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Andrew Karpen Not Staying At Revamped Focus Features

By | Tuesday October 15, 2013 @ 1:40pm PDT

Mike Fleming Jr reported earlier this month that while Focus Features co-CEO Andrew Karpen was asked to stay at the restructured Universal specialty division, it was just as likely he’d depart after not wanting to uproot his family from NY to LA. Now Universal has made his departure official today in announcing the new exec suite under new CEO Peter Schlessel. Karpen will stay on during the transition. Among those staying put is Jeb Brody, who will keep his President of Production title. Here’s the release:

Related: SHOCKER! Peter Schlessel Takes Over Focus Features

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA, October 15, 2013—Focus Features today announced the leadership team for the newly reconstructed division under incoming Focus Features CEO, Peter Schlessel. Focus’ new leadership will be comprised of key executives from within the ranks of both Focus Features and FilmDistrict. Today’s announcement supports Schlessel’s mandate to evolve the Focus Features strategy to maximize potential by diversifying and expanding its film slate to include a greater number of specialty and wide release films.

“I am pleased to announce the executive management team that will help me lead Focus Features into its next chapter,” said Schlessel. “These executives will work with me in the coming weeks to round out the balance of our staffing needs for the company.”

Within this newly realigned structure:

· Adrian Alperovich will become Focus Features’ new Chief Operating Officer. He currently serves as FilmDistrict’s COO.

· Christine Birch, who is currently President of Marketing at FilmDistrict, will join Focus as President of Marketing.

· Focus Features President of Publicity and Executive Vice President of Marketing, Adriene Bowles, will retain her current title and responsibilities.

· FilmDistrict’s Jim Orr will lead Distribution as President.

· Focus’ President of Production, Jeb Brody, will retain his current title and responsibilities.

· FilmDistrict’s Lia Buman will be President of Acquisitions at Focus Features. Buman and Brody will work together to shape Focus’ slate.

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Focus Features Day 2: Who’ll Stay?

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Yesterday’s bombshell that caught everyone at Focus Features by surprise has given way to a collective depression among the people at Focus who watched the abrupt exit of their leader James Schamus, and learned Universal will close the Gotham headquarters after incoming head Peter Schlessel arrives in January. There have been speculative reports about what form Focus might take, but before any of that gets sorted, they need to figure out who at Focus will continue to work there going forward. I’m told that those discussions started today with Andrew Karpen, the 10-year Focus vet who was promoted to co-CEO at the Cannes Film Festival. Karpen flew out to the studio for meetings today and I’m told that the studio would like Karpen to stay; the question is whether or not he will relocate his family. Karpen has been a rock star there, and a catalyst in the Toronto acquisition of world rights on the Jason Bateman-directed comedy Bad Words, which, along with the John Carney-directed Can A Song Save Your Life? were the two most coveted acquisition titles and biggest deals at the festival. Karpen has also been involved in Focus’ best Oscar hopeful, the Matthew McConaughey-starrer Dallas Buyers Club, which got stellar notices at Toronto. Schlessel has his own FilmDistrict staff to take care of, but I hope he and Donna Langley … Read More »

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Cannes: Focus Features Re-Ups James Schamus, Promotes Andrew Karpen To Co-CEO Post

Mike Fleming

BREAKING: Since forming 11 years ago, Focus Features has been a relative bastion of stability. That will remain so as CEO James Schamus has re-upped for a new term, and Andrew Karpen, president since 2006, has been promoted to co-CEO. Schamus will remain a creative catalyst for the company, while Karpen  oversees the global business strategy for the company and will continue to spearhead the company’s digital initiatives. Together, they run all aspects of the company, including acquisitions and worldwide production, marketing, and distribution. Karpen continues to report to Schamus, who hatched the label with David Linde in 2002. Schamus reports to Universal co-chairman Donna Langley.

These are stand-up guys who come to the Croisette with the hottest project in Hollywood, and one which they are not selling here, at least not yet. That’s 50 Shades Of Grey, the adaptation of the steamy novel that has sold 70 million copies worldwide, and which Langley won in a huge multi-million dollar bidding battle, and then placed it with taste-maker label Focus, to be produced by Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca. That project is still forming and while there might be some hot and bothered whispering here at the Croisette (it’s unclear whether its partner, Universal, will let any territories go), the focus here for International head of Distribution and Sales Alison Thompson is on Mike Leigh’s new film, which stars Timothy Spall as the painter J.M.W. Turner; the Asif Kapadia-directed docu on Amy Winehouse; and new Focus titles that the Michael Cuesta-directed fact-based thriller Kill The Messenger with Jeremy Renner, and the Andrew MacDonald-directed undersea adventure film Black Sea with Jude Law. FFI will also world premiere Ruairi Robinson’s thriller The Last Days On Mars, starring Liev Schreiber, Olivia Williams, and Romola Garai in the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight section. Read More »

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Focus Features Unveils Digital Distribution Slate; James Franco-Directed ‘The Broken Tower’ Bows In January

By | Monday December 19, 2011 @ 11:39am PST
Mike Fleming

NEW YORK, DECEMBER 19th, 2011 – Focus World, the unique digital distribution initiative owned and operated by Focus Features, has closed deals on its slate for the first quarter of 2012. The announcement was made today by Focus President Andrew Karpen. The deals were closed by Avy Eschenasy, Executive Vice President, Strategic Planning, Business Affairs and Acquisitions, with Manager, Digital Content Kent Sanderson.

The new Focus World selections include The Broken Tower, directed by Academy Award-nominated actor James Franco, which will be released digitally on January 10th; Gaukur Úlfarsson’s documentary feature Gnarr, which will be released February 7th; and Liza Johnson’s Return, which will be released February 28th.

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TOLDJA! Focus Features Names Jeb Brody Production President

By | Wednesday August 24, 2011 @ 9:15am PDT
Mike Fleming

Deadline told you Aug. 15 that Focus Features would name Vendome’s Jeb Brody its new production president replacing John Lyons, who left to produce films and focus on philanthropic pursuits. Focus just made it official. Here’s the release:

LOS ANGELES (August 24th, 2011) –– Jeb Brody is joining Focus Features as the worldwide film company’s president of production. Focus CEO James Schamus and president Andrew Karpen, to whom Mr. Brody will report, made the announcement today.

Mr. Brody, who begins work next month, will be stepping into the production presidency post being vacated by John Lyons, who is returning to working as a film producer as well as devoting more time to his philanthropic endeavors. While Mr. Brody will be based in Focus’ West Coast offices, he will oversee the global Focus production team already in place in New York, London, and Los Angeles.

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Focus Features In Talks With Jeb Brody For Production Prexy Post As John Lyons Exits

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: As John Lyons prepares to leave his production president post to focus on philanthropy, Focus Features top executives James Schamus and Andrew Karpen are in talks with Jeb Brody to replace him. Brody, who is currently president of production for producer/financer Vendome Pictures, is well regarded in the indie sphere. He was a producer of Sunshine Cleaning and was the executive producer of Little Miss Sunshine while he worked at Big Beach. Brody exec produced Vencome’s first two film productions, Source Code and Larry Crowne. Lyons made public his plan right after the Cannes Film Festival.

Lyons is leaving to devote more time to his pet project, the Edible Schoolyard/NYC. He is the founder and board chairman of the charity, which mixes his passion for the environment and growing food at the schools. He will oversee an expansion of the program to schools in the five New York boroughs, and he’ll also continue his work on the board of Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Foundation, which is the national program for the Edible Schoolyard initative. He’s also on the board of GrowNYC, a non-profit that promotes environmental awareness and runs the city’s Greenmarket programs. Read More »

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Focus Features President John Lyons Stepping Down

By | Wednesday May 18, 2011 @ 3:00pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: In a post-Cannes surprise, John Lyons will step down from his post as president of production at the end of August. He’s been working on an exit strategy for a little while with  Focus’ top execs James Schamus and Andrew Karpen. Lyons wants to return to his producing career, and also spend more time pursuing his philanthropic pet project, the Edible Schoolyard/NYC. Lyon is the founder and board chairman of the charity, which mixes his passion for the environment and growing food at the schools. He will devote more time as the program spreads to schools in the five New York boroughs. Lyons also serves on the board of Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Foundation, which is the national program for the Edible Schoolyard initative, and he’s also on the board of GrowNYC, a non-profit that promotes environmental awareness and runs the city’s Greenmarket programs.

Lyons joined Focus in 2003 and from the Gotham offices oversaw all development and production and the Focus production staff in the New York, L.A. and London offices. He steered films from this year’s Cary Fukunaga-directed Jane Eyre, the Joe Wright-directed Hanna, and past films include the Ang Lee-directed Brokeback Mountain, Gus Van Sant-directed Milk, the Fernando Merielles-directed The Constant Gardener, and the Coen Brothers-directed Burn After Reading and A Serious Man. Also the just wrapped pics: the Paul Weitz-directed adaptation of the memoir Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, with Robert De Niro and Paul Dano, and the Lone Scherfig-directed One Day with Anne Hathaway and Jim Strugess. Focus is just starting production on the Lorene Scafaria-directed Seeking A Friend at the End of the Universe with Steve Carell and Keira Knightley, and are about to get going on the Roger Michell-directed Hyde Park on the Hudson with Bill Murray and Laura Linney and they’re prepping the Wes Anderson-directed Moonrise Kingdom with Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and Jason Schwartzman.

At this point, they haven’t figured out how to replace Lyons. Read More »

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Sundance: Focus Features Acquires ‘Pariah,’ Buys Filmmaker’s Next Project

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Focus Features has closed an acquisition deal for worldwide rights for Pariah, the Dee Rees-directed coming of age story of a 17-year old African American teen from Brooklyn trying to find her place in the world, and coming to terms with her identity as a lesbian. Besides the acquisition, Focus has also engaged Rees to write another script with an eye for her to direct. The deal was in the seven figure range.

The film, which stars Adepero Oduye, Pernell Walker, Kim Wayans, Charles Parnell and Aasha Davis, created much buzz since its premiere last Thursday at the Eccles Theatre. It is a handle-with-care first film, but it showed enough promise that Rees has been courted by agents since the film’s premiere and many feel she will be an emerging artistic voice. The picture was exec produced by indie icon Spike Lee, and produced by Nekisa Cooper. John Sloss and Bart Walker at Cinetic Media and attorney Victoria Cook closed the deal with Focus’ Avy Eschenasy. At least two other suitors were also in the mix. It is the first deal at the festival for Focus, which last year acquired The Kids Are All Right, the Lisa Cholodenko-directed feature which became a breakout indie hit, grossing over $20 million domestic and nearing $30 million worldwide. The film this week received four Academy Award nominations including Best Picture.

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