Paramount inks Aussie indie sector deals

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SYDNEY -- Paramount Pictures Australia unveiled two new partnerships Thursday that will give the distributor a greater involvement in the independent production and distribution sector here.

Under the new deals, Paramount will co-finance and acquire local and international projects for Australian and New Zealand distribution in partnership with new independent film distribution outfit Transmission, set up by the former CEO's of Dendy Films, Richard Payten and Andrew Mackie.

At the same time, Paramount has inked a first-look deal with new production shingle See Saw Films, formed by Australian producer Emile Sherman and former Becker International head of sales and acquisitions Ian Canning.

See Saw also has signed a non-exclusive distribution deal with Transmission, and Canning will work as part of Transmission's acquisitions team, based in London.

Transmission's operations will kick off with the release of two Paramount Pictures International acquisitions: Toa Fraser's "Dean Spanley," starring Peter O'Toole, Sam Neill, Jeremy Northam and Bryan Brown, and Vicente Amorim's "Good," starring Viggo Mortensen.

The Transmission/Paramount venture, which also includes Paramount Home Entertainment, will cover all rights for features acquired by the partnership for Australia and New Zealand.

"This combination ensures the focused, hands-on attention to detail of an independent, with the marketing and sales strength of a major studio," the partners said.

PPA managing director Mike Selwyn said the partnership helps fulfill a Paramount objective of "supplementing our studio lineup with strong independent product, and this deal will be a major step towards that."

Added PHE managing director Paul Muller: "Richard and Andrew have been on the leading edge of Australian independent film and I believe this new venture gives us an opportunity to expand our formidable slate with some dynamic and locally relevant films."

See-Saw Films' slate will include "The Uninvited Guest," to be directed by Guillem Morales and co-produced by Rodar y Rodar's Joaquin Padro and Mar Targarona; Maggie Gyllenhall/Paul Bettany starrer "South Solitary," to be directed by Shirley Barrett and produced by Marian Magowan and Sarah Radclyffe; and the feature adaptation of Paul Catling's Sundance winning sci-fi short "Tomo."

The company also is in development on two new features from Australian directors Ray Lawrence and John Polson.

See Saw Films will have a foothold in Australia and Europe, with Sherman heading up the Sydney office and Canning based in London.

Payten and Mackie jointly headed up Dendy Films, the film distribution arm of the Becker Group, and in their six-year tenure, grew it to become the leading independent distributor in Australia and New Zealand, releasing films with total boxoffice receipts of AUS$125 million. They left the company in late 2007 when it was acquired by regional Australian broadcaster Prime Television.
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