EXCLUSIVE: British/American writing duo Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani have sold their thriller script From Here To Albion to Participant Media. The story is set in a coastal English town, where a tragic accident sets a chain of violence in motion and a malevolent stranger seeks revenge on the perpetrators and the detective who covered it up. It’s the first sale for the LA-based Haines and Noshirvani, who are repped by UTA, Oasis Media Group and Jackoway Tyerman.
Following their successful collaborations on The Help, Lincoln and upcoming The Fifth Estate, Participant Media is joining DreamWorks studios on the drama, The Hundred-Foot Journey, starring Oscar winning actress Helen Mirren and rising star Manish Dayal. Lasse Hallstrom will direct the film, from a screenplay by Steve Knight based on the best-selling book by Richard Morais. Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey and Juliet Blake are producing, with Participant’s Jeff Skoll and Jonathan King serving as executive producers. In The Hundred-Foot Journey, when an Indian family moves to Southern France and opens an Indian restaurant a hundred feet across the street from a Michelin starred French restaurant, a culinary battle ensues between the two. Participant COO Jeff Ivers negotiated the deal with Chris Floyd, EVP of Business Affairs for DreamWorks. Participant EVP of Production Jonathan King will supervise the production for Participant, working alongside DreamWorks President of Production Holly Bario.
Participant Media launched Participant PanAmerica to develop and co-finance 10-12 Spanish-language films a year with Mexico’s Canana, Chile’s Fabula and Colombia’s Dynamo, at the Berlin Film Festival in February. The entity has now identified its first project with El Ardor. Directed by Pablo Fendrik (Blood Appears, The Mugger), the film is currently shooting in Argentina and stars Gael García Bernal and Alice Braga. Fendrik, whose previous features were both Cannes Critics’ Week selections, wrote the screenplay about a mysterious man who emerges from the Argentinian rainforest to rescue the kidnapped daughter of a poor farmer after mercenaries murder her father and take over his property.
Pivot will launch August 1 with 40 million-plus subscribers and feature more than 300 hours of original programming in its first year. The cable network was hatched in December after film producer Participant Media acquired the Documentary Channel and then the distribution assets of emerging cable net Halogen TV. The plan is to target millennials via Participant’s brand of socially relevant entertainment — its film credits include An Inconvenient Truth, Food Inc, The Help, Lincoln and Promised Land — catering to adults 18-34. Among the greenlighted series announced today at the network’s upfront presentation in New York is a live nightly talk show, a variety show from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Brian Graden, a docu-talk series from Meghan McCain, and the drama Will from Craig Pearce (The Great Gatsby). Last month, the network hired FremantleMedia North America exec Holly Hines as SVP Scripted Programming. “Over the past 9 1/2 years, through 43 films, Participant has built a reputation for content that is entertaining, commercial and high quality, while at the same time, inspiring and empowering to audiences”, said Participant CEO Jim Berk. “pivot marks a seminal moment for us with the launch of a channel for people who care about the world around them.”’
Here are the network’s descriptions of series that have been greenlighted for 2013 launch:
Robert Kessel has joined Participant Media as SVP Production. He’ll report to EVP Production Jonathan King and help manage the development, production, and acquisition of narrative films for the company. Kessel most recently was SVP Production at Sony-based Matt Tolmach Productions, working on such films as the upcoming genre mash-up Kitchen Sink. Prior to that he was an exec at Overture Films, and before that was a partner and production head for seven years at Hart Sharp Entertainment, where he oversaw production and development for numerous high-profile projects. He served previous roles at Miramax and New Line.
Los Angeles, CA – Participant Media announces the formation of a distinguished fellowship, “The Jake Eberts Fellowship for Social Impact Filmmaking”, in honor of acclaimed producer Jake Eberts at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television for graduate students. It is to focus on feature film development,
EXCLUSIVE: Film producer Participant Media is beefing up its TV ranks as the company gears for the summer 2013 launch of its cable network targeting millennials. FremantleMedia North America executive Holly Hines has joined the new network as SVP Scripted Programming. She will spearhead all scripted development and production and be based in Los Angeles, reporting to Evan Shapiro, President, Participant Television. “Holly is a talented programmer with a keen eye for talent and a great understanding of the millennial audience,” Shapiro said.
Participant Media in December purchased the Documentary Channel, distributed on satcasters DirecTV and Dish, and entered into an agreement to acquire the distribution assets of emerging cable network Halogen TV from The Inspiration Networks. The company is combining and will rebrand the assets into a TV network targeting millennials that is expected to reach an estimated 40+ million subscribers on cable and satellite. The new network will carry Participant’s brand of socially relevant entertainment with a slate of original and acquired programming catering to adults 18-34, including live cross-platform news and events as well as scripted and unscripted series. The company’s films conveying similar message include An Inconvenient Truth, Food Inc., The Help, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln and Promised Land.
LOS ANGELES /BERLIN/DOHA– February 13, 2013 – Participant Media, the leading provider of entertainment that inspires and accelerates change, known for such critically acclaimed and commercially successful films as An Inconvenient Truth, Food, Inc., The Help, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, and Doha Film Institute (DFI), a leading cultural organization established to support the growth of a sustainable film industry in Qatar and the Middle East, and backer of critically-acclaimed films such as The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Where Do We Go Now, May in the Summer, and Just Like a Woman, have formed a $100 million revolving fund to finance a slate of feature films, it was announced today by Jim Berk, CEO of Participant Media, and Abdulaziz Al-Khater, CEO of Doha Film Institute. The five year revolving fund provides production and development funding for 12-16 feature films, with Participant and DFI working in collaboration to develop the films as well as oversee production and arrange worldwide distribution.
In addition to the Film Fund, Participant and DFI are exploring a joint venture to create content for Participant’s new television channel, launching in August; establishment of a distribution outlet for DFI’s film production through Participant’s media interests in the US and other territories; creation of an Arabic version of TakePart.com, Participant’s on-line division and Social Action Network to jointly create Middle-Eastern based content in Arabic and English for distribution around the world; and establishment of a Middle East branch of Participant to be based at DFI’s Qatar headquarters.
As local-language movies take on increasing importance for U.S. firms, Participant PanAmerica expects to develop and co-finance 10-12 Spanish-language films a year under a deal with Mexico’s Canana, Chile’s Fabula and Colombia’s Dynamo. The five-year agreement follows Participant Media‘s recent co-financing of Canana’s Chavez and Fabula’s No, an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language film. The company is also in talks with Dynamo to finance supernatural thriller Aguas Rojas, which Spain’s Apaches is co-producing. Participant CEO Jim Berk said the deal will enable the company to expand its reach into the fast growing Spanish-speaking market and give it access to a talent pool of “fresh and highly creative filmmakers who are looking to explore important contemporary issues in exciting ways.” The initiative will be led by Jonathan King, EVP of narrative production for Participant. Canana, founded in 2005 by Diego Luna, Gael Garcia Bernal and Pablo Cruz, and recently joined by partner and CEO Julian Levin, has credits that include Sin Nombre and Miss Bala. No director Pablo Larraín
January 28, 2013 – Los Angeles, CA – Participant Media has acquired North American rights to Audrey Ewell & Aaron Aites’ documentary 99%–The Occupy Wall St. Collaborative Film, directed by Ewell & Aites, along with Lucian Read and Nina Krstic, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last week. Following its theatrical run, the film will have its world television premiere on Participant’s new TV channel targeting millennials, scheduled to launch in August.
UPDATE, 10:40 AM: DreamWorks has confirmed my story, and they’ve got a title for the WikiLeaks feature – The Fifth Estate. (At right is also a first photo from the production featuring Benedict Cumberbatch as Assange and Daniel Bruhl as Berg.) I’m putting the press release after the original scoop.
PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, 9:44 AM: Participant Media is closing a deal to become DreamWorks‘ partner on the untitled feature film that Bill Condon is directing about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The studio has Benedict Cumberbatch playing Assange, with Daniel Bruhl playing Daniel Domscheit-Berg, whose book, Inside WikiLeaks: My Time With Julian Assange At The World’s Most Dangerous Website, was one of two books that were the primary source material for the script written by Josh Singer. Steve Golin and Michael Sugar are producing.
This becomes the fifth film partnership between DreamWorks and Participant, where Jeff Skoll and Jim Berk’s focus is to generate socially relevant subject matter. Those other collaborations are the Best Picture nominee Lincoln, The Help, The Kite Runner, and The Soloist.
This gives a clear shot at a production start on the film at a time when there has been big interest in the rogue web entrepreneur Assange. That includes one that Zero Dark Thirty scribe Mark Boal partnered on with Management 360 and financier/producer Megan Ellison that’s based on The Boy Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, an article about Assange in The New York Times Magazine written by the newspaper’s executive editor Bill Keller.
Fleming Q&A’s Participant’s Jeff Skoll And Jim Berk On What The eBay Billionaire Wants Out Of Hollywood (It’s Not More $$$)
EXCLUSIVE: After Jeff Skoll made his fortune turning eBay into a juggernaut, he turned to Hollywood as the first financier/producer not looking to make more money and rub elbows with the stars. Skoll formed Participant Media — and hired former Hard Rock Cafe CEO Jim Berk to run it — as part of his mandate to use his fortune for good causes forged by his belief that movies can illuminate important issues more powerfully than any other medium. After eight years, Participant has done that — its films have won five Oscars and 22 nominations — and shown there’s a sound business in issue-oriented films. They are in the Oscar hunt this year with three films: Lincoln, Promised Land and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel; and Middle Of Nowhere created buzz at Sundance on the indie film circuit.
DEADLINE: Jeff, before eBay made you a zillionaire, you wanted to be a writer. Will you write one of these issue-oriented films for Participant?
SKOLL: Funny you should ask. All these years, I’ve felt that for the amount of time it would take me to write something, we could have 10 projects going with really good writers. But I have an idea. It’s not fully fleshed out, but I want to write the screenplay. I’ve never done it before, and respect the people who can. Whether or not it turns out to be a great screenplay, I think making the effort will help me understand how hard it is to actually write and come up with something creative. I want to keep the issue close to my vest for now and let it unfold the way most creative efforts do.
DEADLINE: The decision to hold back Lincoln until after the election hasn’t worked against the film, judging by its $144 million domestic gross. Did you have a sway in not putting it out during the elections, when interest might have been higher?
SKOLL: Steven had a very strong opinion from the very start that the film should not be used as a political football. He was pretty firm that he wanted it to come out after the election, and given it is Steven…
DEADLINE: You were grateful he bothered to tell you?
BERK: Actually we had never done a film with him before and he was very amazingly collaborative. I was like, “Why are you asking us? You’re Steven Spielberg.”
DEADLINE: How much input do you require? Do you consider yourselves creative producers?
SKOLL: It really depends on the film. In some cases, we develop. Contagion, Waiting For Superman, they started with an idea on the blackboard and then you bring in people. On Lincoln, you defer.
BERK: We were involved in The Help early days, and were part of that process all the way through. Where we played an active role in Lincoln was in positioning in the marketplace, enlisting ingenious folks that would put this film in certain conversations, getting it into the zeitgeist.
DEADLINE: Of all the places you could spend your money, Jeff, why Hollywood?
Toronto: Radius-TWC, Participant And History Team For Errol Morris’ Donald Rumsfeld Doc ‘The Unknown Known’
BREAKING… The Errol Morris-directed The Unknown Known: The Life And Times Of Donald Rumsfeld has been a hot topic ever since promo material for the controversial feature documentary was shown this year at Cannes. Now History Films, …
New York, NY – July 27, 2012 – The Wagner/Cuban Company’s Magnolia Pictures announced today that they have acquired US rights to A PLACE AT THE TABLE, a powerful documentary from Participant Media and co-directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush about the hunger crisis in America. Featuring Jeff Bridges and Tom Colicchio, with music by T Bone Burnett and The Civil Wars, the film debuted at this year’s Sundance Film Festival with the title “Finding North.” It was produced by Jacobson and Silverbush, along with Julie Goldman and Ryan Harrington. Jeff Skoll, Diane Weyermann, Christina Weiss Lurie, Jeffrey Lurie and Colicchio served as executive producers.
Here’s a trailer for Sundance Best Director winner Middle Of Nowhere, which Participant Media and AFFRM acquired at the festival and plan to release October 12th. Written and directed by Ava DuVernay, the movie stars Emayatzy Corinealdi, David Oyelowo, Omari Hardwick, Lorraine Touissaint, Edwina Findley and Sharon Lawrence.
Watch the …