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 appreciate what is a classy staff.
Another I suspect will be a keeper is Jeb Brody, who came to Focus in 2011 from Vendome to take the production president post. I say that not only because he’s good at his job, but because I recently interviewed Fifty Shades Of Grey author EL James, who told me that she absolutely loves the guy who is the hands-on executive on what is expected to be a three and probably four-part adaptation of her racy blockbuster novel trilogy. Actually, what the British author told me exactly was that she quickly realized after meeting him that “Jeb Brody made me laugh and I thought, I could go and have a pint with him.” High praise from a woman who carries some real clout over there right now.
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