HanWay, Celluloid in merger

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U.K.-based HanWay Films and Paris-centered Celluloid Dreams, two of the best-known indie sales and finance houses on the festival and market circuit, announced plans Tuesday to merge and form the new banner Dreamachine.

Oscar-winning producer Jeremy Thomas and Celluloid principal Hengameh Panahi will serve as joint chairmen for Dreamachine, sharing an equal stake in the privately owned company.

Panahi's remit will be to oversee acquisitions and production, while HanWay chief executive Tim Haslam will serve as CEO of the company, responsible for sales and marketing. The new entity boasts a library of more than 500 titles including works from Woody Allen, Bernardo Bertolucci, David Cronenberg, James Ivory, Philip Noyce and Takeshi Kitano.

Dreamachine is sure to be big news at Cannes this year, boasting films from such helmers as Asif Kapadia, Todd Haynes, Johnnie To, Michael Haneke and Michael Winterbottom.

Panahi and Thomas told a select gathering of media that the new outfit will reduce the number of movies and filmmakers it represents, aiming to "make it far more focused and selective."

Panahi said the move to merge came on the back of increasingly hostile market conditions facing those selling distribution rights to foreign-language films on the global festival and market circuit.

The duo said the company harbors "no theatrical distribution plans of its own" and that Dreamachine plans to unveil "extensive and ambitious" plans in the digital distribution arena soon.

No timetable was given for such digital ambitions other than to say they would be "global" in scope and likely include North America. But the executives said the plan will be to concentrate largely on financing and selling English-language titles and to continue both companies' history of birthing and shepherding director-led projects.

The company has inherited offices and staff in London, Paris and Toronto. Haslam pointed to the fact that the sales operation boasts representation in 35 territories around the world.

HanWay's Peter Watson and Stephan Mallmann and Celluloid's Philippe Aigle and Charlotte Mickie will have a place on the board of the operation, with varying undisclosed stakes in the business.

Watson and Aigle will be charged with expanding the company's financing and executive producing activities, managing and acquiring new library titles and looking at strategies for new media and digital distribution. Watson said he hopes to attract financiers to Dreamachine.

Mallmann, who will serve as COO, will manage the group's operations. Mickie and her staff in Toronto will concentrate on co-production, acquisition and sales for North American independent films.
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