Look’s Little steps back; Lischak prez

Reason for unexpected move unclear

In a significant and somewhat surprising move, Robbie Little, co-chairman of First Look Media, has stepped back from day-to-day operations of the company and with co-chair and CEO Chris Cooney has promoted Bill Lischak to president of the company. Lischak now assumes all responsibilities for the key operating units of First Look Media, including home entertainment, international sales, finance and theatrical distribution.

All staff members will now report to Lischak, who’s based in Los Angeles.

Little will remain co-chairman of First Look Media and a significant minority shareholder in the company but will now focus his attention on production and new business with the Little Film Co., a production banner started by his wife Ellen Little three years ago.

That company has an ongoing informal production relationship with First Look.

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Motivation unclear

It is unclear exactly what prompted the transition at First Look; Cooney said the changes were not due to financial performance and were intended to allow Little to be more entrepreneurial, finding new projects to bring to the company and spending more time in Europe to utilize his international expertise in putting projects together.

Little is a well-regarded veteran of the indie film business who is synonymous with First Look Media (formally known as Overseas Filmgroup) in the film community. He and his wife Ellen founded Overseas in 1980.

Lischak’s promotion is acknowledgment of his increasingly important role in the complex process of putting together financing deals for independent films utilizing sale and leasebacks, government tax funds and soft money.

“Bill has been a loyal and committed colleague for the past 15 years, and I am confident that he will continue First Look’s tradition of independence, integrity and innovation,” said Little.

Added Cooney: “I have worked with Bill now for the past three years. He has proven to be a forward-thinking entrepreneur with great relationships. Bill is energetic, dynamic and represents the next wave of creative leadership.”

Eye on growth

Lischak, who joined the company in 1988 as chief financial officer and was later named chief operating officer, will focus on growth and profitability in the company’s home entertainment arena while expanding its position in the international sales and financing arena.

In the last two years, First Look Home Entertainment has grown into one of the top three independent rental distributors of video/DVD in the U.S. Last year the company’s homevid division doubled its 2001 revenues, and in the first quarter of 2003, revs increased 89% over the year-earlier period.

Shingle releases on average 36 video titles a year.

Most recent theatrical releases were “Lawless Heart” and the Federico Fellini documentary “Fellini: I’m a Born Liar.”

The Little Film Co. has recently produced “The Boys From County Clare,” directed by John Irvin and starring Andrea Corr, Colm Meaney, Bernard Hill and Shaun Evans; First Look may distribute in the U.S. Shingle also exec produced “The Snow Walker,” written and directed by Charles Martin Smith and starring Barry Pepper. Both films are in post and will be delivered this fall.