking with colleagues and attendees at a Friday cocktail party. "There's a [big] international presence here and [I want] to let people know what we're doing. This is the nexus of the film industry." [Brian Brooks/indieWIRE]
Focus Announces New Project with Hany Abu-Assad
"Paradise Now" director Hany Abu-Assad is developing his new film for Focus Features, the company announced Friday in Cannes. According to the announcement, the director will direct the untitled (and undescribed) screenplay, with Focus holding worldwide rights to the movie. Noting only that it's a "contemporary dramatic story," Focus said that the film will be supervised by Focus SVP of production Kahli Small and president of production, John Lyons.
"As 'Paradise Now' showed," said CEO James Schamus, in a statement, "Hany is a filmmaker of tremendous compassion and skill. We are thrilled to be a part of his next project, which is sure to stir even more interest and passion than his last." [Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE]
Brazil Launches New Film Biz Effort in Cannes
The Sindicato da Industria Cinematografica do Estado de Sao Paulo (SICESP), government agency APEX -Brazil and Brazil's Ministry of Culture have launched Cinema Do Brazil, a program designed to globalize the Brazilian film industry and to increase its visibility in the international film community. Announced today at Cannes by the Cinema Go Brazil president Andre Sturm, the program's main goals are to bolster Brazilian film production in the international market by negotiating worldwide co-productions, expanding the distribution and branding opportunities of Brazilian cinema and creating more jobs within the industry.
"The Brazilian film industry is stonger than it has ever been...Cinema Do Brazil aims to... act as a unified voice of the Brazilian film industry," commented President Sturm in a statement. "This is a major step in the right direction for Brazilian cinema as we're dedicated to elevating the industry across the board and raising the profile in the worldwide film community."
This year at Cannes, Cinema Go Brazil is representing producers, sales agents, infrastructure companies, as well as nine films which will premiere in the Marche, including Vitoria Producoes' "This is Bossa Nova," Total Entertainment's "If I Were You," and Iaia Filmes' "Cafune." Brazil's Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil will also be in Cannes to promote Cinema Go Brazil's launch and to promote its activities in the Marche. [Kristina Woo/indieWIRE]
Lightning Strikes "Solo Dios Sabe"
Carlos Bolado's Sundance 2006 feature "Solo Dios Sabe" starring Diego Luna ("Y Tu Mama Tambien") has been picked up by LA-based sales and distribution group Lightning Entertainment for international sales rights, the company's co-president Richard Guardian announced Friday. Guardian negotiated the deal for Lightning with Traction Media's Rosanne Korenberg on behalf of the filmmakers. Buena Vista International, a co-producer of the film under its Miravista regional label, is distributing the film throughout Latin America in all media.
Written and directed by Bolado ("Promises"), the film focuses on Dolores, a Brazilian student living in San Diego and Damian, a superstitious Mexican journalist who cross paths with Dolores when she heads south with friends to a Tijuana nightclub. She hitches a ride with Damien to Mexico City after her passport is stolen in order to have it replaced. Passion rises en route, and a secret Damian holds causes Dolores to flee, but convinced they're meant for one another, Damian follows her to Brazil. The film also stars Alice Braga ("City of God"), Cecilia Suarez ("Spanglish"), Jose Maria Yazpik ("Cronicas") and Damian Alcazar ("The Crime of Father Amaro").
In addition to "Solo Dios Sabe," Lightning's Cannes sales line up includes "Hey, Hey It's Esther Blueburger" with Toni Collette, spiritual drama "Conversations with God," doc "Secrets of the Code," Brazilian action drama "Showdebola," and thriller "Grimm Love." [Brian Brooks/indieWIRE]
Seven Arts International Unveils Upcoming Production Slate
Producer and distributor Seven Arts International has announced their upcoming projects now in the works. Founded and chaired by Peter Hoffman, Seven Arts' goal with their new films is to cater to both the arthouse and festival circuit, while also appealing to a worldwide, mainstream audience. Projects announced include "Noise" starring Bridget Moynahan, Tim Robbins, William Hurt and directed by Sundance Film Festival winner Henry Bean, "Deal" starring Burt Reynolds and teen comedy "Pool Boy," which will be produced by Warren Zide. Director Tony Hickox's "Knife Edge" is also underway, starring Andrea Corr (of The Corrs musical fame) Charles Dance, and Melvil Poupaud. All three stars will be at Cannes promoting this film. [Kristina Woo/indieWIRE]
IFP to Host 16th American Directors Panel with Roger Ebert
IFP, the not-for-profit organization that supports independent film, announced two events at Cannes, their 16th annual "American Directors in Cannes Press Conference" with Roger Ebert and the Cannes Producers Network Breakfast. The press conference will be held at the IFP Studio's Beach Conference Center at in the International Center on May 21 and will be hosted by Roger Ebert, who will lead a discussion with directors M. Blash ("Lying"), Larry Clark ("Destricted"), Bill Couturie ("Boffo: Tinseltown's Bombs and Blockbusters"), Julian Goldberger ("The Hawk is Dying"), Davis Guggenheim ("An Inconvenient Truth"), Richard Kelly ("Southland Tales"), Richard Linklater ("A Scanner Darkly" and "Fast Food Nation") , Julia Loktev ("Day Night Day Night"), Brett Ratner ("X-Men III : The Last Stand") and Gus Van Sant("Mala Noche").
In addition to the press conference, IFP is hosting its Cannes Producers Network Breakfast from May 18-24 at The Club on the Palais des Festivals' 4th floor. The daily forum was created to facilitate international co-production opportunities. [Kristina Woo/indieWIRE]
[Get the latest from the Festival de Cannes throughout the day in indieWIRE's special Cannes '06 section.]