2007 launch leads to fruitful collaboration

Eric Abraham of the U.K.’s Portobello Pictures immediately recognized Domenico Procacci as a kindred spirit when they met at a producers’ seminar in Copenhagen in the early ’90s.

Abraham, an exile from South Africa’s apartheid regime who had rebuilt his life and career in London, was drawn to the dashing young Italian producer-distributor and his indefatigable energy and enthusiasm for cinema.

“He’s an extraordinary guy,” Abraham says, “one of the most passionate people about film, and one of the most honest that you could ever meet, with an exceptional commitment to quality and originality.”

Abraham brought Procacci onboard to co-produce his Russian movie “The Extraordinary Adventures of Ivan Chonkin” in 1993, his British psychological drama “The War Zone” in 1998 and his Czech film “Dark Blue World” in 2001. “We’ve done a (few) films together, not as many as we would have liked,” says Abraham, who won the foreign-language Oscar in 1997 for Jan Sverak’s “Kolya.”

It was only when former Film4 Intl. topper Janine Gold became available that they saw an opportunity to go properly into partnership by launching a sales company together.

Fandango Portobello Sales bowed in 2007 with a small slate that included Sverak’s Czech hit “Empties,” from Abraham, and Matteo Garrone’s “Gomorrah,” from Procacci.

“Domenico and I really wanted to control our sales, because our experience with sales companies has been really up and down,” Abraham explains. “With FPS, we will do gap finance, primarily for our own films and maybe for a few like-minded producers.”

“Gomorrah” immediately put the boutique on the map, selling to 40 countries and winning awards around the world. “Empties” sold far less widely but still better than Abraham expected for a comedy aimed squarely at the Czech market.

Abraham and Procacci are now developing several new films together. These include an English-language remake of Fandango’s Italian movie “Mid-August Lunch” and two projects by Anglo-Polish auteur Pawel Pawlikowski, one in Polish and one in English. They are also working together on Sverak’s next movie, currently in pre-production, which Abraham describes as a project that represents a radical creative departure for the Czech helmer.

“Domenico and I aren’t joined at the hip, but we have the same sensibilities, and I like the idea of doing the next few things together,” Abraham says. “It’s not about volume, it’s about passion. Having a sales company gives you a sense of where the homes are for those things you want to do.”

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