Berger, Yerxa sign deal with Warner

Warner Independent Pictures has inked its first bona fide first-look deal, pacting with Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa.

Duo’s Bona Fide Prods. — home of indie hit “Little Miss Sunshine” — has signed a two-year deal with Polly Cohen’s Warner Independent, looking to produce left-of-center films that nonetheless resonate with a broader audience.

Studio specialty arm and Bona Fide already are working on “The Abstinence Teacher,” which reteams Yerxa and Berger with “Sunshine” helmers Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.

“Abstinence,” based on Tom Perrotta’s upcoming novel of the same name, resolves around a sex ed teacher who is forced by religious conservatives to teach abstinence. Perrotta will adapt for the bigscreen. Scribe penned two other books turned into films by Bona Fide, “Election” and “Little Children.”

“They (Warner Independent) jumped all over ‘Abstinence,’ which is a signature project for us,” Berger said. “It was a terrific way to start a relationship.”

First-look deal comes as Cohen puts her stamp on the unit. Films she has put together since becoming Warner Independent prexy last year include Paul Haggis’ upcoming “In the Valley of Elah” and “Rails and Ties.”

Apart from existing relationships with filmmakers like John Wells or George Clooney — both of whom have producing deals with big Warner — this is the first first-look deal inked by Cohen.

Bona Fide had previous first-look pacts at New Line, Focus Features and, most recently, Paramount Pictures. Pact with Par was up at the end of 2006.

Bona Fide has projects set up elsewhere around town, including two at Sony, “The Only Living Boy in New York” and “Baster,” both penned by Allan Loeb. Bona Fide is casting Miguel Arteta’s “The Rug Merchant” and is prepping Mario de la Vega’s “The Undeniable Charm of Sloppy Unruh.” Bona Fide is producing “Sloppy” with Kate Roughan.

Company’s previous producing credits include “Bee Season,” “The Ice Harvest,” “Cold Mountain,” “The Wood” and “King of the Hill.” Yerxa and Berger launched the current incarnation of Bona Fide in 1993.

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