Docs Supremo John Battsek Exits Passion Pictures After 20 Years To Set Up LA & London-Based Ventureland With Prettybird Trio


EXCLUSIVE: Oscar-winning producer John Battsek (One Day In September) is exiting Passion Pictures after a stellar 20-year run to launch LA and London-based company Ventureland with Kerstin Emhoff, Ali Brown, and director Paul Hunter of U.S. production and commercials firm Prettybird.

Ventureland will produce a range of content across the documentary and scripted spaces but will also work in branded content, technology, music and original IP.

Battsek and Emhoff have previously teamed up to produce Emmy-winning projects Manhunt: The Inside Story Of The Hunt For Bin Laden and The Tillman Story, as well as The Final Year, Sergio and Legion Of Brothers. The duo have worked together on-and-off for more than a decade and the majority of Passion’s U.S. productions have been based out of Prettybird’s LA facilities.

Battsek co-founded Passion Pictures Films in 1999 with Andrew Ruhemann and won the company’s first Oscar with One Day In September, which he conceived and produced. His movies at the company include Oscar nominees Restrepo and Winter On Fire, Oscar-winner Searching For Sugar Man, BAFTA winners The Imposter and Hillsborough, and Grammy nominee Eric Clapton: Life In 12 Bars. He has been nominated for the PGA Award three times.

Emhoff, Brown and Hunter, partners at Prettybird, are known for producing a string of successful music videos and commercials over the last decade with a roster of talent that includes Melina Matsoukas, Tim & Eric, The Daniels, Janicza Bravo and others. The company’s features include The Monster and Showtime’s Ready For War.

Battsek, who will be based in London but will spend more time in LA, told us he will continue to collaborate with Passion going forward.

He said, “It has been an amazing 20 years with Passion Pictures but I feel like change after two decades is an exciting thing to do. It’s an amazing time for documentaries and I now have an executive support structure in LA which, added to the relationships I have, means we should be able to increase output. I’ve hand picked a new team in London and it means we have new impetus on both sides of the Atlantic. I will continue to collaborate on a whole raft of films with Passion. That’s very much the intention.”

Battsek has Chasing Chaplin in post-production as well as features about Alex Ferguson, the Paralympics and the Thai cave rescue. His 2019 credits include Citizen K, Andy Murray: Resurfacing, Australian Dream, Sid & Judy, Oliver Sacks: His Own Life and Mystify: Michael Hutchence.

He added, “Over the past decade of collaboration I have admired Kerstin’s leadership, drive and ambition and I am thrilled to now be partnering with her and the Ventureland team. Kerstin’s commitment to innovative and progressive filmmaking compliment my own experience and creative ambitions. I am excited to embark on this new chapter with impressive teams in both the US and UK. I am delighted that now Ventureland and Passion will continue to collaborate on a number of projects currently mid production as well as sharing the intention to co-produce other documentary projects as often as possible in the future.”

Said Emhoff, “John is one of the very few producers in the world that produce feature documentaries at a scale that rivals the best in all independent film. He has the best eye for both talent and stories in the business. We are thrilled to partner with him and extend all of our reach and talent to create the next level of original entertainment.”

Commented Brown, “John represents one of the leading, very best minds in documentaries. We’re elated to have him as our partner in Ventureland.”

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