Telepool Acquires Will Smith’s ‘King Richard’ in Germany, Reveals Berlin Market Premieres (EXCLUSIVE)

German film and TV company Telepool, jointly owned by Hollywood actor-producer Will Smith and Swiss investor Elysian Fields, is moving forward in multiple areas of the entertainment business, CEO André Druskeit tells Variety. Druskeit reveals a major new acquisition for its German distribution arm, and Julia Weber, head of theatrical sales and acquisitions at Telepool’s world sales arm Global Screen, speaks about the films making their market premieres at this month’s European Film Market in Berlin.

Last year Telepool launched into theatrical distribution in Germany, and continues this year with titles such as “Ironbark,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Now the company has acquired the German distribution rights for the next Will Smith movie, “King Richard,” about the father of tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams, Druskeit says. The film is fully financed by Warner Bros., but co-produced by Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment.

Referring to “King Richard,” Druskeit says: “This is a proof of concept for the new share-holding in our company because that shows exactly where we want to be in the future. Whenever they are involved in a project that makes sense for us from a distribution and sales standpoint, we try to keep the rights in-house (…) and we can create the kinds of synergies that were the basic logic of why they acquired us one and a half years ago.”

Referring to Telepool’s co-development deal with Smith’s production studio Westbrook, Druskeit says the latter’s output would become a “fairly integrated part of our business model in the future.”

Druskeit describes Telepool as an “all-in-one partner,” with financing, production, world sales and distribution capabilities. “We can deliver all necessary services to a producer, but we are flexible, and they can choose individual parts, whatever makes sense,” Druskeit says.

André Druskeit, Julia Weber (Courtesy of Telepool/Ritan)

Among the films Telepool has co-produced recently is Christian Alvart’s “Free Country,” produced by Syrreal Entertainment. Telepool has German theatrical rights, and released the film last month, while public broadcaster ZDF has German TV rights, and Global Screen is handling world rights. The crime thriller, set in Eastern Germany shortly after the country’s reunification, is a remake of Alberto Rodríguez’s “Marshland.”

Telepool is also the theatrical distributor and Global Screen the sales agency on animated feature “Ooops! The Adventure Continues…,” which is produced by Ulysses Filmproduktion. Telepool is also creating the movie’s computer game.

Global Screen goes to the European Film Market in Berlin with two titles screenings in the Berlin Film Festival’s Generation Kplus section – Mongolia-set drama “Veins of the World,” and Swedish family adventure “Sune-Best Man.”

“Veins of the World” is directed by Byambasuren Davaa, who co-helmed the Oscar-nominated documentary “The Story of the Weeping Camel.” It centers on a young boy’s fight against the exploitation of natural resources in Mongolia by global mining companies.

Jon Holmberg’s road-trip movie “Sune-Best Man” is the sequel to “Sune vs. Sune,” which was a box-office hit in Sweden, and opened Generation Kplus last year. “Sune-Best Man” has also generated high numbers at the box office in Sweden.

The highlight on its slate, Weber says, is the documentary “The Hidden Life of Trees,” based on forest ranger Peter Wohlleben’s global bestseller, which will have its market premiere in Berlin. The film looks at how trees appear to communicate with each other, and exist in a type of community. Jörg Adolph’s film, which was produced by Constantin Film, is in tune with the “awareness of people about environmental dangers worldwide,” Weber says.

“Lassie Come Home,” by Hanno Olderdissen, also has its market premiere, although Global Screen has already pre-sold three-quarters of the world at AFM. Global Screen will also continue to pre-sell the rights to animated movie “The Amazing Maurice,” another sales hit at AFM.

Global Screen will start to pre-sell “Plan A” for the first time in Berlin. Based on a true story, and set in 1945, it centers on a group of Jewish Holocaust survivors planning an ultimate act of revenge for the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis. The film, directed by Yoav and Doron Paz, stars August Diehl and Sylvia Hoeks.

Weber underscores how the company likes to come on board a project at an early stage of development, as it did with Marco Kreuzpaintner’s “The Collini Case,” which was produced by Constantin Film and released by them in Germany. “We stepped in at a very early stage, and co-developed the script with the producers,” Weber says. “That is something we have had a very good experience with because we can always give them all the experience we have from the world perspective, but also the German perspective, where Telepool is handling German rights, and we want to make sure that the film benefits from all this knowledge.”

Druskeit underscores the wide range of movies on Global Screen’s slate, encompassing documentaries, animated features, dramas and thrillers, but also describes the company’s selection of movies as a “boutique approach.”

“The Hidden Life of Trees” (Courtesy of Constantin)

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