Odyssey Entertainment Ltd. and Cineville Inc. are in active discussions to form a long-term production and distribution partnership, said Odyssey president Robert Meyers and Cineville Inc. president Carl-Jan Colpaert at the American Film Market. A deal could be in place by the start of the Cannes Film Festival this May.

The deal would formalize the relationship between production company Cineville and Odyssey, which is handling international distribution of such Cineville product as “Mi Vida Loca,” screenwriter/director George Huang’s inside Hollywood expose “Reel Life” and the Viggo Mortensen starrer “The Crew“– a project that reads like a Gonzo version of “Gilligan’s Island.”

“Cineville has independent financing and good investor groups,” said Meyers. “Our part in this is to guarantee international distribution of their pictures. If they know they have worldwide distribution in place, they can follow their hearts (creatively).”

Colpaert said Cineville is “excited at the prospect of having a strong partner” in its lower-budget movies. He said Odyssey’s previous distribution of Cineville titles has helped the company develop a brand name in foreign markets. “We’re not a Merchant Ivory yet, but Cineville is starting to become a label where we can do pre-sales in foreign territories,” Colpaert said.

Colpaert disclosed that the Odyssey partnership could include the upcoming production “Out in America,” which is slated to be helmed by “Bagdad Cafe” director Percy Adlon. He said Cineville has such top talent as Lily Tomlin, Daryl Hannah, Mortensen and Keanu Reeves attached to the project.

Meyers said formal negotiations between Cineville and Odyssey are slated to begin after the AFM in hopes that an agreement can be finalized by the Cannes Film Festival. If a deal is sealed, Cineville product would complement Odyssey’s pre-existing $ 40 million output agreement to distribute up to 24 of HBO’s in-house produced pix in the $ 4 million-$ 6 million range (Daily Variety, May 11).

“We’re trying to make expensive movies, our middle is taken up by HBO and then we also have to be open to creative young filmmakers,” said Meyers, adding that Thomas Smith, president of Odyssey’s parent company Communications and Entertainment Corp., is a central part of the Cineville deal, and the overall development of the Odyssey pipeline.

As far as American Film Market product, Meyers expressed high hopes for Cineville’s “The Crew” and “Reel Life,” the Kevin Spacey/Frank Whaley starrer about an assistant who gets so fed up from years of abuse from his movie studio boss that he takes him hostage and tortures him.

The screenplay generated an intense amount of interest in Hollywood circles because Huang was longtime assistant to Columbia Pictures executive veepee Barry Josephson. Huang has made it a point to explain that only about 20 percent of the character is based on his former boss (Daily Variety, March 23).

Directed by Cineville partner Colpaert, “The Crew” is an ensemble piece about five characters who take a weekend cruise on a boat in the Bahamas, and run into a transsexual, an illegal alien, a hijacking, the Bahamian Coast Guard and a remote desert island on the way.

It is widely known that the Amanda Plummer starrer “Martin Eden,” producer Shelly Reid and “Octopussy” director John Glen’s “Cold Storage,” Outlaw Prods.’ “No Lights No Sirens” and “Truax the Defender” are among the projects on Odyssey’s big-budget slate.

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