Film Rites will produce projects

Writer-director Steven Zaillian and Mandate Pictures have signed a first-look deal with Columbia Pictures.

Under the deal, Zaillian’s shingle, Film Rites, will produce projects for him to write or direct, as well as films from emerging writers and filmmakers. The projects will be modestly budgeted, character-driven films.

Mandate Pictures will co-finance and handle international sales for all the films developed and produced as part of the pact.

“We’re hoping this is a place where the story is the driving force, and that it’s an opportunity for writers and directors as eager as I am to get distinctive films made,” Zaillian said.

Columbia prexy of production Doug Belgrad lauded Zaillian’s deep understanding of storytelling, calling him “the perfect guy to mentor emerging writers and directors.”

Zaillian has worked with Sony on a number of projects, including the recent redo of “All the King’s Men,” which he wrote and directed.

He also wrote and directed “Searching for Bobby Fisher” and “A Civil Action.” Other writing credits include the upcoming “American Gangster.”

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