Neil Friedman has joined the William Morris Agency’s independent film division after five years as chief operating officer and exec VP of the Edward R. Pressman Film Corp.

Friedman will join Cassian Elwes in the division. His hiring comes following the departure of Rick Hess, who left earlier this year to join Phoenix Pictures.

Friedman will focus on strategic alliances with European and Asian entities, as well as core indie business activities such as packaging, financing and sales of feature motion pictures.

At Pressman Films, more than 15 movies were financed and produced during his tenure, including “The Crow” and “City Hall.” He put together the financing for such pics as “The Winter Guest,” “The Bad Lieutenant” and the upcoming “The Blackout” (directed by Abel Ferrara). He also helped create Pressman’s foreign sales, TV and merchandising divisions.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to be able to use the skills I’ve developed and honed at Pressman —foreign sales, independent financing, creative development, in the service of the tremendous talent pool at William Morris,” Friedman said in a statement.

Friedman also was exec VP for Price Entertainment, Frank Price’s independent production company, and he moved with Price to the same capacity at Columbia when Price became the studio’s chairman in 1991. Before joining Price Entertainment, he had been exec VP of business affairs at New Line Cinema and Vestron Pictures.

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