EXCLUSIVE: Focus Features President Robert Walak will be stepping down from his position and moving into an advisory consulting role with the Universal specialty studio. Walak will continue to work with Focus on projects he helped shepherd into development while there, and there are no plans to replace him in the role of President.
The respected and well-liked Brit, who relocated to Los Angeles two years ago, joined Focus in 2016 after arriving at Universal as Co-Managing Director of UPIP in 2015. During his Focus tenure, the studio’s films have garnered 28 Academy Award nominations on titles such as Jeff Nichols’ Loving, Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread, Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman and Kasi Lemmons’ Harriet.
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Walak was also pivotal in championing Downton Abbey’s move to the big screen where it became the highest grossing film in Focus history grossing more than $192M worldwide.
Veteran Focus executive Kiska Higgs will continue to oversee its acquisitions and production operation, with the specialty studio leadership remaining under Chairman Peter Kujawski and Vice Chairman Jason Cassidy.
Says Walak, “When we took over the leadership at Focus over four years ago we strove to create a home for top-class filmmakers to bring their distinctive stories to a global theatrical audience and we achieved that. I’m stepping down from my role knowing that Focus has one of the most exciting and diverse slates going forward. I’m excited to continue collaborating with Peter, Jason and the unmatched team at Focus in my new role and look forward to future projects.”
Kujawski adds, “Personally, I have been incredibly lucky to work with someone who is not only a good friend, but a role model for excellent taste, know-how and commitment to the belief that great films can change the world. Collectively, we have all been incredibly lucky to work with an individual who prioritizes colleagues and artists as people first and who shepherds projects and processes with a sense of empathy and joy that is as productive as it is infectious.”
Walak will remain in Los Angeles, and maintain an international outlook as he continues to seek out diverse projects across various media. His extensive background includes serving as Managing Director Europe/President Production, Acquisitions and Television at The Weinstein Company for several years, where he led a range of acquisitions, including Lion, Carol, Paddington, The Imitation Game and The Woman in Gold. Prior to joining Weinstein, Walak was Senior Vice President, Acquisitions & Production at Alliance Films/Momentum Pictures, where he led the acquisition of The King’s Speech. Previously, he worked in business development at Endemol and was a producer at MTV Europe.