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Journo alters Protagonist’s vision

American Film Market 2012

he arrival of former Screen Intl. editor Mike Goodridge in August to succeed Ben Roberts as CEO of Protagonist Pictures marks the start of a new chapter for the U.K.-based sales and financing outfit, which is backed by Film4, Vertigo Films and Ingenious Media.

Roberts launched the company four years ago, with backing from Film4, Vertigo Films and Ingenious Media and built it from scratch into one of Europe’s most distinctive sales brands. Its recent slate of edgy Brit pics includes “Sightseers,” “The Sweeney,” “Hammer of the Gods,” “The Imposter,” “Searching for Sugar Man” and “Seven Psychopaths.”

But his protracted exit cast a shadow over Protagonist’s future in the first half of 2012. He was announced as the head of the British Film Institute’s Film Fund in April and took up the post in June, but his application for the job was an open secret for months beforehand. This period of uncertainty was compounded by the departure of sales topper Charlotte Van Weede in March for eOne.

The Protagonist shareholders responded with a left-field hire that set the biz abuzzing. They plucked the smart and likeable Goodridge from his longtime berth at the British trade paper to bring a fresh vision and perspective.

“For the first four years, Protagonist drew a variety of buyers from around the world to its films, and then there was this period of instability,” Goodridge says. “My job is to reaffirm its presence in the marketplace, and the continued commitment of its shareholders.”

Goodridge brings extensive contacts on both sides of the Atlantic, having served for many years as Screen’s man in Los Angeles before shifting back to Blighty as editor in 2009. His stint at Screen gave him the experience of running an international business on a shoestring in an unstable market. He also proved his taste and film knowledge as a critic, and was a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.

He has inherited a slate of four larger projects that Protagonist co-financed with its new advance fund: Kevin Macdonald’s “How I Live Now,” Richard Ayoade’s “The Double,” John Michael McDonagh’s “Calvary” and Lenny Abrahamson’s “Frank.”

The fund, provided by the company’s chairman and largest shareholder Nigel Williams, “has enabled us to step up the level of budgets and to leverage further finance,” Goodridge says.

His aim now is to broaden the slate. “We need to be more aggressive in the U.S. and the rest of Europe,” he says. “Our profile is very much as a U.K. company, so I want to internationalize that, but I would never want to compromise our core strength in the U.K.”

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