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Cohen & company: New kids in town

Studio heads welcomed to fest

This year’s Cannes is a coming-out party for a cadre of execs who are newly atop studio specialty arms.

Paramount Classics’ John Lesher, Miramax Films’ Daniel Battsek and Focus Features’ James Schamus are Cannes vets, but each is seeking to carve an international profile following significant management shifts at their companies.

The newest face in the crowd — and perhaps least known in indie film circles — is Warner Independent’s Polly Cohen, who arrives today after less than two weeks on the job.

“I’ve been joking, calling it the ‘Hillary Rodham Clinton Listening Tour,’ ” Cohen said. “I’m going, but not with a specific goal other than to listen and meet people. I imagine it’ll make me that much more geared up for Toronto. It’s a warm-up.”

Cohen’s job at WIP doesn’t start until June 1. She said she’s leaning heavily on WIP marketing and PR head Laura Kim, senior VP of production and acquisitions Paul Federbush and exec veep of distribution Steve Friedlander, all of whom have been at the fest since last week.

“I’m going to be relying on them to guide me in the right direction,” she said.

Cohen is arriving a little late due to the fast moves at the company. She was named to the new job at the specialty division on May 8, after Mark Gill ankled May 2.

“It’s a little crazy,” Cohen told Daily Variety last week. “I’m literally booking my flight.”

This won’t be Cohen’s first Cannes adventure, though it’s the first time she’s here actively scouting talent, meeting with international sales execs and screening pics.

She’ll also be touting WIP’s “A Scanner Darkly,” directed by Richard Linklater, which is screening out-of-competish.

WIP is also screening its “In the Land of Women,” starring Adam Brody and Meg Ryan, and a promo of “Infamous,” the Truman Capote biopic.

The idea of scanning foreign-language fare and docus is a fast switch: Just a week ago, Cohen’s attention was focused on tentpoles, including “Superman Returns” and the next installment in the “Harry Potter” franchise.

WIP’s slate already includes Chen Kaige’s “The Promise,” Michel Gondry’s “The Science of Sleep,” John Curran’s “The Painted Veil” and Christopher Guest’s “For Your Consideration.”

Cohen seems positioned to get things done, considering her close relationship with WB head of production Jeff Robinov, who was often at odds with Gill.

Cohen said she and the WIP team will be ready for action. “It’ll be normal procedure: If there’s something great, we’ll get into it.”

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