WMA names indie co-head

Ronson to co-lead percentery's indie sector with Elwes

CANNES — Rena Ronson has been named co-head alongside Cassian Elwes of the William Morris Agency’s WMA Independent, a division that specializes in independent film packaging and financing as well as arranging international backing for production companies.

“We’re pleased with Rena’s ascension to co-head of our independent film unit,” said WMA president and co-CEO Jim Wiatt. “She and Cassian complement each other and we’re proud of their leadership in this area — a significant component of our film and television business.”

Ronson joined WMA Independent in 1998.

Said Elwes, “I’m so happy to have a partner. She keeps me in check.”

Added Ronson, “I look forward to spending many more successful and entertaining years working with Cassian as my partner at WMA under Jim (Wiatt) and Dave (Wirtschafter).”

WMA Independent’s activities include finding one-off backing for indies, multimillion-dollar international financing for production companies and brokering both domestic and international film sales.

Among WMA Independent projects in development are:

  • Ronson is assembling financing for Sean Furst’s Furst Films, which will produce six to 10 digital films annually with budgets of around $1 million each, for both established and up-and-coming filmmakers. Furst (“Everything Put Together”) will also have the backing of WMA for pics’ packaging and sales.

  • WMA Independent is helping find co-production financing for Spike Lee’s “Save Us Joe Lewis,” which will be backed by international partners.

  • Division is also looking for full financing for “Stitch in Time.” Pic was written by Frank Darabont, who will also produce.

    Ronson brokered the deals between Senator Entertainment and Mark Canton’s the Canton Co., whose first pic is Luis Mandoki’s “24 Hours.” Ronson also arranged Woody Allen’s three-picture financing arrangement with VCL and DreamWorks, which Ronson sold to Medusa for Italy, Lauren Films in Spain and Bac Films in France. First pic under that deal is “Curse of the Jade Scorpion.”

    Ronson is arranging another production financing deal for Lauren Shuler Donner and Dick Donner that will be announced shortly.

    Under Ronson and Elwes, the WMA division capitalized on Hollywood’s pre-strike frenzy. Among the projects assembled in the first four months of 2001 were the Billy Bob Thornton starrer “Behind the Sun,” which was financed by Lions Gate Films and Gold Circle Films; “Wise Girls,” starring Mariah Carey and Mira Sorvino and backed by Lions Gate and Intermedia; Lions Gate’s “Monster’s Ball”; and Myriad Pictures’ “The Good Girl,” starring Jennifer Aniston and Jake Gyllenhaal.

    WMA is repping domestic rights to Franchise Pictures’ “Zigzag,” currently in post, starring John Leguizamo and Wesley Snipes; Millennium Films’ “Undisputed,” for director Walter Hill, starring Ving Rhames and Snipes; Overseas Filmgroup’s “The Jimmy Show,” helmed by Frank Whalley, and Single Cell Pictures’ “13 Conversations About One Thing.” Stonelock Pictures financed “13,” with Benny Attori providing equity capital.

    Ronson and Elwes also found equity financing from Chuck Avis’ Hollywood Intl. Finance for the low-budget “Rent Control,” starring Melissa Joan Hart and Carmen Electra for director David Eric Brenner.

    Division is also involved in arranging financing for a broad range of indie pics that include producer Lawrence Bender’s upcoming “Baker Street,” to be directed by the ICM-repped Jonathan Lynn; and Michael Seitzman’s “Princess in Paradise Park.”

    WMA Independent repped the creative forces behind the last four grand jury prize-winning films at the Sundance Film Festival — most recently, Henry Bean for “The Believer.”