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Elwes to head WMA indie arm

Producer Cassian Elwes has signed on as vice president of the William Morris Agency’s new independent film department. Elwes, who has served as producer or executive producer of “The Chase,””Men at Work” and “White of the Eye,” will enter agency ranks Monday.

“It’s kind of serendipitous. We had a need for his type of energy and experience and he had the interest,” said Morris’ worldwide head of motion pictures Arnold Rifkin. “The agency has always had an acute interest in new talent, but this is really the first timewe’ve formalized it.”

In recent years, WMA has nurtured budding careers, only to lose talent to rival agencies. The list of defectors includes James Cameron, Tim Burton, Michael Tolkin and John McTiernan. McTiernan’s first feature, “Nomads,” was produced by Elwes.

Morgan Mason, who resigned from the agency to return to producing two months ago, was also recruited from the indie ranks and addressed — albeit unofficially — the sector Elwes will head. He was closely involved with projects by Quentin Tarantino, Gus Van Sant and Wayne Wang.

“The offer really came like a bolt out of the blue,” said Elwes. “I talked to a lot of people before making my decision and liked the prospect of having more flexibility and access. My agenda is in the areas of financing and packaging, not repping talent. I like putting films together and this allows me to be involved with a lot more movies and to work with a wider group of creative talent.”

Elwes began as a production assistant in England before stepping out as co-producer of the Rob Lowe starrer “Oxford Blues” in 1984. He has been involved with some two dozen productions in less than a decade, including “The Chase,” opening today, and “Frank and Jessie,” with Lowe and Bill Paxton as the James brothers, to be released by Trimark.

He has worked exclusively in the indie sector and garnered a reputation for making oddball films and squeezing every penny onto the screen. His 1992 “Liquid Dreams” debuted at the Cannes Critics Week.

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