‘Con Air’ helmer forms prod’n banner

Nearly a month before his feature debut, “Con Air,” is released, Brit helmer Simon West has formed Wychwood Prods., his own production banner with a first-look deal at Propaganda Films.

The first-look development-production pact with Propaganda is an extension of West’s existing commercial representation by the production/management company.

Jib Polhemus, former Dino De Laurentiis Co. director of development, has been appointed vice president of Wychwood and will be responsible for running the day-to-day operations of the company.

Polhemus is currently overseeing the development of the banner’s first project: the gothic thriller “Shelley’s Garden,” a mystical story set in Wales, where a young woman is haunted by the spirit of her brother who has been missing since World War I. The screenplay is written by David Hoag, whose “Machiavelli” is in development for Addis-Wechsler to produce.

Eye-catching commercials

Like fellow Propaganda directors David Fincher and Michael Bay, West caught Hollywood’s eye after becoming one of this country’s leading commercial directors. He has helmed big-budget TV spots for Ford, AT&T, Pepsi and Budweiser, among others.

West was hired by producer Jerry Bruckheimer to helm the actioner “Con Air,” written by Scott Rosenberg, and starring Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, John Malkovich, Ving Rhames and Monica Potter.

West earlier had a notable documentary-directing career back in the U.K., where he helmed such docus as “Strangeways Prison” and “Fighter Pilot.” He also directed the BBC films “Grown Ups” and an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “Bleak House.”

In 1985, West segued to helming musicvideos and commercials for Limelight London, transferring in 1991 to their L.A. office.

‘Eclectic array of genres’

“I love the creative freedom I have experienced with them … and I relish the idea of working with them on creating unique cutting-edge films to fit within their company profile,” West said. “We will be looking to build Wychwood’s lineup to produce an eclectic array of genres including dramas and thrillers, as well as big action films.”

While working for De Laurentiis, Polhemus most recently was involved in the development of the current Kurt Russell-starrer “Breakdown.” Before he joined De Laurentiis, the NYU and AFI grad worked on the desk of CAA agent Martin Baum.

At Wychwood — named after a picturesque English village — Polhemus is charged with seeking out and developing projects for West to produce and direct.

Frank Wuliger of the Innovative Artists Agency and attorney Carlos Goodman of Lichter Grossman and Nichols brokered the deal on West’s behalf. Propaganda exec-VP Paul Green negotiated the deal for the Polygram-owned company.

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