x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

$10m film fund strikes first deal

The film development partnership between Imagenation Abu Dhabi and Parkes/MacDonald Productions has acquired its first completely optioned project: the big screen version of the book Earthbound.

The US$10 million (Dh36.7m) film development partnership between Imagenation Abu Dhabi and Parkes/MacDonald Productions has acquired its first completely optioned project, a thriller by the science fiction author of I Am Legend, Hell House and What Dreams May Come. The big screen version of the book Earthbound, by Richard Matheson, will be produced by Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald, the husband and wife team who formerly ran DreamWorks Studios, along with Keri Selig, whose credits include the films Passengers and Stepford Wives.

The project marks the first time that Imagenation Abu Dhabi - the billion-dollar film fund founded in September 2008 as a wholly owned subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Media Company, which also owns The National - has developed a film project from scratch. "Development money has been very scarce over the last year or two in Hollywood because studios don't have that much money anymore, and independent development efforts have been scaled back" said Stefan Brunner, the chief operating officer of Imagenation Abu Dhabi. "We felt if we had a strong partner like Parkes/MacDonald, we could develop into this strong development force in Hollywood, which we are doing right now."

Development typically encompasses the earliest stage in the filmmaking process, between the idea - often generated by purchasing the movie rights to a book - and the script. Although Imagenation Abu Dhabi's mandate was to be involved in all stages of the process, so far most of its other projects have been focused on the production and distribution end, Mr Brunner said. In order to become more involved in development, the company formed a partnership with Parkes/MacDonald last October. Together the companies have the $10m fund that they can apply to developing projects by buying rights to stories and hiring screenwriters to turn them into scripts.

The fund invests in future Parkes/MacDonald projects developed under their first-look deal with DreamWorks Studios, as well as directly with Imagenation Abu Dhabi, or with other major studios. Before this latest project, Imagenation and Parkes/MacDonald acquired the feature film rights to two other projects: The Museum of SuperNatural History, based on a website created by Ernest Lupinacci, and Eat, Sleep, Poop: A Common Sense Guide to Your Baby's First Year, written by Scott Cohen, the paediatrician.

Earthbound is the first deal that partnership has done outside of its first-look deal with DreamWorks Studios. "We are looking at a diverse line-up of projects with attractive premises being developed through the Parkes/MacDonald/Imagenation partnership," said Edward Borgerding, the chief executive of Imagenation. "With its pedigree and talent as well as its commerciality, Earthbound is a perfect addition to this slate."

Imagenation Abu Dhabi was launched to develop, finance and produce full-length feature films and digital content for Arabic and global markets. From its base in Abu Dhabi, the company has established partnerships with international producers such as National Geographic, Participant Media and Hyde Park Entertainment. @Email:khagey@thenational.ae