A major consolidation was felt in the indie film community with Universal’s acquisition of indie stalwart Good Machine and its merger with Universal Focus and USA Films.
Inevitably, the merger has meant layoffs and to date USA Films has seen the exit of acquisitions exec Steven Raphael and Amanda Klein, and the ankling of U’s London-based acquisitions chief, Graeme Mason.
Meanwhile, Focus Features under the leadership of co-prexies David Linde and James Schamus will continue its drive to find passionate filmmakers ala Ang Lee, Steven Soderbergh, Spike Jonze, Neil LaBute, Mira Nair and Todd Haynes — to deliver top flight indie fare to the domestic and international marketplaces. And the indie sector is betting on Schamus and Linde, two of
the most respected indie mavens in the biz, to reinvent themselves within the U fold.
“Great filmmaking is great business. At Focus Features, we’re dedicated to finding and nurturing new talent, and to working with established filmmakers who want to take on new challenges,” said Linde and Schamus. “We’re confident that our combination of strengths domestically and internationally empowers the creative talent we work for to connect with their audiences worldwide.”
Prior to the merger, USA Films struck box-office gold with its Oscar-winning British drawing room intrigue “Gosford Park” and again with its acquisition of Mira Nair’s hit “Monsoon Wedding” which grossed over $13 million. Universal Focus also tk and tk while Good Machine delivered Miramax a box-office winner with “In the Bedroom” and is currently gauging success with “Lovely and Amazing” which opened the L.A. Film Fest.
Company is now charged with forging a new identity within and without of the U fold and has jumpstarted its operation with a flurry of high profile deals just shortly after their pact U closed.
Deals include winning the auction for “21 Grams” for helmer Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and with the estate of Ernest Hemingway to turn “To Have and Have Not” into a thriller that will star Benicio Del Toro. Tod “Kip” Williams (“The Adventures of Sebastian Cole”) will write the script and direct the film, which Del Toro will produce with Laura Bickford.
Shingle will also be counting on such upcoming releases as its inhouse USA Films productions of “Possession,” “Far From Heaven” its prebuy of “8 Women,” and the preemptive buy of Roman Polanski’s Palme d’Or winner “The Pianist,” the first acquistion for the new Focus, as well as other product including “Deliver Us From Eva” and “The Shape of Things.”