By Eugene Hernandez | Indiewire January 14, 2009 at 11:1AM
"Focus goes global" was the headline in Variety this afternoon, trumpeting the news that Focus Features would merge with studio parent Universal's international film production group. The move will extend the Focus brand to the production and distribtution of films around the world, company CEO James Schamus told indieWIRE today via email. The move is the latest in a series of shifts involving Hollywood studio specialty divisions.
"As I've always said, Focus is not like any other specialized company -- the center of our universe has never been simply domestic theatrical distribution; we've partnered with folks like [filmmaker] Pedro Almodovar and [producer] Bill Kong for years as part of their international team, and we are hands down the most successful specialized division already on the international front," Schamus said today, when asked to explain the move.
Christian Grass in London, President of International Production for Universal, will serve as co-CEO of the bolstered Focus Features International (FFI). Alison Thompson remains President of International Sales and Distribution, John Lyons continues as President of Production at Focus Features, Clare Wise is still Senior Vice President, Production at FFI, reporting to Grass, with a focus on production and acquisitions in territories outside of North America and the United Kingdom.
In the words of today's announcement, "The move heralds a singular new organization dedicated to providing one-stop shopping for filmmakers interested in financing, producing, selling, or distributing films whether geared to local markets or seeking commercial exposure worldwide.
"It's all VERY good -- we're merging -- we'll be making movies around the world, in many languages, at many buddget levels, geared toward many audiences," Schamus added today in the emails to indieWIRE. He continued that the best way to explain the union is to notice that Focus will be at the Sundance Film Festival this week with two new films: Carlos Cuarón's "Rudo y Cursi," financed by Universal's international production group under Focus' Cha Cha Cha deal (and to be distributed domestically by Sony Pictures Classics) as well as with Cary Joji Fukunaga's "Sin Nombre," the Spanish language dramatic competition entry.
"The merger is a natural outgrowth of just that kind of diverse, internationally-oriented approach to the film world," Schamus noted, adding, "What this new company aspires to is both lofty but also very specific; culturally, politically, aesthetically, and from a business perspective, we want to
be the company that the most interesting international filmmakers can go to for everything from finance to sales, no matter what language they make their film in, no matter how specific their target audience."