Hanway Films retools with young guns

Amercian Film Market 2011: Case Study - Hanway Films

Following a change of leadership this summer, London-based sales boutique HanWay Films is entering a new stage in its evolution.

The exit of Tim Haslam after seven years as CEO has brought the company’s next generation to the fore, with the promotion of Thorsten Schumacher to managing director and Jan Spielhoff to chief operating officer.

“It’s going to be a radical new HanWay,” says Schumacher. “There’s a whole middle management team who grew up together in this company and who will be running things together with quite a flat hierarchy.”

Marketing and distribution director Jonathan Lynch-Staunton, acquisitions director Matthew Baker and director of production finance Richard Mansell are part of this larger group, which is now reshaping the style of the company.

That will include a fresh push into genre fare and a more aggressive pursuit of American projects to add to the company’s existing strength in classic British drama and international auteurs.

“We’ll still be doing the British classics, but before, as head of sales, I handled non-English speaking territories, and it’s always a challenge to sell period films to those places,” Schumacher comments.

A prime example of HanWay’s new direction is “You’re Next,” the U.S. thriller that sold to more then 30 territories at Toronto.

The company also enjoyed boffo festivals with its more characteristic prestige fare, including Steve McQueen’s “Shame,” Andrea Arnold’s “Wuthering Heights” and David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method,” produced by HanWay’s founder and chairman, Jeremy Thomas.

A diverse slate of upcoming projects includes Mike Newell’s Dickens adaptation “Great Expectations,” Bernardo Bertolucci’s “Me and You,” the Thor Heyerdahl biopic “Kon-Tiki,” Dustin Hoffman’s directing debut “Quartet,” Martin McDonagh’s L.A. thriller “Seven Psychopaths” and Michael Hoffman’s royal romance “Girls’ Night Out.”

In the past year, the company has developed its own financing tools, enabling it to put up minimum guarantees for the first time. It owns 50% of German financier Elba, which has a $30 million revolving credit line from Commerzbank, and also enjoys a close alliance with Canadian gap financier Aver.

Such relationships mean HanWay is well placed to prosper as an independent player, following the failure just before Cannes of lengthy negotiations to sell the company to Entertainment One.

EOne made an offer but slashed its price at the last minute, causing the deal to collapse. The heavy toll of that distracting process was reportedly one of the factors that influenced Haslam’s decision to quit.

“We were not for sale, and I don’t want us to be for sale,” says HanWay deputy chairman Peter Watson. “As the company is maturing, there’s a new guard of tastes coming through, and we’re about to do some really interesting stuff.”