HanWay, Celluloid sharing Dream

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LONDON -- 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.

The newly merged entity will automatically inherit offices and staff in London, Paris and Toronto.

Multiple Oscar-winning producer Jeremy Thomas and Celluloid principal Hengameh Panahi will act 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 new company, responsible for overseeing sales and marketing of the roster of titles.

The duo told a select gathering of press Tuesday that the new outfit will reduce the number of movies and filmmakers its reps but aim to "make it far more focused and selective."

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

Both Panahi and Thomas said the joint company harbored "no theatrical distribution plans of its own" and said Dreamachine plans to unveil "extensive and ambitious" plans in the digital distribution arena for its filmmaking outfit in the near future.

No one would be drawn further on the timetable for such digital ambitions other than to say they would be "global" in scope and likely include North America.

But the executives said the plans would be to concentrate largely on financing and selling English-language titles and to continue both companies' history of birthing and looking after director-led projects.

Said Thomas: "I hope people will say 'wow, that's an interesting group of people working together' and directors will think we are a place to make films at."

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

Haslam described the startup as a "multimedia business based upon a regular supply of quality cinema" and pointed to the fact that the sales operation now boasts representation in 35 territories around the globe.

Dreamachine is bound to be big news on the Croisette in Cannes this year, boasting films from moviemakers such as Asif Kapadia, Todd Haynes, Johnnie To, Michael Haneke and Michael Winterbottom, among others.

Watson said he hoped to attract financiers looking to leverage a part of the merged outfit's library which now boasts a library of more than 500 titles including works from Woody Allen, Bernardo Bertolucci, David Cronenberg, James Ivory, Philip Noyce and Takeshi Kitano.

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.

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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