Former Aardman Animation Creative Director Sarah Smith is branching out on her own, creating the UK’s first dedicated high-end CG feature animation studio, Locksmith Animation. The new shingle’s focus will be on creating a long-term slate of CG-animated pics for a worldwide audience. Locksmith has received backing from Elisabeth Murdoch, who is the principle shareholder and made the investment in a personal capacity, as well as VFX house Double Negative which will collaborate closely with the company. This is a major development in the UK toon sector following the introduction of the animation tax credit last year.
Smith made her animation debut as director and co-writer of 2011′s Arthur Christmas, and co-exec produced The Pirates! Band Of Misfits in 2012. Her other credits include producing UK TV series The League Of Gentlemen, and several collaborations with Armando Iannucci. She joined Aardman in 2006. Double Negative, a major player in Britain’s bustling VFX arena, counts credits that include The Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall, Les Misérables, Fast & Furious 6, Captain Phillips, Rush, Man Of Steel, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Transcendence and Godzilla. Smith said today, “With animated films among the most beloved and successful movies in the world, but still only a handful of producers out there, the UK offers Locksmith a unique opportunity, including a world class CG Visual FX industry, brilliant comedy writers and … Read More »
Former Walt Disney Studios chairman Rich Ross is returning to television, this time on the production side. Ross has been named CEO of Shine America, taking the reins of the U.S. outpost of Elisabeth Murdoch‘s Shine Group. He will start in January. Ross had a very successful run as President of Disney Channels Worldwide, overseeing global hits like Hannah Montana and High School Musical, before he moved to the feature side in 2009 for a rocky two-and-a-half-year term that ended in April.
At Shine America, Ross will replace current CEO Carl Fennessy. Fennessy, formerly co-CEO of Shine Australia, was brought to the U.S. in mid-2011 to succeed then-Shine Americas CEO Emiliano Calemzuk when he left in January 2012. After helping Ross with the transition, Fennessy will return to Australia where he will resume his duties as co-CEO of Shine Australia.
Ross and Shine Group chairman Murdoch have known each other for 20 years. “Rich is a world-class executive and the ideal leader to build on our extraordinary momentum at Shine America. We all welcome him warmly,” she said. “On behalf of everyone at Shine, I would like to thank Carl for his outstanding leadership over the last 18 months. He will be missed in America as much as he will be welcomed home in Australia.”
Shine America’s slate includes unscripted series MasterChef on Fox and The Biggest Loser on NBC, which will soon be joined by The Face on Oxygen. The company, whose scripted series originally consisted of Reveille’s The Office and The Tudors, has been ramping up scripted development and recently landed its first scripted pilot, The Bridge on FX, and first Spanish-language production, Minuto Para Ganar on MundoFOX. The company also recently launched New York-based format label Ardaban.
Related: WME Signs Liz Murdoch’s Shine America Read More »
With a month to go before the Mipcom TV market kicks off in Cannes, Shine International is undergoing a shift at the top of its ranks. Camilla Hammer, CEO of the sales and distribution arm of Elisabeth Murdoch’s Shine Group, is leaving the company after less than a year in the job. “Personal reasons” were cited as the motivation for her departure. Well-known industry vet Nadine Nohr is stepping in to replace Hammer on an interim basis starting next week. Nohr, who was managing director of Granada International for 12 years, has been acting as a consultant to Shine since 2009. She’ll take up the interim CEO role on a one-year contract. Shine International’s catalogue includes about 3,000 hours of content. Among its best known properties are The Biggest Loser, One Born Every Minute and MasterChef. It also handles dramas including the upcoming Frank Spotnitz-created series The Hunted which Cinemax starts airing in October.
UPDATED WITH VIDEO: In a Q&A session this morning, Elisabeth Murdoch told the Edinburgh TV Festival, “I really harbor no ambition for that top job.” She was referring to her family’s News Corp, where a succession plan is still a question mark as Rupert Murdoch closes in on 82.
In today’s Q&A, she said the Murdoch family had met to talk about the future of the company, but did not disclose what was said. She did allow that the “consensus” is that James “is an incredibly able executive” and the one who has chosen to be within the company. She said the Murdochs were a normal, close family who happen to be in the spotlight and called the day last year when Rupert Murdoch appeared before a parliamentary committee, “heartbreaking.” Her father had said at the time it was the most humble day of his life.
The Shine chairman’s comment came the day after she delivered the MacTaggart Lecture at the industry gathering in the Scottish capital. Watchers interpreted her speech last night as potentially setting herself up for that top job as she spoke openly about some of the issues facing the company amid the phone-hacking and bribery scandals in Britain, and attempted to clarify statements previously made by her embattled brother James. She also came out on the side of the people when, contradicting something James said in his own MacTaggart in 2009, she said … Read More »
Three years after her brother James Murdoch delivered the keynote MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival, Elisabeth Murdoch put her own mark on the event Thursday evening. The first woman to deliver the address in 17 years, she said in her opening remarks that being asked to give the speech was an honor and “a massive pain in the ass.” However, she allowed, “Writing a MacTaggart has been quite a welcome distraction from some of the other nightmares much closer to home. Yes, you have met some of my family before – the committee may be less than keen on women, but by god, you do love a Murdoch.” She spoke fondly of her background and her family – while taking a dig here and there – and also addressed some of the issues facing News Corp, which owns the Shine production group that she founded in 2001, as well as calling out her brother and urging her peers to connect with their audience.
RELATED: Top British Politician: The “Age Of Deference To The Murdochs” Is Over
Of her somewhat controversial decision to sell Shine to News Corp. last year, Murdoch said, “After various considerations it became clear to me that News Corp. was the best strategic home for us. Now, I can almost hear you thinking ‘No shit, Sherlock,’ but in many ways it was the very last place I wanted to go. I really hadn’t spent 12 years on my own just to do what was expected of me. But there was, and still is, irresistible logic to it.”
“Obviously News is also a company that is currently asking itself some very significant and difficult questions about how some behaviors fell so far short of its values,” she said. “Personally, I believe one of the biggest lessons of the past year has been the need for any organization to discuss, affirm and institutionalize a rigorous set of values based on an explicit statement of purpose.” Read More »
Britain’s Labour Party Deputy Leader Harriet Harman has made no secret of her distaste for Rupert Murdoch’s long reach in the UK media sector. On Wednesday – the eve of a highly-anticipated speech by Elisabeth Murdoch at the Edinburgh TV Festival – the politician, who’s also the Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, renewed calls for more stringent limits on the Murdochs’ power. She made an “open offer” to the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties to engage in talks on tightening media ownership rules. Harman said it was time “to deal with the issue of the invincibility of the Murdoch media empire,” according UK press reports. News Corp owns about 37% of the UK press and Harman is looking to crack the monopoly. During the lengthy Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics this year, there were rumblings by witnesses that News Corp should be forced to unload one of its titles. As she traveled to the Scottish capital last night, Harman notably urged First Minister Alex Salmond, who’s considered a Murdoch ally, to accept that the “age of deference to the Murdochs” is over and to join cross-party talks on press regulation.
Harman’s comments come as Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth is preparing to deliver the MacTaggart Lecture in Edinburgh this evening. Her brother James Murdoch … Read More »
Run Run Shaw To Retire – At 104
At 104-years-old, legendary producer and TV mogul Run Run Shaw is to retire as chairman of Hong Kong’s Television Broadcasts Ltd. Shaw is lately known for co-founding TVB which is one of the world’s biggest producers of Chinese-language programming, but he started his career in the film business dating back to 1920s China and has produced hundreds of films. He is also known for having been one of the backers of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. TVB has been something of a proving ground with such talent as Chow Yun-fat and Andy Lau getting a start there. Bloomberg reports that Shaw will step down at the end of the year to be replaced by the quarter-century younger Norman Leung.
EFP Names Shooting Stars
Ten European actors have been selected as Shooting Stars 2012. European Film Promotion will showcase the newcomers at the Berlin Film Festival in February. In all, 23 candidates were nominated by a jury of internationally established film industry pros. Shooting Stars is supported by the EU’s MEDIA Programme and EFP’s member orgs. The chosen group has had breakout perfs in their home territories and are those considered most ripe to make the jump to international work. Previous talent selected as Shooting Stars includes Carey Mulligan and Melanie Laurent. The Shooting Stars 2012 (pictured above) are as follows: Adele … Read More »
Rupert Murdoch’s children saw a family counseling psychologist as recently as this past February to help them sort through their feelings about who should succeed their father as CEO of News Corp, Vanity Fair contributing editor Sarah Ellison reports in the magazine’s December issue. They agreed that James, who’s Deputy COO, should be first in line. But their opinions changed after the News Of The World phone-hacking scandal broke open in July. Elisabeth Murdoch, at Rupert’s suggestion, urged James to step aside before he testified that month at a UK Parliamentary hearing. Rupert changed his mind after a sleepless night. As talk grew about a possible arrest and jail time, Ellison reveals that Rupert’s estranged second wife Anna flew to London and urged her ex-husband to publicly back his son.
As for the NOTW case itself, Ellison supports an important claim by two of James’ chief opponents – ex-News International executives Tom Crone and Colin Myler — over whether they told him in 2008 that the scandal was broader than the company had acknowledged. Murdoch, who oversaw News International, says he believed that the lawbreaking was limited to a single “rogue” reporter as he authorized a $1.4M settlement with a hacking victim on the condition that he keep quiet about the matter. But Crone and Myler say Murdoch knew about an email in the case that showed a second reporter had been involved — suggesting that Murdoch’s settlement was a form of hush money. Murdoch … Read More »
Shine Group is looking to give its TV properties a new platform with the acquisition of Bossa Studios, a London-based social gaming company. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. Bossa is a new player in the space and just launched its first title today on Facebook; the plan going forward is to create games for Shine’s TV properties, which include everything from The Tudors to MasterChef and The Biggest Loser. “As a global content company, we are committed to producing exceptional experiences across multiple platforms,” Shine boss Elisabeth Murdoch said in a statement unveiling the deal today. “We have long identified social gaming as a critical component to this strategy.” The buy into the digital space is first for Murdoch’s Shine, which in February was purchased by Elisabeth’s father Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp for $680 million, a deal that critics — including some shareholder groups — argue was too rich and smacked of nepotism when it was revealed Elisabeth received $214 million in the sale. The backlash resulted in a shareholder lawsuit challenging the tie-up and Elisabeth opting to not take a seat on her father’s board of directors as planned.
Elisabeth Murdoch has backed out on a planned talk at this weekend’s Edinburgh International TV Festival. The Shine Group founder became convinced questions about phone hacking at Shine parent News Corp would dominate any appearance, a spokesman said Monday. Shine was purchased earlier this year by her father Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp for $680M. Her planned ascension to the News Corp board was put on hold in the wake of the phone hacking scandal and a shareholder lawsuit over the inside nature of the sale which sent a whopping $212M her way.
The Edinburgh International TV Festival is the UK industry’s most prestigious gathering. That’s why Google chairman Eric Schmidt is giving the keynote MacTaggart lecture Friday. He’s the first person outside the broadcasting arena to do so. News reports say he’s expected to offer an olive branch after years of fighting lawsuits from broadcasters and film studios over copyright infringement. Though his speech is still secret, he’s expected to tell content-providers, “Google needs you”.
News Corp shareholders thought Rupert Murdoch’s $675 million acquisition of daughter Elisabeth’s indie production company Shine Group back in April was enough of a sweetheart deal that they have filed lawsuits to challenge it. But it wasn’t revealed how much Elisabeth made — $214 million — until News Corp made its annual SEC filing Monday. Most of the purchase went to Shine’s equity partners, the filing said. Elisabeth Murdoch was the majority shareholder in Shine, which she has grown by purchasing local production companies; she bought The Office producer Reveille in 2008. After the News Corp-Shine deal was announced, Rupert Murdoch said his daughter would join News Corp’s board of directors alongside he and sons James and Lachlan. But those plans were scrapped for the time being earlier this month as part of the fallout from the growing News of the World scandal in the UK and questions about the conglomerate’s corporate governance.
With independent board members privately rebelling and institutional investors publicly complaining about inadequate corporate governance in the wake of the UK phone-hacking scandal, News Corp’s board of directors is scheduled to meet Tuesday in Los Angeles ahead of the company’s fiscal year-end earnings release the next day. Now the media giant’s Wall Street Journal is reporting that Elisabeth Murdoch and the media giant have shelved plans for her to join the board for now. The 42-year-old daughter of News Corp Chairman/CEO Rupert Murdoch was expected to join the board as part of her return to the company through News Corp’s acquisition of the Shine Group, the television-production company she runs. Rupert had even said in a news release in February that he expected her to join the board when the £415 million ($680 million) Shine acquisition was completed in April. News Corp independent director Viet Dinh said in a statement Friday that Elisabeth ”felt it would be inappropriate” to join the company board at its annual meeting later this year and the company’s independent directors agreed. Read More »
No doubt this will be the first of many News Corp shareholders filing claims in Delaware Chancery Court because the Big Media giant is incorporated in that state. The accusations focus on colossal corporate governance failures surrounding the ongoing British phone-hacking scandal that led to the closing this past week of the company’s News of the World tabloid and saw one of its former editors arrested and many execs accused including heir apparant James Murdoch. Shareholders led by Amalgamated Bank along with several municipal and union pension funds charge that News Corp’s board of directors failed to exercise proper oversight and take sufficient action since news of the hackings first surfaced more than five years ago. The new claims are part of an amended complaint filed by the shareholders, who in May 2011 challenged News Corp’s acquisition earlier this year of UK film and TV production company Shine Group Ltd — the deal created a $250 million windfall for Elisabeth Murdoch, daughter of News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch, who has been trying to gain a seat on News Corp’s board for his daughter.
“News Corp.’s behavior has become an egregious collection of nepotism and corporate governance failures, with a board completely unwilling to provide even the slightest level of adult supervision,” said Jay Eisenhofer, co-managing director of Grant & Eisenhofer and co-lead counsel to shareholders, along with Bernstein Litowitz. “The result has been a piling on of questionable deals, a waste of corporate resources, a starring role in a blockbuster scandal, and … Read More »