'Russell' penned by Kelton, skedded to start lensing in fall

British indie financier and producer Ian Jessel has teamed up with Australian producer Martin Brown, who most recently collaborated with Baz Luhrmann on “Moulin Rouge,” on a new $9.6 million budgeted family film “Russell.”

Pic, written by screenwriter Simon St. Goar Kelton, is being structured as an Australian/Canadian/U.K. co-production that is scheduled to start shooting in the Blue Mountains of Australia in September.

Kelton also wrote the humorous “A Rich Bastard’s Guide to Los Angeles” and is working on an Eddie the Eagle screenplay about Britain’s first Olympic ski jumper.

Jessel is in Cannes finalizing the financing for the pic with additional shooting skedded to take place in Toronto and post-production in the U.K.

Pic is described as a witty family film that centers around a young girl and a talking koala bear. Though it will feature some CGI effects, project is not an animated pic.

Martin Brown Prods. will be the Australian production entity and Protocol Entertainment, spearheaded by Steve Levitan and Paul Bronfman, the Canadian production partners.

Jessel optioned rights to the screenplay and will rep U.K. rights with the the Spice Factory. Jessel has also negotiated equity participation for the film from the U.S. and Germany, though as yet there are no distribution deals in place in any territories.

Jessel, the former Miramax Intl. president, teamed with producer Lloyd Silverman in 1998 to form the Artists Colony, an indie financing and distribution company.

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