PARIS – Three seasoned French industry players have left their companies to help launch Charades, a new international and co-production sales outfit formed in time for the Berlin Film Festival.

Carole Baraton, Yohann Comte and Pierre Mazars packed up from Wild Bunch, Gaumont and Studiocanal, respectively, to join Constantin Briest’s investment company, Asuna, in forming Charades. Their goal is to compete for high-profile projects, with Asuna, which specializes in co-production and co-distribution, in charge of corporate financing. 

Due to their experience working for big-size companies and handling high-profile projects, the three execs have the ambition to continue working with well-established French and foreign producers and distributors with whom they’re cultivated ties over the years. Charades hopes to acquire between 10 to 15 films per year with the aim of becoming a boutique super-indie.

Although France is nearly saturated with sales companies of all sizes, Charades stands out because of the combined experience, connections and complementary nature of its three co-founders.

“We complement each other in terms of backgrounds and Rolodex, as well as tastes in films, which go from international auteur movies to mainstream French films and English-language genre movies, among others,” said Baraton.

“We want to be a part of films that are alternatively inspirational, entertaining, militant, troubling, terrifying, tear-jerking, but always audience-driven. Cross-generation, cross-culture, cross-border,” said Comte.

Briest, who launched Asuna 18 months ago with several private investors, explained his firm “chose to back Charades because it’s got a clever model: unlike most other sales companies, it’s not dominated by one person but three talented and well-respected sales agents.”

This mandate of eclecticism and collective leadership is reflected in the name of the outfit, Charades. “We were looking for a French name that would translate in most languages, something playful, friendly and elegant with an immediate film connotation,” said Comte, adding out that the films would range widely in terms of budget, genre and nationalities.

The underlying idea of the company is to board projects at an early stage in order to be involved in the creative and financing process as much as possible, Mazars said.

“We don’t want to just come in and do nothing else but put a minimum guarantee on a movie,” Baraton said. “We’ve learned to think outside of the box in terms of financing, and we want to apply those skills to our business at Charades.”

Baraton, Comte and Mazars will each be in charge of sales and acquisitions in the territories they handled in their previous jobs.

Sales and acquisitions in English-speaking territories, Benelux and Scandinavia will fall to Baraton, while Western Europe, Japan, South Korea and Latin America will be covered by Comte, and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia will be handled by Mazars, who will also be in charge of Charades’ operational management.

Baraton spent 15 years at Wild Bunch and spearheaded international sales on a raft of prestige auteur films such as Cannes’ Palme d’Or winning “I, Daniel Blake” and “Blue Is the Warmest Color,” as well as “The Artist” and “March of the Penguins.” Baraton also successfully launched the TV department of Wild Bunch, which kicked off with “Medici: The Masters of Florence,” a huge hit on Rai 1.

Comte was head of international sales at Gaumont for six years, and sold a wide range of critically acclaimed and commercially successful films, notably “The Intouchables,” “Only God Forgives,” and the animated features “Ballerina” and “The Boy and the Beast,” which he brought to Gaumont. Comte was also actively involved in the sale of non-English-language remakes.

Mazars joined Studiocanal in 2009 and started in the home-entertainment department before being promoted to VP of international sales, handling a mix of upscale franchise-based films such as “Paddington 2,” the two “Shaun the Sheep” movies, high-voltage action titles like “The Commuter” and French crossover auteur films such as “Mon Roi. “

Briest said Asuna made a low 7-figure investment in Charades and is in discussions to make further investments in other French companies. “Our goal is to become a hub for co-producers, international sellers and distributors ,” said Briest, who cited the Paris-based group Makever as an example of a successful hub.

Charades will be staffing up in the next few months to boast a solid back office service, with the idea of providing their partners more flexibility than larger, vertically-integrated companies, Mazars. Charades is also currently exploring options to join forces with French distributor.

The company will be in Berlin to make its debut and look at projects. It plans to unveil its first slate at Cannes.