NEW YORK — The Shooting Gallery, the Gotham-based producer of Billy Bob Thornton’s “Sling Blade” and other independent films, has tapped former Samuel Goldwyn Intl. prexy Steve Bickel to head its newly formed international distribution arm.

Bickel, who will be based in Los Angeles, will be wearing his new hat as president of TSG Intl. in Cannes, where he will be selling foreign rights to seven pics from the Shooting Gallery.

“I’ve been impressed with the company Larry and his team have built,” Bickel told Daily Variety. “The popularity of independent film, combined with our distributors’ genuine need for product, provides a major opportunity for TSG to become a prime supplier of motion pictures to the international marketplace.”

“Bickel is widely respected in the field,” said Shooting Gallery president and CEO Larry Meistrich. “His diverse background will help us build and grow in the all-important international arena.”

As president of Samuel Goldwyn Intl. from 1993-96, Bickel was responsible for sales, marketing and distribution of all the company’s feature film and TV programming outside North America.

Through his own company, Orpheum Communications, Bickel has been involved in merchandising and licensing, and has acted as a consultant to Banque Paribas’ entertainment division.

Bickel previously held positions as president of Virgin Vision, the U.S. video entertainment company of British-based Virgin Group, and VP of Warner Bros. Intl., where he was responsible for negotiating and licensing product to independent distribs outside North America.

He began his career in the industry in 1979 at Universal Pictures, where he was associate producer on “Somewhere in Time,” which starred Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.

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