Deal calls for multipic slate

BERLIN — “Shrek” producer John Williams is bringing his fairy tale touch to Berlin, inking a multipic production and development agreement with local animator Greenlight Media.

Deal calls for them to develop and produce a slate of animated and live-action family entertainment properties, with Greenlight fully financing in most cases.

First pic will be a $30 million toon feature based on Greenlight’s successful Brothers Grimm TV series, “SimsalaGrimm.” As Germany’s bestselling TV series, it has sold to over 130 countries.

Williams’ DreamWorks-based Vanguard Films will develop and produce the parody of the classic German tales.

Becoming friends

“We have been doing an elaborate dance getting to know each other for the past year,” Williams, who brought “Shrek” to DreamWorks, told Daily Variety. “We have a huge agenda at DreamWorks, but we also have a significant capability to expand, and Germany is the place.”

Greenlight Media chief operating officer Nikolaus Weil said, “This is the beginning of a relationship that will build the core of where Greenlight Media is heading.”

Both companies will bring ideas to the table. Vanguard has a slew of projects in the works, including pics with British character actor Gary Chapman (“Sunk”). “This is complementary to our DreamWorks deal. If DreamWorks doesn’t want to develop it as a pitch, we may develop it with Greenlight and go back to DreamWorks with a completed project,” said Williams. “I think it’s our forte to start with a concept and get it as a fully developed script and story line.”

Part of the financing for projects will come via Greenlight Media’s $110 million BAF 2 film fund, being launched by German bank Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein.

Included in the deal is an agreement with the state of Berlin that calls for 50% of production costs to be spent in the region in return for a financial injection of DM30 million ($13 million). The “Simsala” feature is being financed via Greenlight’s BAF 1 fund, launched in 1999.

Greenlight is also in talks with a second U.S. producer to complement the Williams deal and further Greenlight’s plans to expand its feature activities. Greenlight intends to step up the production of both animation and live action features, expanding upon its strong television base. Greenlight is looking to get involved in projects with a budget ceiling of $35 million.

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