'Sideways' duo hangs shingle at Fox

Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, the helmer-scribe team behind “Sideways,” “About Schmidt” and “Election,” have formally set up shop with Fox Searchlight, inking a three-year first-look production deal with the label.

Payne and Taylor are partnering with producer Jim Burke to create Ad Hominem Enterprises.

“Since we typically write our screenplays in Latin, then translate them into English, the name seemed like a natural fit,” Payne said in a statement.

“The moniker for the Santa Monica-based company, taken literally from the Latin ‘to the man’ and meaning in rhetoric ‘to appeal to the feelings rather than the intellect,’ is meant to be pretentious,” the release said. “A witty logo for Ad Hominem is expected by the third quarter of 2006.”

As for why the three are launching a Searchlight shingle now, Taylor said, “The idea to form the company started after an inspiring vacation helicopter-skiing in Northern Italy. We just thought, hey, why not make this a regular thing? Maybe Fox will pick up the tab.”

Searchlight prexy Peter Rice said, “Alexander and Jim are unique, special talents with a proven track record. We’re thrilled to see what corner of humanity they’ll choose to illuminate next as long as they keep the budget low.”

Burke, who was co-producer on “Election,” said, “I’m pleased to be partnered with Alexander and Jim in Ad Hominem Enterprises not only because we’ve been friends for years, but they also owe me a lot of money, and it seemed like a good way to collect.”

Forgoing the typical corporate boilerplate, the release concludes: “Fox Searchlight Pictures is a filmmaker-oriented company that focuses on distinctive films helmed by world-class auteurs and exciting newcomers, as well as close friends and family of key executives. It boasts its own marketing and distribution operations and is working towards getting its own commissary. Its films are distributed internationally by Twentieth Century Fox, which in the 1950s produced and distributed nearly all of Otto Preminger’s films. We recommend ‘Whirlpool.’ “

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