Former co-president David Linde may have ascended to a higher realm, but Focus Features is forging ahead without him in Europe.
Universal’s specialty arm has bolstered its London office by hiring Miramax veteran Teresa Moneo as senior VP, European production; and transferring Heta Paarte from its Gotham HQ as senior VP, international marketing and distribution.
Both will report to Alison Thompson, who joined Focus from Pathe last summer as international prexy based in London.
The latest moves were in the works before Linde was summoned to become co-chair of U. Linde was always the face of Focus overseas, but by hiring Thompson he had already signaled his resolve to delegate that role and cut down his air miles.
Thompson is seeking to build on the company’s recent hot streak by beefing up its foreign sales slate, more than half of which is already sourced from outside the U.S.
That could involve developing and producing more movies out of Europe, taking international rights to projects that it will not distribute domestically, or simply acting as a sales agent for other foreign-based producers.
Moneo’s brief is to find new European productions for Focus and to manage its existing relationships with talent such as Pedro Almodovar and Roberto Benigni. Focus is handling sales for Almodovar’s “Volver” and Benigni’s “The Tiger and the Snow.”
The Spanish-born exec started her career as Linde’s intern at Miramax in the early ’90s. She served in production and acquisitions, first in New York and then in London, before leaving Miramax three years ago. She since worked as an international production consultant for Fox.
Upcoming Euro-based projects already on the Focus slate include David Cronenberg‘s London thriller “Eastern Promises,” Justin Chadwick‘s Tudor drama “The Other Boleyn Girl” (which Sony has for domestic), “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” starring Frances McDormand, Martin McDonagh‘s “In Bruges” and WWII saga “Naples ’44.”
Focus also has first-look deals with Priority Pictures in London and Stephane Sperry‘s Liaisons Films in Paris.
Europe’s indie distribs fear Focus will be required to channel its most attractive titles through U’s new foreign theatrical arm under David Kosse. But Thompson argues her expanded roster means there will be enough product to go around.
The challenge for her and Moneo will be to grow the slate without sacrificing the company’s hard-won reputation for quality. Competition for material in London is only set to become more intense, with the Hollywood studios, their specialty arms and the leading U.S. indies all staking out their turf.
Longstanding London players such as U’s Working Title, New Line, David Heyman for Warners, Fox Searchlight/DNA and the Weinsteins have been joined of late by the likes of Scott Rudin, Lionsgate and HBO. Warner Independent Pictures and Paramount Classics reportedly also are looking for a toehold.
Focus has strong ties in London and Europe, but without Linde, Thompson and Moneo will need every ounce of their considerable experience and savvy to keep the company ahead of the game.
Ealing starts its own sales
Barnaby Thompson‘s renascent Ealing Studios has appointed Natalie Brenner as sales and distribution consultant to start handling foreign sales on some of its own productions.
Brenner, a veteran of defunct Brit sales outfits Element X and J&M Entertainment, will start by pre-selling “I Want Candy,” an Ealing comedy about two blokes who decide to make a porno movie to break into the film biz. Stephen Surjik (“Wayne’s World 2”) will direct, with shooting scheduled for May.
“We feel like it’s part of growing up to get closer to distributors, and to have someone who can give us sales and distribution feedback on our projects,” Thompson says.
Ealing will continue to work selectively with other sales companies, such as Odyssey Entertainment, which handled “Valiant” and Oliver Parker‘s upcoming “Fade to Black,” a possible Cannes contender. Odyssey is set to launch a new Ealing project “Easy Virtue,” based on Noel Coward’s play, written and directed by Stephan Elliott.