Lion alum falls into Focus

Small added as original slate ramps up

HOLLYWOOD — Focus Features has hired Kahli Small, a former MGM production exec and indie producer, as a VP of production.

Appointment comes as the specialty branch of Universal Pictures ramps up a slate of original productions.

Now in production under the Focus banner is Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s “21 Grams,” starring Benicio Del Toro, Sean Penn and Naomi Watts.

Next week, principal photography begins on Michel Gondry’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” whose ensemble cast includes Jim Carrey.

And later in the spring, Mira Nair’s “Vanity Fair” rolls before cameras with Reese Witherspoon in the lead.

Small, who worked on the development and production of such pics as “Legally Blonde” and “Heartbreakers” at MGM, was most recently an indie producer on “London Calling,” a pic in development at David Friendly and Marc Turtletaub’s Deep River Prods. Sarah Michelle Gellar is attached to star.

Key exec

Small was also head of production at Key Entertainment, where she was involved in projects including Michael Petroni’s “Till Human Voices Wake Us” and brokered the company’s deals with such writers as Michael Brandt, Derek Haas and Amanda Brown.

She will report to Focus production prexy Glenn Williamson. “With just the right combination of studio experience and independent sensibility, she values filmmakers highly — which is the Focus mandate,” Williamson said in a statement.

“With Focus expanding its global reach and worldwide distribution, we’re making comparable strides in our original productions,” Focus co-prexys David Linde and James Schamus said in a statement. “Kahli’s appointment rounds out a strong cadre of production executives. Her background includes films of all sizes; we look forward to tapping her expertise on a variety of projects.”

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