Endeavor's Graham Taylor will head the independent film sales and financing divison of the merged Endeavor - William Morris agency, the executive confirmed to indieWIRE this morning. William Morris Independent's Cassian Elwes and Rena Ronson are leaving the combined agency Taylor said, but added that he has signed them as clients along with William Morris' Emily Hirsch.
Neither Elwes nor Ronson were available for immediate comment in the wake of trade paper reports last night, including a Hollywood Reporter article about their departure. WMA's Jerome Duboz from WMA is moving to the lit side of the new combined agency.
The changes are effective immediately, Taylor told indieWIRE today, chatting by phone from Mackinaw Island, Michigan where he is attending a business conference. He will lead a team that includes Mark Anker, Liesl Copland and Alexis Garcia with plans to expand over the course of the next year. The division is currently unnamed.
Taylor has a longstanding relationship with longtime William Morris exec Cassian Elwes from his own days as a producer. He expressed enthusiam at the opportunity to work with Elwes, Ronson and Hirsch to build new businesses with them and plans to meet with them in the coming days to begin the process.
Some 150 people are understood to have lost their jobs since the announcement of the recent merger of the two major Hollywood agencies. Insdiers had been waiting for the leadership and staffing of the indie division to be announced.
The consolidation of William Morris and Endeavor comes at a time of considerable change for Hollywood and the independent film business as a whole. With the economy showing some signs of recovery of late, Taylor's independent film unit has signed four new financiers in recent weeks.
He said today that he is both "upbeat and optimistic" about the direction of the independent sector, noting that the recent market in Cannes was the first to show such health. Taylor added that the Cannes market offered, "early indications of health coming back to the market," adding that he anticipates a more robust Toronto and AFM later this year and Sundance this winter.