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Producer trio set Trademark

With three projects shooting and two upcoming, producers Elie Samaha, Ashok Amritraj and Andrew Stevens have announced Trademark Films, a new player on the indie film scene.

Samaha, the Sunset Strip real estate magnate and former owner of the celeb-friendly Roxbury nightclub, has produced a dozen films already through his own Phoenician Films, in partnership with Millennium Films.

In addition, “Snitch,” produced by Samaha in association with Filmline Intl., starring Denis Leary and directed by Ted Demme, premieres at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival. “Free Money,” from Phoenician, MDP Worldwide and Filmline, starring Marlon Brando, Mira Sorvino, Charlie Sheen and Donald Sutherland, is in post-production.

“Our aim is to make and market exciting, commercial films that will appeal to domestic theatrical distributors and fill the theatrical requirements of the world’s distributors,” Samaha told Variety. He also confirmed talks with Live Entertainment and 20th Century Fox on domestic distribution arrangements.

Samaha has forged significant ties with the major talent agencies, overcoming a hurdle that has kept many indies from access to top talent. Said William Morris’ Cassian Elwes, “Our experience so far on four pictures with Elie has been amazing. They’ve come through like troupers and we’re glad to be in business with them.”

Financing for Trademark’s pictures have come through Imperial Bank, the Lou Horwitz Organization and Royal Canadian Bank.

Samaha and Amritraj are co-chairmen and co-CEOs of Trademark, with Stevens as president. Stevens and Amritraj are also longtime producers. Amritraj’s credits include “Double Impact,” the Columbia Pictures release toplining Jean Claude Van Damme, as well as TV and film productions for Indian distribution in partnership with international TV distrib Michael Solomon. Stevens was formerly head of Royal Oak Entertainment.

Daniel Diamond has been named president of Trademark’s international division. Diamond was formerly handling international sales for Capella Intl.

Other Trademark execs include Tracee Stanley, president of development and director of acquisitions, and Mark Kunis as chief financial officer.

Trademark’s three films currently shooting include:

“A Murder of Crows,” an action thriller starring Cuba Gooding, Jr., Tom Berenger, Eric Stoltz and Marianne Jean-Baptiste, directed by Rowdy Herrington. Gooding and Derek Broes are producing with Samaha.

“The Confession,” a courtroom thriller now lensing in Gotham starring Alec Baldwin, Ben Kingsley and Amy Irving, directed by David Jones.

“If … Dog … Rabbit,” an action thriller shooting in Mexico, starring Matthew Modine, John Hurt, Bruce Dern, Kirstie Alley and David Keith. Modine is directing.

In pre-production are:

“Five Aces,” a drama starring Charlie Sheen, Christopher McDonald, James Gandolfini and David Sherrill for helmer David O’Neill.

“Pool Hall Prophets,” with Freddie Prinze Jr. set to star for writer-helmer Keoni Waxman

Samaha was previously a partner in Millennium Films, a co-venture with Nu Image and October Films. Samaha has withdrawn from Millennium, which is now a co-venture between Nu Image and Miramax.

Phoenician will continue producing lower-budgeted films, Samaha said.

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