Gassot to advise on cinema activities

PARIS — TF1, France’s leading private network, is taking a controlling stake in Telema, one of the country’s hottest film production outfits.

Under the deal announced Tuesday, TF1 will take a 49% stake in the prolific company run by veteran French producer Charles Gassot.

Gassot, who will continue to run Telema, also becomes adviser to TF1 on its cinema activities in France and internationally.

TF1 Intl., the sales and production arm of the No. 1 web, will handle all future pictures to come down the pike from Telema.

TF1 Intl. is currently co-financing Wayne Wang’s “The Beautiful Country” with Sony Pictures Classics and has a three-pic deal with Merchant Ivory Prods. The first fruit of that coupling, “The Golden Bowl,” will screen in competition at the Cannes Intl. Film Festival.

‘International ambitions’

Speaking to Daily Variety, TF1 Intl. topper Didier Sapaut said, “We are very happy to work with projects which have international ambitions and appeal, and Charles Gassot is one of the most brilliant producers around.”

Telema was previously partnered with Studio Canal Plus via production deals and the now-defunct U.K. joint venture TOC.

Gassot has long-standing relationships with directors and writers, having helped foster the careers of Etienne Chatiliez (“Life Is a Long Quiet River,” “Happiness Is in the Field”) and Agnes Jaoui, who wrote 1998’s “Family Resemblances” and recently scripted and helmed runaway hit “It Takes All Kinds,” which has raked in $16 million at the Gallic box office in its first six weeks.

One of the first projects at Telema under the new setup will be an English-language film version of the Belgian cartoonist Edgard P. Jacobs’ “La Marque Jaune.” Pic will be directed by James Huth, who helmed the 1998 comedy “Serial Lover.”

TF1 also owns a 49% stake in another French production company, Jean-Louis Livi’s Film Par Film.

The TF1 deal will be put to Telema’s shareholders at a general meeting May 4.

(Nancy Tartaglione in Los Angeles contributed to this report.)

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