Duo launching digital publishing company

Jeffrey Sharp, Jane Friedman's Open Road in first-look deal

Jeffrey Sharp, the indie producer who formed a film shingle at HarperCollins two years ago, is launching a digital publishing company with former HarperCollins topper Jane Friedman.

In the process, he is transitioning his development efforts from his Sharp Independent at HarperCollins banner to the new company, Open Road Integrated Media.

Open Road has made a first-look deal with Kensington Publishing, which specializes in commercial fare, particularly in areas like gay and African-American literature. Books from the company's front- and back list will be potential development targets for Sharp. Open Road also will have an informal development relationship with literary house Grove Atlantic, whose titles Open Road will distribute.

The entertainment efforts will fall under Open Road's digital entertainment division, which will be run by Luke Parker Bowles. Sharp said some of the entertainment properties will be developed as webisodes and in other digital media.

Most of the projects that are in development at HarperCollins will remain active there -- they include the drama "Northline," with "Frozen River" helmer Courtney Hunt attached to direct -- but Sharp will focus on developing Open Road titles,

Open Road's larger goal is to acquire books for digital platforms and then distribute and market them electronically; it has bought electronic rights to classics like "Catch-22" and also will seek out new authors.

"What's exciting about this is that when you go into the treasure chest of rights, you find many are available and can make for a great feature adaptation. Every time you turn over a leaf, there's a surprise," Sharp said.

Sharp is the producer behind such indie hits as "Boys Don't Cry." The company also sports the involvement of another movie veteran: James Kohlberg. The principal behind Essential Entertainment, the financing and sales company that counts "Defiance" and "My One & Only" among its credits, has provided about $3 million in financing to the Open Road venture.