Focus on a roll despite 'turbulent times'

Sales company juggling host of deals

CANNES -- Focus is heading into the home stretch clutching a wad of deal memos despite what the Universal-owned specialty division president Alison Thompson describes as "turbulent times."

It helps that Thompson and company are handling sales on six movies from parent Universal and six pickups from such directors as Pedro Almodovar and Lucrecia Martel.

While Thompson recognizes that the overall market is challenging, she points to several territories making a comeback.

Focus cites a pact with distributor Serendipity in Taiwan, which is snapping up Joel and Ethan Coen's "A Serious Man," Brandon Camp's "Traveling" and Gus Van Sant's "Milk."

"We also did some deals in Scandinavia, which has been slow of late," Thompson said.

She also noted that the flashy, kung fu vampire fest "Blood: The Last Vampire" had indie distributor Asmik in Japan biting into it. The deal is outside the usual Universal relationship with Toho Towa pact.

Elsewhere in Europe, "A Serious Man" and an untitled Sam Mendes project have both gone to Svensk across the region.

In Germany, Constantin has snapped up "Blood" and "Milk"; in Italy, BIM has secured the Mendes project; while Medusa has inked a deal for "Serious Man."

Focus CEO James Schamus pointed out that Focus generally manages to sell out most of its slate based only on its scripts, without having to present trailers or footage to potential buyers.