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STAKE

Newen Studios, the Paris-headquartered production and distribution group, has taken a majority stake in London-based production house, Rise Films, the outfit behind “All That Breathes,” which won the top documentary prizes at Sundance and Cannes this year. The move is part of Newen’s premium documentary ambitions and U.K. expansion plans.

Founded in 2006 by Teddy Leifer, Rise’s credits also include Emmy winners “The Invisible War” and “The Interruptors” and Oscar “Icarus.” The company is debuting in factual drama with “Thank You & Goodbye,” about the phone-hacking scandal that rocked Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, a collaboration with the creative team behind the BBC’s “The Salisbury Poisonings.”

Rise Comedy, a joint venture with Rise Films, which is run by Sam Leifer, creator of ITV comedy “Plebs,” will continue to be operated independently.

Earlier this year, Newen strengthened its strategic partnership with European producer and financier Anton and is receiving $56 million to co-invest in the distribution rights of audiovisual and film projects.

APPOINTMENTS

Fremantle label Naked has appointed Karen Knowles as head of production, reporting into director of commercial and operations Tamara Howe and working closely with MD Fatima Salaria and the rest of the leadership team. Knowles will manage Naked’s slate, which includes “The Apprentice” (BBC One), “The Rap Game U.K. (BBC Three), “Grand Designs” (Channel 4), “Planet Sex” (Hulu and BBC Three), “Secret Crush” (ITV2), “Life and Limb: The Mission Millionairess” (ITV) and “Great Coastal Railway Journeys” (BBC Two).

The executive joins from Whisper, where she currently oversees branded, documentary and factual entertainment programs, including “Ben Stokes: Phoenix from the Ashes” (Amazon), “Beauty Rewind Clinic” (UKTV), “Billy Connolly Does…” (UKTV), and also serves as head of diversity and inclusion. Knowles will join Naked in the fall.

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Roberto Soto, senior VP and head of growth marketing for EMEA at HBO Max has been appointed as chief strategy officer and John Heinemann, associate principal counsel for Nordics, Baltics and MENA at The Walt Disney Company as general counsel, at SkyShowtime, both reporting into CEO Monty Sarhan. They will join SkyShowtime later this year.

At HBO Max, Soto led the marketing, PR, subscriber acquisition, CRM, and growth analytics teams and spearheaded the streamer’s roll-out across all of SkyShowtime’s future markets including Iberia, the Nordics, Netherlands, Poland, and Central and Eastern Europe. In this newly created role, Soto will lead the development and execution of SkyShowtime’s strategy, working closely with all teams across the organization and will be based in Amsterdam.

During his time at Disney, Heinemann was part of the team that launched Disney+ internationally, negotiating multiyear agreements across Europe and MENA. At SkyShowtime, Heinemann will serve as the chief legal officer, acting as a strategic advisor to the leadership team and the board of directors while overseeing the entire legal function including commercial and transactional matters, compliance, regulatory matters, privacy and data protection, content licensing, and distribution. He will work also work closely with SkyShowtime’s distribution and partnerships teams as the service plans to launch across 22 European markets later this year.

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“Wild Hope” OTF

CO-PRODUCTIONS

Off The Fence (OTF) has revealed a raft of natural-history programming co-productions. “The Future From Above” (4 x 60′), OTF Studios, Sky, EarthxTV, Korean TV Channel, ENA(KT Skylife TV) and Borderless Lab, with funding from Korean Communications Agency, KCA, focuses on how the world could look in 2050 if mankind embraces the technology and thinking needed to transform every aspect of lives. OTF/EarthxTV co-production “Ocean Mysteries” (8 x 30′), in which marine biologist, scuba diver and wildlife expert Tom ‘The Blowfish’ Hird combines stunts and pop-science demos with natural history footage and analogies to unravel the mysteries behind a cast of ocean creatures.

“Wild Hope” (8 x 30′), produced by HHMI Tangled Bank Studios and Part2 Pictures in a co-production with Wild Elements, is an OTF acquisition that tells stories of change makers and allies who are tackling the threats to wild creatures and habitats. Feature documentary “The Endangered Generation” (working title), which comes to OTF via a new producer relationship with Australia’s Sweetshop & Green, is narrated by Oscar-winning actor Laura Dern (“Jurassic Park”), and follows scientists, artists and leaders who explore the deep connections that bind humankind to life, the world, and one another.

FESTIVALS

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has approved the Haifa International Film Festival as an academy qualifying festival for the short film award. From this year’s edition, the winner of the best independent short feature at Haifa will be eligible to compete for best short film at the Oscars. The eligibility for consideration exempts the winning film from the academy’s requirements of theatrical distribution in the U.S. Tomer Shushan’s film “White Eye,” which premiered at the festival in 2019, was Oscar nominated in the live action short film category.

The 38th Haifa International Film Festival will take place from Oct. 8-17, 2022.

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“Xia Wu Guo Qu Le Yi Ban” (“Day Is Done”) by Zhang Dalei © RENCai

The Berlin Film Festival‘s Berlinale Shorts is presenting a program of short films at FIRST International Film Festival in China (July 27-Aug. 4) titled Berlinale Spotlight: Berlinale Shorts. Founded in 2006 and held annually in Xining, Qinghai Province, the festival focuses on discovering and promoting emerging talents in China.

Ten short films that premiered at the Berlinale over the last three years will be presented in two programs

Program 1:
“Histoire pour 2 Trompettes” (“A Story for 2 Trumpets”) by Amandine Meyer, France, 5’
“Xia Wu Guo Qu Le Yi Ban” (“Day Is Done”) by Zhang Dalei, People’s Republic of China, 24’
“Ampangabagat Nin Talakba Ha Likol” (“It’s Raining Frogs Outside”) by Maria Estela Paiso, Philippines, 14’
“How to Disappear by Total Refusal” (Leonhard Müllner, Robin Klengel, Michael Stumpf), Austria, 21′
Nanu Tudor (My Uncle Tudor) by Olga Lucovnicova, Belgium / Portugal / Hungary, 20’

Program 2:
“Ventana” (“Window”) by Edgar Jorge Baralt, U.S. 11’
“Zonder Meer” by Meltse Van Coillie, Belgium, 14’
“One Hundred Steps” by Bárbara Wagner, Benjamin de Burca, Germany/France, 31’
“Vadim na progulke” (“Vadim on a Walk”) by Sasha Svirsky, Russian Federation, 8’
“Haulout” by Evgenia Arbugaeva, Maxim Arbugaev, U.K./Russian Federation, 25’

DISTRIBUTION

Vice Distribution has entered a partnership to list over 1,000 hours of their youth focused, premium unscripted series and documentaries on the Vuulr content marketplace. Vice titles listed on Vuulr include wrestling show “Dark Side of the Ring”; TikTok/influencer focused “Chasing Famous”; and “Devoured,” a series that explores how food fuels criminal enterprises and alters the culinary landscape. Vice’s premium titles will be available for licensing to buyers worldwide. Content buyers can log in on Vuulr to watch trailers and screeners, check rights availability and make an offer to negotiate directly with Vice Distribution.

Vuulr has enabled the licensing transactions of over 17,300 hours of content, originating from 110 countries.