Roberts, Ratner jump on the BIG bandwagon

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Julia Roberts' Red Om Films and Brett Ratner's Rat Entertainment have become the latest Hollywood-based banners to sign development deals with Indian media and entertainment company Reliance BIG Entertainment.

Ratner and Roberts join an impressive list of what Reliance describes as "creative partnerships" with key talent.

As with previously announced development deals, Reliance has released an undisclosed cash-pool "development silo" for both companies.

Reliance BIG chairman Amit Khanna and president Rajesh Sawhney said their company will develop projects with the production shingles, with the possibility of Reliance co-financing.

Khanna said the deals are separate from other pacts the production banners have in place.

"We have a very comfortable relationship with the studios and independents," Khanna said. "We talk over each project and then decide whether to partner on production later."

"These creative partnerships will lead to Reliance co-financing with the majority of the major U.S. studios as we are totally respectful of the existing first-look deals that each of our partners enjoys," Sawhney added. "From the conversations to date, we know that the respective studios will welcome our development silos and our subsequent co-financing ability."

Similar deals announced during last year's Festival de Cannes include pacts with Nicolas Cage's Saturn Prods., Jim Carrey's JC 23 Entertainment, George Clooney's Smokehouse Prods., Chris Columbus' 1492 Pictures, Tom Hanks' Playtone Prods., Brad Pitt's Plan B Entertainment and Jay Roach's Everyman Pictures.

The partners Thursday reiterated the view that with any greenlighted projects using Reliance co-financing, the filmmakers will enjoy full creative and fiscal freedom.

"It's not about vanity for our company," Khanna said. "These deals are serious, and by Cannes this year, we expect we will be able to unveil at least one or two greenlighted productions from the development silos."

Reliance said eight of the partnerships have had development projects approved and that there is a handpicked slate in excess of 20 projects; it is anticipated that most will generate content during 2009.

The deals also secure Indian rights for the films that Reliance co-finances. CAA was instrumental in brokering the deals and is advising Reliance BIG Entertainment. (partialdiff)
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