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Eberts chairs Nat’l Geo Films

Whitaker upped to prod'n prexy

A week before the release of National Geographic Feature Films’ first production, “K-19,” veteran producer and financier Jake Eberts has joined NGFF as its chairman, with “K-19” producer Christine Whitaker promoted to president of production.

The first title produced under the new structure will be “Two Brothers,” directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud (“Seven Years in Tibet”), financed by Pathe Prods. and produced by Annaud, Eberts and Paul Rassam.

“Two Brothers,” set in Angkor, Cambodia, during the 1920s, is the tale of two young tigers coming of age, encountering humans for the first time and battling for survival.

The production is slated to start in October. NGFF will also oversee a number of documentaries on tiger conservation as well as the preservation of historical monuments.

The script is by Annaud and Alain Godard, with Oscar winner Julian Fellowes (“Gosford Park”) doing a polish.

Eberts will continue producing a variety of feature films outside of his pact with NGFF.

Whitaker will run day-to-day operations and oversee an expanded number of projects in development and production. She reports to Tim Kelly, president of National Geographic Television & Film, who reports to Rick Allen, prexy-CEO of National Geographic Ventures.

Among the titles in development at NGFF are “Endurance,” to be directed by Wolfgang Petersen about Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic exploration, and “Undaunted Courage,” based on Stephen Ambrose’s book on the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Eberts founded Goldcrest Films in London in 1977. Through 1984, Goldcrest financed development and/or production of such films as “Watership Down,” “Chariots of Fire,” “Local Hero,” “The Dresser,” “Gandhi” and “The Killing Fields.”

In 1985, Eberts founded London- and Paris-based Allied Filmmakers. Since then, he has served as the executive producer or producer of such films as “Hope and Glory,” “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Dances With Wolves,” “A River Runs Through It,” “Chicken Run” and “The Legend of Bagger Vance.”

Eberts recently produced Richard Friedenberg’s “Snow in August” for Showtime. He currently serves as executive producer on the documentary “Prisoner of Paradise,” the large-format “Sacred Planet,” the motion-capture animated feature “Renaissance” and Kevin Costner’s “Open Range,” which is in production.

Eberts is a member of the board of the Sundance Institute and the Sundance Channel, and he is co-founder and CEO of video transmission provider MPI Intl.

Whitaker joined NGFF in 1994, working with the late Hank Palmieri in setting up National Geographic’s production arm. Earlier this year, Whitaker exec produced Disney’s “Snow Dogs.” She began her film career as an intern at Imagine Entertainment, where she became director of development.

National Geographic Television & Film is a subsidiary of National Geographic Ventures, a taxable subsid of the National Geographic Society.

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