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10 Producers to Watch: Dimitri Rassam

There have been many movies about the infamous Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar in the starting blocks for years but it took a Frenchman, Rassam, to deliver the first narrative feature about him in “Escobar: Paradise Lost.” Starring Benicio Del Toro and Josh Hutcherson, the film earned critical kudos at its Toronto festival preem in September.

In the past eight years, Rassam has succeeded in raising the financing for some of France’s biggest-budgeted English-language movies, such as “Upside Down” (estimated budget: $40 million) and the upcoming animated feature “The Little Prince” (budget: $77 million), directed by “Kung Fu Panda” co-helmer Mark Osborne with a voice cast that includes James Franco, Marion Cotillard and Rachel McAdams.

Rassam, who launched ON Entertainment with his longtime associate Aton Soumache in January, is prepping a move to L.A. in March. “I already travel there 10 to 12 times a year, and I’m now really looking forward to immersing myself in the U.S. talent pool, cultivating ties with the American creative community, finding the right projects and expanding the company’s presence overseas.”

Even though he’ll be based in Los Angeles, Rassam says he aims to produce two to three French pics and one English-
language film a year.

“I’m attracted to director-driven projects like ‘Paradise Lost,’ which have an unusual point of view, can appeal to both U.S. and international audiences, with budgets ranging roughly between $20 million and $60 million that we can finance outside of the States,” says Rassam. “I want to get into movies that are not necessarily accessible if you’re not a studio, because in every territory you have strong local distributors that are eager to acquire that kind of high-profile international content.”

Rassam inherited a love of moviemaking from his family: he’s the son of producer Jean-Pierre Rassam and actress Carole Bouquet and nephew of producer-distributor Paul Rassam.

“My uncle Paul, who released movies such as ‘Into the Wild,’ ‘American Pie’ and ‘Dances With Wolves’ in France, is the greatest reason why I have a natural desire to be making movies in the U.S. and in France: I’ve seen him do that all my life— releasing French movies and American movies and being close to French and American filmmakers.”

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