Germany’s Leonine Studios has rebranded its television subsidiary Odeon Entertainment as Madame Zheng Production to reflect its primary focus of “equality and diversity in every aspect of the production business, both in front of and behind the camera.” Tina Wagner, previously producer and executive producer at RedSeven Entertainment, and Nina Etspüler, co-head of entertainment at Leonine Studios, are joining the management team and will lead the company under Wagner’s direction along with Martin Schneider, Odeon Entertainment’s long-standing managing director.

Fred Kogel, CEO and co-head of entertainment at Leonine Studios, said: “Ever since Nina Etspüler joined Leonine in Jan. 2021, we have jointly pursued the goal of establishing a production brand that advocates for equality and diversity in front of and behind the camera, in order to firmly anchor these themes, which are essential for Leonine Studios, in the production market. The entertainment sector in Germany, in particular, has a lot of catching-up to do, which is why we want to consciously champion equality and diversity. I am very pleased that we can now put our plans into practice with such a distinguished and talented colleague as Tina Wagner. Madame Zheng Production perfectly complements our existing entertainment brands i&u TV and SEO Entertainment. In its entirety, Leonine Studios now covers an even broader spectrum within non-fiction production. This will generate further growth for our Leonine Production division.”


Endeavor Content-backed Blink49 Studios has acquired rights to bestselling author Marissa Stapley’s romantic drama “Things To Do When It’s Raining” and will adapt it for television. Set in Canada’s 1,000 Islands, the story centers around a woman who is driven by deception and despair to return home from the city to her grandparent’s inn. There, she encounters the island-dwelling boy who was her companion as a child and her first love as a teenage girl, but then disappeared from her life without a trace.

The novel was published with Simon & Schuster Canada and Graydon House U.S. in 2018 and has since sold in Germany, Norway, the Czech Republic, Italy, Turkey, France, and Slovakia. Interest in the property renewed after Stapley’s 2021 novel “Lucky” became the first Canadian novel to be selected for Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine Book Club.

Executive producing for Blink49 will be the company’s executive VP, global scripted Carolyn Newman and executive producer Virginia Rankin.


Leading British animation studio Aardman has appointed Steven Shapiro and Harry Linden to the newly created positions of chief technical officer and head of stop frame production respectively. Shapiro will report into Kerry Lock, director of finance and operations and Linden into Carla Shelley, executive director, production. Shapiro joins Aardman from The Walt Disney Studios where, as principal architect, motion picture innovation, he focused on applying innovation to support productions across all The Walt Disney Pictures live action studio banners, from Marvel Studios to Disney live action films. Linden first collaborated with Aardman as floor manager on “Wallace and Gromit: A Close Shave” (1995), then on “Chicken Run” (2000) as production manager. Upcoming from Aardman include a sequel to “Chicken Run” and the return of Wallace & Gromit.


Expanded Media and Lawrence Elman and Nick Fraser of Docsville Studios are bringing the story of civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson to the screen as both a theatrical feature and a limited series, through exclusive access to Reverend Jackson and his family and 60 years of previously unseen family archive footage. It will be directed by Shola Lynch (Peabody-winning documentary “Chisholm ’72: Unbought & Unbossed”). Jackson’s youngest son, Yusef Jackson, an attorney, entrepreneur, corporate advisor and community advocate, will co-executive produce.


NewImages Festival and Cannes XR have revealed “Alexandria,” a shared metaverse created and developed in collaboration with virtual spaces creator Kreis. The metaverse is conceived and designed as a futuristic port of Alexandria, both a symbolic cultural hub and a point of departure to other worlds. It will be inaugurated in May during Cannes Marché du Film and will feature again in June at NewImages Festival. More than 30 VR works are part of “Alexandra.”


Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Film Festival has announced the 12 Arab feature film projects that have made the cut for its Red Sea Lodge mentoring and financial support program, operated in tandem with Italy’s Torino Film Lab. The eight-month-program aims to nurture and support emerging talent with both expert guidance and cash. Of the twelve selected projects, six are from Saudi Arabia while the others are from Egypt, Algeria, and Lebanon. Half are directed, produced, and written by women.

Projects from Saudi Arabia:
“Seasons of Love & War,” based on the novel ‘Divers of the Desert’ written by Amal Alfaran. Director/Screenplay Hana Alomair, Co-Writer/Producer Soha Samir.
“A Last Argument Against Youth!” – Writer – Director Mohemmed Algbreen, producer Raghad Bajbaa.
“The Crow Nest” – Writer/Director Feras Almusharrei, Producer Razan Al Soghayer, Writer Taqwa Ali.
“Al Qais!” – Writer/Director Lujain Hussain, Writer – Producer Abdulrahman Hakeem.
“Tahweedah” – Writer/Director Omar Al Omirat, Producer Asd Alkarimi.
“Yajuj: Curse Of Iram” – Director Fahmi Farahat, Producer Jomana Alquraish, Writer Murad Amayreh.

Projects from the wider Arab world:
“The Settlement” Egypt – France; Writer/Director Mohamed Rashad, Producer Hala Lotfy.
“A Quarter To Thursday In Algiers” Algeria – France; Writer/Director Sofia Djama, Aurélie Turc.
“Cain And Abel” Egypt – U.S. – France; Director Dina Amer, Producer Karim Amer, Writer Omar Mullick.
“Dogmas” France – Algeria; Writer/Director Salah Issaad, Producer Taqiyeddine Issaad.
“Bubblegum Brigades” Lebanon; Director Samah El Kadi, Producer Michelle Ayoub, Writer Rani Nasr.
“Aisha Can’t Fly Away Anymore!” Egypt; Writer/Director Morad Mostafa, Producer Sawsan Yusuf.  – Nick Vivarelli

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