By MCN Editor


Bob Berney Joins Leadership Team; Company To Release Films Directly and Through Sony Pictures

CULVER CITY, CA – Graham King and Tim Headington’s GK Films, in partnership with Peter Schlessel, President of GK Films, announced the formation of FilmDistrict, a multi-faceted acquisition, distribution, production, and financing company.

Bob Berney joins as President of Theatrical Distribution reporting to Schlessel, who will, in addition to his responsibilities at GK Films, serve as CEO of FilmDistrict.

FilmDistrict will theatrically distribute between four and eight wide release commercial pictures per year, some of which will go through Sony Pictures Entertainment’s TriStar and Triumph labels.   Sony Pictures also will have other distribution rights (including home entertainment and television) to the films.  This deal does not affect GK Films’ existing output arrangement with the studio.

FilmDistrict will also provide consulting services to Sony Pictures’ well-established worldwide theatrical and ancillary acquisition business run by Steve Bersch, President of Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions, and his senior team.

“It has always been a goal of mine to be involved in all aspects of filmmaking and distribution,” said King.  “I’ve known and worked with Peter for a long time and there is no one else I would rather take this step with.  Bob Berney has a fantastic ability to connect with filmmakers and he orchestrates very creative marketing campaigns. We’re thrilled to be working with Amy Pascal, Michael Lynton, Jeff Blake and everyone at Sony Pictures in this new venture.”

“This is a great opportunity for GK Films and FilmDistrict to work with our friends at Sony Pictures in distribution and acquisitions to help keep Sony’s pipeline filled with commercial product. It is a real honor to be asked by Michael, Amy, Jeff and Steve to continue my relationship with the studio and particularly its acquisition group,” said Schlessel.

“Joining this exciting company is a real opportunity to participate in a powerful new global entity,” said Berney.  “To market films through our direct distribution system and to work on other pictures with Sony offers us great potential.  I’m thrilled to be joining Graham and Peter as we take this next step forward.”

“Peter Schlessel has one of the best eyes in the business for quality films, as evidenced by his role in bringing District 9 to us,” said Michael Lynton, Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures.  “We will miss having Peter here at the studio, but we’re thrilled to be working with him in his new role at FilmDistrict.”

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Peter for most of my career and his ‘street smarts’ and creative mind have never ceased to impress me,” said Amy Pascal, Co-Chairman of Sony Pictures.  “Peter and Bob, along with Graham, will be great partners with us for years to come.”

Bahman Naraghi, COO of GK Films, negotiated the deal with Stefan Litt, Executive Vice President and CFO of Sony Pictures’ motion picture group.

Schlessel will continue to function as President of GK Films, where he is involved in the day to day management of the company.  Prior to GK Films, Schlessel spent 21 years at SPE, and held the titles of President of Worldwide Affairs; President of Columbia Pictures; President of Production, Columbia Pictures; and President of Worldwide Acquisitions.

Berney founded and operated independent film distribution and marketing companies Apparition, Picturehouse, Newmarket Films and IFC Films, and was responsible for releasing critically acclaimed and award-winning films such as Memento, La Vie En Rose, Pan’s Labryinth, The Young Victoria, The Passion of the Christ, Monster and My Big Fat Greek Wedding, among many others.  He has also served as an independent distribution and marketing consultant and began his career in exhibition, managing and owning movie theaters in Texas.

In addition to partnering with Schlessel for FilmDistrict, King continues to focus on producing films though his independent production company GK Films, which he launched in May 2007 with business partner Tim Headington.

The company’s next feature The Town, written and directed by Ben Affleck, was recently released by Warner Bros. on September 17.  GK Films also produced The Tourist, directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck and starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, to be released by Columbia Pictures on December 10.  The company is currently shooting the 3-D film Hugo Cabret, directed by Martin Scorsese, and is in post production on The Rum Diary starring Depp and produced by Depp’s production company, Infinitum Nihil and the crime drama London Boulevard, starring Colin Farrell and Keira Knightley and written and directed by Academy Award®-winning screenwriter William Monahan.  GK Films recently announced several new projects including the untitled Freddie Mercury story starring Sacha Baron Cohen.  GK Films is partnering with Tribeca Productions and Queen Films on the Freddie Mercury script currently being written by Peter Morgan.  GK Films is also producing a feature adaptation of the British miniseries Unforgiven, to be written by Christopher McQuarrie, as well as an untitled love story, written and directed by Angelina Jolie.  The company also produced the animated tale Rango, directed by Gore Verbinski and produced with his Blind Wink Productions for Paramount Pictures, set for a March 2011 release.  Recent GK Films releases include Edge of Darkness, and the three-time Academy Award® nominated The Young Victoria. Most recently, Graham King and Tim Headington launched a new division, GK-TV.  Run by President Craig Cegielski, GK-TV is dedicated to the development, production and worldwide distribution of television programming.  GK-TV is currently filming the miniseries Camelot for Starz, starring Joseph Fiennes and Eva Green.
GK Films can be found on the World Wide Web at

About Sony Pictures Entertainment
Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) is a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America, a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sony Corporation.  SPE’s global operations encompass motion picture production and distribution; television production and distribution; home entertainment acquisition and distribution; a global channel network; digital content creation and distribution; operation of studio facilities; development of new entertainment products, services and technologies; and distribution of entertainment in more than 140 countries.
Sony Pictures Entertainment can be found on the World Wide Web at

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  1. Cammy Heholt says:

    Keep up the great posting.

    Excellent addition(s) to this site!

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon