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Fremantle takes minority stake in Artists, Writers & Artisans (AWA)

Fremantle, the production unit of Bertelsmann-owned TV giant RTL Group, has made a strategic minority investment in Artists, Writers & Artisans (AWA), an independent developer of stories from creative talent working across graphic fiction, film and television.

James Murdoch’s investment firm Lupa Systems, an existing AWA backer, co-led the new financial injection, which also included new capital from long-term AWA backers and “a number of strategic individual investors with expertise in production, finance, sports, human rights and technology,” the company said. Financial details and the size of the stake weren’t disclosed.

“This investment signifies a deepening of the initial partnership made between Fremantle and AWA in April 2022, which saw the companies come together to collaborate on co-developing a slate of TV projects based on AWA’s rapidly expanding IP library,” the partners said. “AWA Studios, AWA’s film and TV arm, will benefit from Fremantle’s strategic input and investment, whilst also unlocking the specialist expertise of the global content powerhouse, its infrastructure and its renowned international distribution footprint.”

The two companies also unveiled that the first project on their joint development slate is Devil’s Highway, “a thriller based on the successful comic series by Benjamin Percy and Brent Schoonover in which a young woman seeks to unravel a sinister mystery hidden in the dark underbelly of the long-haul trucking industry.”

The deal for the expanded partnership between the firms was spearheaded by Andrea Scrosati, Fremantle’s group COO and CEO Continental Europe, and Matthew Anderson, co-chair and president of AWA.

“We admire how Fremantle has built on its long-standing strengths to become an international force in scripted drama and film,” said Anderson. “AWA’s success is built on collaborating with our creators to publish their stories in their purest form and then steering them to their fullest potential in film and TV. Andrea and the Fremantle team share this ethos.”

Added Scrosati: “The collaboration is a perfect strategic fit, giving AWA access to our global footprint, distribution infrastructure and production expertise and putting Fremantle at the very forefront of graphic fiction innovation.”

AWA is backed by Lupa, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Sister, the production company founded by Elisabeth Murdoch, Stacey Snider and Jane Featherstone. Marvel alum Axel Alonso serves as co-founder and chief creative officer, overseeing editorial output. In 2021, the company established AWA Studios, its film and TV division, led by Hollywood veteran Zach Studin as president. Jon Miller, the former chairman and CEO of AOL, former president and CEO of USA Interactive and former president of Nickelodeon International, is co-founder and co-chair at AWA’s executive team.

AWA Studios kicked off with news of feature film adaptations of Chariot by Bryan Edward Hill and Priscilla Petraites, which Warner Bros. acquired, Marjorie Finnegan: Temporal Criminal by Garth Ennis and Goran Sudzuka, which Ruben Fleischer will direct; and Hotell by John Lees and Dalibor Talajic to be directed by Elle Callahan.

In December, AWA formed a Creative Council, including such big names as Reginald Hudlin, Gregg Hurwitz, Laeta Kalogridis, Joseph Kosinski, Al Madrigal and J. Michael Straczynski to help guide the company on “complex creative matters and nurture ideas across a range of platforms.”

The minority investment in AWA is the latest deal for Fremantle. In 2022, it acquired majority stakes in Eureka (Parental Guidance, Holey Moley), Label 1 (Five Dates a Week, Hospital), Element Pictures (Normal People, The Wonder), Dancing Ledge Productions (The Salisbury Poisonings, The Responder), Lux Vide (Devils, Medici) 72 Films (9/11: One Day in America), Wildstar Films (America the Beautiful), Silvio Productions (Buried, The Baby Daddy) and a minority stake in Fabel Entertainment (Bosch). The Hollywood Reporter

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