Paris company MK2 backs U.S. indie pix

CANNES — MK2, the Paris-based production, distribution and exhibition group, is extending its support of the independent filmmaking community to include financing American pics.

The company, which has produced pics from such filmmakers as Claude Chabrol and Krzysztof Kieslowski (the “Three Colors” trilogy), is now financing its first two features from American directors. MK2 president Marin Karmitz says he hopes to sign four or five up-and-coming U.S. directors to multipic deals.

Karmitz kicks off his Stateside strategy with Lodge Kerrigan’s $2 million untitled debut pic starring Katrin Cartlidge, Irish thesp Colm Meaney and Vincent D’Onofrio.

The second project, co-produced by Paris-based Why Not Prods., is Alexandre Rockwell’s “Louis and Frank,” starring Steven Randazzo and Francesco Messina alongside Tony Curtis and Rosie Perez.

“I have always thought that there is a cinema of the rich, the giant American majors and a cinema of the poor, the international independents who still come up with interesting stories that don’t rely on formulas and massive special effects,” Karmitz told Daily Variety.

“The problem is that in the 1980s, there were plenty of young international directors with new ideas, but their number seems to have diminished. On the other hand, there is a new generation of American directors, particularly in New York, who don’t want to be part of the Hollywood system. At least not for the moment.”

Karmitz is now hoping to tap into that pool. “I would like to unearth a truly great director, which might mean working with four or five in order to find that rare pearl. If all goes well we will produce two or three American films per year,” Karmitz said. Already, MK2 has signed Kerrigan for another two pics.

Outside the U.S., MK2 continues to back international production while expanding its cinema circuit and launching into digital TV. To secure his financial hand, Karmitz last year sold a 20% stake in his company to giant Havas.

On the film side, Gallic helmer Chabrol will unveil his $10 million police comedy “Rien Ne Va Plus” in mid-October and is skedded to direct his next feature for Karmitz.

From Iran, the French company is backing Abbas Kiarostami’s “Special Ceremony” and Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s “The Sitar” (both working titles). Romanian helmer Lucian Pintilie is working on a new script, and Karmitz plans to release the unshown 1976 Kieslowski pic “The Scar.”

Beyond his production plans, the MK2 topper is looking to expand his 14 Juillet cinema circuit in Paris by adding some 20 screens to his current 34. These should be completed by 2000 and will be based in three sites.

When finished, the new theaters will mean that MK2 will be one of the three main exhibitors in the French capital, alongside Gaumont and UGC.

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