Indie topper picked at WME

Endeavor's Graham Taylor to run unit at combined agency

Endeavor Independent topper Graham Taylor will run the indie film unit of the combined William Morris Endeavor Entertainment once the agency merger is complete. William Morris Independent toppers Cassian Elwes and Rena Ronson are leaving the company.

A spokesperson confirmed Wednesday that the pair will be departing along with WMI's Emily Hirsch, who worked closely with Elwes and Ronson. A fourth staffer, Jerome Duboz, who worked as part of the WMI team but also repped director clients such as Park Chan-wook and Alexander Aja, will stay with the merged entity.

The Endeavor team -- which in addition to Taylor includes Liesl Copland, Alexis Garcia and Mark Ankner, all of whom report to Taylor -- will remain intact, a further signal that Endeavor forces are in the driver's seat as the two agencies merge.

The indie world was on tenterhooks throughout the Festival de Cannes awaiting the fate of the two agencies' small but influential indie divisions as the new WME takes shape. Expectations were that one of the WMI principals, but not both, would leave the combined company.

With a host of projects in various stages of development, the WMI execs will remain for a transition period. Still, their departure throws into question the state of several projects that had been nurtured by WMI as part of its Incentive film fund, a pipeline that is financing films including Stephen Gaghan's upcoming drama "Blink." The most likely scenario is the Endeavor Independent team will take over the projects.

The fact that WMI and Endeavor Independent, which have both been active forces in the indie film world, are combining into one slimmed-down unit also speaks to the ongoing constriction on the indie front.

Elwes and Ronson, veterans of the specialty film scene, are likely to field multiple offers -- not only from other agencies but from financing and production entities. In fact, it's possible that they could find themselves in a relationship with the new WME unit, with word coming late Wednesday that they could be working either in conjunction with some of Taylor's existing film financing clients or as clients themselves.

Arguably more than any other agency staffers, indie division principals, who package and locate financing for films, possess skills and connections that easily translate to the producing world.

During their long tenure at WMI, Elwes and Ronson crafted a slate that reads like a who's who of film of the contemporary indie biz.

Among the projects they packaged and sold were such awards heavyweights as "Monster's Ball" and "Away From Her" as well as boxoffice breakouts including "Thank You for Smoking."

Endeavor, for its part, has been more active on slate financing than the single-picture business; it reps a range of financing entities and has been involved in locating funding and packaging films, including the Rob Pattinson-Rachel Weisz action pic "Unbound Captives" and the Cannes market buzz title "The Killer Inside Me." It also repped the recent Sundance debut "Black Dynamite," which Sony is prepping to release.

The two divisions should integrate easily on at least one front: The companies had put together and have been co-repping "Blue Valentine," a drama starring Ryan Gosling that was unveiled in the market at Cannes.