Miramax books another big one

'Artemis' optioned jointly by Tribeca

FRANKFURT– In a preemptive buy that puts Miramax in possession of two of the hottest commodities at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the mini-major has optioned French novel “L’Education d’une Fee” (“The Education of a Fairy”) by Didier van Cauwelaert for what’s said to be a six-figure sum.

A week ago, Miramax closed a book and film deal for Eoin Colfer’s “Artemis Fowl,” a novel about a young criminal genius widely compared to the Harry Potter series.

Film rights to “Artemis” were optioned jointly by Tribeca Films, with Tribeca partners Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal attached to produce. In Frankfurt, agent Sophie Hicks of Ed Victor Ltd. has been fielding a storm of foreign offers for the book — one publisher bought the project sight unseen — and rights are expected to sell in close to 10 territories by the end of the fair.

“Education,” published by the independent Paris house Albin Michel in June, has yet to be translated into English. American publishing rights are still available, and editors at several New York houses were circling the project Friday.

The novel concerns a toy inventor who falls in love with a recently widowed woman and becomes a close friend of her young son. When the woman announces the relationship is over, the son attempts to sort out their problems with the help of a check-out cashier he’s convinced is a fairy in disguise.

Attended by nearly 300,000 members of the international book biz, the Frankfurt Book Fair has been largely ignored by Hollywood as a place to prospect for film projects. Miramax creative affairs veep Jennifer Wachtell was virtually alone among American development execs scouting the exhibition halls. Wachtell will oversee “Education” at Miramax, reporting to production co-prexy Meryl Poster.

Miramax senior veep of business and legal affairs Steven Hutensky and veep of business affairs and international relations Stuart Ford repped the company. Albin Michel’s Marie Dormann and Lisa Rounds of the French Publishers Agency repped Cauwelaert.

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As rumors continue to swirl around the BBC’s $100 million joint venture with investment bank Veronis Suhler to develop a major U.S. media operation, the British pubcaster is quietly seeking to expand its publishing brand Stateside.

The BBC is in discussions with such publishers as St. Martin’s Press and Basic Books to create a new line of books for the U.S. market based on BBC docu programming airing on the Discovery Network — created and developed in the U.S.

At the Frankfurt Book Fair, BBC books and audio publishing manager Claire Tisne was pitching publishers a slate of nonfiction and children’s programs. These include “Mind of a Murderer,” a report on the biology and psychopathology of killers. Produced by Deborah Cadbury, “Murderer” is being shot mostly in the U.S.

The BBC’s publishing presence in the American market has long been limited to U.K. TV tie-ins, but Tisne expects that to change. “We’re looking to develop properties that work in the U.S. and sell them to Europe,” she said. “It’s a new model for the BBC, which has traditionally originated all programming and editorial content in Europe.”

Another Stateside BBC project under discussion is “Captain Lightning,” a mixed animation/live-action series about a character who leaps through a TV screen and enters the life of a young boy. The BBC is negotiating a contract with Nickelodeon for the series. If successful, it could yield an array of American toy, video and book tie-ins. And they’d fill a children’s content pipeline that runs from the U.S. to the U.K. for a change.

Take that, Harry Potter.

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Ron Bass has completed his adaptation of French novelist Marc Levy’s “If Only It Were True,” the book that stole the spotlight in Frankfurt last year when the then-untranslated galleys sparked a bidding war for book and film rights. P.J. Hogan (“My Best Friend’s Wedding”) is now attached to direct for DreamWorks, according to one source close to the project. If it’s cast in time to meet strike deadlines, it could go into production this year.