U tools deal with Good Machine

Machine shifts gears from Fox

Good Machine, the New York-based production company run by partners Ted Hope, James Schamus and David Linde, is finalizing points for an overall first-look deal with Universal Pictures.

The deal will span three years and will include what one source described as “a reasonably hefty discretionary fund,” with which the company can purchase material.

Good Machine’s first-look deal with 20th Century Fox (which included all divisions of the studio, but was focused on Fox Searchlight Pictures) expires next month.

During its two years at Fox, Good Machine produced Ang Lee’s drama “The Ice Storm” for Searchlight — which previously distributed Ed Burns’ “The Brothers McMullen” and “She’s the One,” also produced by Good Machine.

While the company continues to develop projects at Fox and elsewhere, the move to Universal is heralded as a good fit. Good Machine has a relationship with October Films, the specialized film distributor that is majority-owned by Universal, for whom Good Machine Intl. acts as the company’s exclusive foreign sales agent.

Global distrib’n

This new pact is not an extension of the October arrangement, but is an overall deal that includes U’s worldwide distribution rights to the films produced under the pact by Schamus and Hope. It is likely, however, that Good Machine Intl. would handle foreign sales on some of the films it produces at U.

(Universal recently pressured October to drop the Good Machine-produced “Happiness” from its release slate; and Good Machine Intl., which is already handling the foreign distribution, created its own indie domestic distribution network to release the pic.)

The deal extends a relationship between Good Machine and Universal stemming from the studio’s decision to distribute Ang Lee’s “Ride With the Devil,” which Good Machine produced and originally developed at Fox. U picked up the project from turnaround after the film’s $35 million budget became a source of contention between Fox and Good Machine.

“Our relationship with Universal was obviously solidified with ‘Ride With the Devil,’ an incredibly great experience for everyone,” Schamus told Daily Variety. “They’re excited about the movie and we’re excited about making more movies for them.”

Universal recently set an April 16 release date for “Devil,” the Civil War era Western scripted by Schamus and starring Tobey Maguire, Skeet Ulrich and singer Jewel.

“Ted Hope and James Schamus are among the most talented and intelligent producers working in films today and we are extremely lucky to be in business with them,” said Casey Silver, chairman of Universal Pictures.

Staying in Gotham

While Schamus said Good Machine was in talks with U about several projects to fall under the deal, nothing has been decided to date. He added that Good Machine will continue to run its entire operation out of its Gotham offices and will not open an office on the U lot.

Schamus and Hope, who met when they were working as script readers for New Line Cinema, founded Good Machine in 1991. Two years ago, the duo brought former Miramax Intl. head Linde on board to lead its foreign sales operation, Good Machine Intl.

Since opening its doors, the indie has been behind more than 25 features, including Burns’ breakout “The Brothers McMullen,” Todd Haynes’ “Safe,” Hal Hartley’s “Simple Men,” Nicole Holofcener’s “Walking and Talking” and five films by Taiwanese helmer Lee (“Devil,” “Ice Storm,” “Pushing Hands,” “The Wedding Banquet” and “Eat Drink Man Woman”).

Branching out

Through their long-running collaborations with filmmakers such as Lee, Good Machine has emerged as a multiple threat in the both the indie and studio feature worlds. Working under a mandate to develop and service filmmakers, the company in the past year has branched out, forging relationships with emerging filmmakers like Boaz Yakim, whose supernatural thriller “Sympathy for the Devil” the company is producing and financing; Bryan Buckley, whose comedy “Finger Rocks” is set up at United Artists; as well as European helmers Marius Holst and Neils Arden Oplev.

Among the other projects the company is producing are “Standing In,” based on a Phillip Caputo novella, with Holst attached to helm for Fox Searchlight; “Los Alamos,” with Nicholas Hytner to direct for Fox; and “Berlin Diaries,” scripted by John Logan at Columbia Pictures.

Good Machine’s deal is being negotiated by corporate counsel Sue Bodine and attorneys Peter Nelson and George Davis.

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