Hess to focus on upping agency's stake in niche pic biz

It’s not propaganda: Rick Hess is an agent once more.

Reflective of the growth of the independent film business, Creative Artists Agency has augmented its sizable indie agent division with the former Propaganda Films topper.

Working with a motion picture department that already includes financing pros like John Ptak, Emanuel Nunez, Adam Krentzman and Kevin Iwashina, Hess will focus primarily on increasing the agency’s stake in the independent film biz.

Hess was also a production veep for Phoenix Pictures from 1996-99. But even in switching to agenting at CAA, he is not taking on an entirely new brief: He also co-founded the William Morris Agency’s independent film division with Cassian Elwes in 1993.

Since 1996, CAA’s indie agent squad has been involved in financing and/or distribution negotiations for large-budget studio pics like “Ali,” “Hannibal” and “The Mexican” as well as smaller-budget independent pics like “Donnie Darko” and Nicolas Cage’s forthcoming helming debut, “Pony Ride.”

“The fact that CAA is so committed in this area is really a statement of where the business is going,” Hess told Daily Variety.

CAA prexy Richard Lovett proclaimed Hess “a major part of our ongoing commitment to independent film” and praised his “hands-on experience supervising film projects from inception through release” as complementing the reach of the percentery’s independent team.

Most recently, Hess served as topper of the now-defunct Propaganda Films, the first company to both represent directors and produce their movies. But staggering from 2000’s bruising six-month commercial strike, Propaganda ultimately succumbed to a nasty one-two punch: the bursting of the Internet bubble followed quickly by the softening of the TV ad market and repercussions from the Sept. 11 attacks.

Consequently strapped for cash and in the middle of talks of a merger with Teutonic entertainment concern Senator Film, Propaganda shuttered in November.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more