Film4, Ingenious, Vertigo form film sales company


LONDON -- Film4, the filmmaking arm of U.K. broadcaster Channel 4, has joined forces with investment house Ingenious and production and distribution banner Vertigo Films to set up a sales company called Protagonist Pictures, the parties said Sunday.

The venture, capitalized fully by its trio of founders, will be headed by Ben Roberts, who is leaving Universal Pictures to take up the new post. Roberts most recently was vp worldwide acquisitions at Universal in London.

Protagonist plans to handle all aspects of international rights on "certain films generated by the individual partner companies."

The startup also is keen to attract producers with films produced without involvement of the three partners, allowing it to operate as a stand-alone international sales and financing entity.

As part of the move, Protagonist will handle Film4's existing film library. Channel 4's Nada Cirjanic will head library sales for the new venture.

The three companies said they hope the unit will "provide a base from which to manage the international financing, sales and marketing of their films and in so doing protect the interests of talent, producers and financiers."

In addition to working with Protagonist, all three companies have pledged to continue relationships with existing sales entities, enabling producers to exercise the same choice they currently enjoy in the way they set up their films.

"(Protagonist) is going to be a stand-alone business that reflects (Film4, Vertigo and Ingenious') caliber and expertise," Roberts said.

He sent a message to producers saying that he hopes Protagonist will be "an attractive first port of call for projects in any stage of development."

"As well as providing multiple financing and distribution opportunities, we'll offer a straightforward and collaborative relationship delivered by a first-class team," Roberts said. "The culture is going to be invigorating and professional."

Said Tessa Ross, head of film at Film4: "We will now have much greater steer over the way in which our films and filmmakers reach international audiences, and in doing so we can help producers to better understand and control the international distribution of their films."

Added Ingenious commercial director Duncan Reid: "Protagonist offers us a deeper involvement in the film sales sector, making our film operations more vertically integrated. This helps us offer our investors a route to capitalize more fully on the success of the films we participate in."

James Richardson of Vertigo Films said that "as producers and distributors, this is a tremendously exciting progression into international sales with our friends at Film4 and Ingenious."

Protagonist Pictures expects to make its commercial debut at the upcoming European Film Market during this year's Berlin International Film Festival in February.