EXCLUSIVE: Ivanhoe Pictures, the monied production company that launched in Toronto last month as a partnership between venture capitalist Robert Friedland, indie film vet John Penotti and Beijing-based Ray Chen, have found their first picture to stake. They are joining Color Force‘s Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson to produce a feature based on Kevin Kwan’s comedic bestseller Crazy Rich Asians. Ivanhoe will fully finance.
Back when Color Force acquired the book, Jacobson said her intention was to get funding for it outside the studio system with a company that had Asian roots. That makes this a perfect fit. Published last June by Knopf Doubleday, Crazy Rich Asians tells the story of three wealthy pedigreed Chinese families whose predilection for gossip, backbiting and scheming reaches fever pitch when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his American-born Chinese girlfriend to attend the wedding of the season in Singapore. Color Force will oversee development with Ivanhoe’s Kelly Carmichael.
The author will be executive producer while Alexandra Machinist and Color Force’s Brian Unkeless are set to co-produce.
“When we talked about our dream partner for Crazy Rich Asians, we envisioned a company that had a real presence in both the United States and Asia,” said Color Force’s Nina Jacobson. “That is what is so gratifying about Ivanhoe. Not only does the Ivanhoe team love the book the way we do, it also is committed to making a film that will hold universal appeal in the marketplace.”
Penotti, the president and co-founder of GreeneStreet who produced such films there as In The Bedroom, told me when he, Friedland and Beijing Premiere Media Company founder/chairman Ray Chen founded the company that the intention was to find global minded content.
“The moment we finished Kevin’s brilliantly romantic, funny and daring novel, we knew we had to be involved,” he said. “Kevin’s perfectly realized milieu, matched with Nina’s and Brad’s exuberance and talent for producing smart, exciting films, makes this a perfect pairing for Ivanhoe.”
The funding behind the Ivanhoe Pictures venture comes from Friedland, who spent 25 years in finance, venture capital and mineral resources through his Ivanhoe label. Friedland was an early investor in Sina.com, the largest Chinese-language online infotainment portal, and Friedland provided venture capital for Sirius Satellite Radio in its infancy. He decided to join the growing list of entrepreneurs giving it a go in movies and television.
UTA packaged the deal and repped the book with Janklow & Nesbit and attorney Peter Nichols, and Ivanhoe was repped in the funding/producing deal by Walk the Walk Entertainment’s Steve Hutensky and Ivanhoe’s Head of Business Affairs, Brian Kornreich.