Redeemable revamp

'Smoke's' Johnson & Newman join Deutchman

NEW YORK — Former Fine Line Features prexy Ira Deutchman will team up with “Smoke” producers Pe-ter Newman and Greg Johnson when his two-year, first-look deal with New Line Cinema expires Feb. 1.

The new company will carry the name of Deutchman’s shingle, Redeemable Features, whose “Kiss Me Guido” will be premiering at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Melissa Chesman will continue as Redeemable’s head of development.

“Each of us brings something different and complementary to the table,” said Deutchman. “I can’t imagine a better combination of resources to take advantage of the enormous opportunities that exist in the world market right now. The consolidation of the entertainment business has left open huge areas for an entrepreneurial entity to exploit.”

‘Bird’ brought them together

Before deciding to form their own company, Deutchman and Newman picked up “The Hairy Bird,” Sarah Kernochan’s comic screenplay about a girls’ school in the 1960s whose students are resisting efforts to make it co-educational. On Thursday, Redeemable announced that Christina Ricci and Anna Paquin have agreed to star in the pic, which will be directed by Kernochan.

In addition to “Hairy Bird,” Deutchman’s ongoing projects include Whit Stillman’s “The Last Days of Disco,” which is set up at Castle Rock; Adam Davidson’s adaptation of Jess Mowry’s “Way Past Cool”; and Doug Tirola’s romantic comedy “Lucky Strikes.”

Redeemable plans to finance, package and produce three to five films a year with budgets between $15 million and $20 million, Newman told Daily Variety. The Gotham-based production company wants to set up a distribution link with a major studio, but is not interested in a traditional first-look agreement, said Deutchman.

‘Smoke’ the model

Newman said the model for Redeemable’s pics will be Wayne Wang’s “Smoke,” which cost $6 million to make and grossed $8.5 million domestically and more than $30 million overseas. “We don’t want to be the classics division of a major studio,” he said. “We want to provide a steady stream of affordably priced product with strong international appeal.”

Deutchman founded Redeemable in 1995 after leaving Fine Line, which he founded and ran from its inception. Prior to Fine Line, Deutchman co-founded indie film distrib Cinecom Entertainment, which SBK acquired in 1988.

The projects that Newman brings to the new Redeemable are TriStar’s Janis Joplin biopic starring Lili Taylor that Nancy Savoca will direct and Jonathan Demme will executive produce; and “Veeck as in Wreck,” starring Bill Murray and directed by John McNaughton, for Warner Bros.

Newman’s producing credits include Robert Altman’s “Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean,” Jonathan Demme’s “Swimming to Cambodia,” Savoca’s “Dogfight” and “Household Saints” and John Sayles’ “The Secret of Roan Inish.”

Longtime collaborators

A former investment banker, Johnson joined forces with Newman in 1992. The two collaborated on “Smoke,” “Blue in the Face” and Stuart Gordon’s “Space Truckers,” which will bow at this year’s Sundance. Prior to that, Johnson was a corporate veepee at Vestron Pictures, where he worked on such films as John Huston’s “The Dead” and “Dirty Dancing.”

Johnson and Newman’s joint contributions to the new company are Paul Auster’s “The Locked Room” for Fine Line with Wang attached to direct; and “The Body,” which Jonas McCord will write and direct with Antonio Banderas slated to star. The pair is also developing two projects by Irish novelist and screenwriter Colum McCann: “Song Dogs,” based on his novel of the same name, and an original screenplay “Manlove.”

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