EXCLUSIVE: Jim Burke is transitioning from his post as Focus Features production president. He will return to being a film producer. It was two years this week that Burke took the executive post and left Ad Hominem’s Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor and the production company they formed in 2004. Burke will produce movies at Focus, and he’s not in a big hurry to leave. He will stay and work with the senior executive team until they find a replacement.
Before he came to Focus (he was hired by former head Peter Schlessel), Burke produced such films as The Descendants and Cedar Rapids and was exec producer on The Savages. He continued as producer on Downsizing, the upcoming Payne-directed film he developed for 10 years that stars Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig. It turns out that producer’s struggle was something he missed while overseeing and planning a slate.
“I had a fantastic experience as the president of production at Focus, and it has been a dream to hold that title at one of the great labels making the kinds of films I love,” Burke told Deadline. “In the long run, I have had to take a little inventory of myself, and I felt that I have gotten a little too far away from film, and that is what I really love. It’s a long life but a short life, and I want to make the most out of mine. My experience at Focus will benefit me for the rest of my life, but it’s back to doing what I do.
“In the meantime, I’m still doing this, with people I’ll miss as we figure out who the next person in this job will be,” he continued. “I am better when I’m completely absorbed in the world of a movie and in its characters. I’m very good at making a movie that I would want to see; I’m not sure I’m the best when it isn’t me who’ll go see it.”
At Focus, Burke worked closely on the Colin Trevorrow-directed The Book of Henry, which will be released June 16, and the Sofia Coppola-directed The Beguiled, which opens June 23. Burke will continue as producer of films at Focus, and he expects to continue his alliance with former Ad Hominem partners Payne and Taylor. Among the Focus projects: the graphic novel adaptation Patience; The Comeback, to be written and directed by Craig Brewer; and Keep Coming Back, which Michael Gilio will write.
Said Focus chairman Peter Kujawski: “Jim has truly produced some of our favorite movies of all time and some of the best movies in recent memory. To say that we have been fortunate to have him on our team at Focus would be an understatement. Of course, our good fortune continues since Jim won’t be going far when he transitions back to his filmmaking roots, and we are thrilled that we’ll have the opportunity to continue our partnership for many years to come.”
Meanwhile, that puts in play another plum studio job.