EXCLUSIVE: Starlings Entertainment has taken a financial stake in Lord Michael Grade-backed British drama producer StoryFirst as part of a wide-ranging deal that will see the two companies team up on scripted series.
The two companies have formed a joint development fund as part of the agreement and have set their first two projects to include the 1970s-set Eric Clapton-influenced music business drama The Manager.
The development fund will cover premium drama and family entertainment and also includes Sherlock’s Daughter, a murder mystery created and written by Cold Courage’s Brendan Foley and exec produced by The Closer creator James Duff that the producer of The CW’s Pandora and Peacock’s Departure has been developing.
The deal gives Starlings Entertainment a stake in StoryFirst, whose founders, including former BBC Chairman, Channel 4 CEO and ITV Executive Chairman Grade, Peter Gerwe and Ivan Dunleavy, former CEO of Pinewood Studios Group, acquired Pinewood Television in 2017.
Starlings Entertainment CEO and Executive Producer Karine Martin and StoryFirst’s Gerwe will oversee the decision-making process for the venture. They will work with Starlings’ EVP Patricia Brown and TV President Chris Philip with Brown and Premila Hoon, representing StoryFirst, serving as the companies’ development fund liaisons.
In terms of projects, The Manager is a semi-fictional account of life in the 1970s and ’80s music business, inspired by the lives – and featuring the music – of Eric Clapton and other artists. Sherlock’s Daughter tracks the daughter of the world’s greatest detective in her search for her father and what she discovers along the way.
“This will allow us to tap into an additional pipeline of great projects on top of the tremendous success we have had to date with Starlings Television, further grow our ability to finance development and expand our respective networks,” Martin said. “StoryFirst is well established in the UK and Europe, which provides us with access to Peter, Michael and Ivan’s market insights, experience and extraordinary talent, partner and financing relationships.”
Gerwe added, “Our joint venture allows StoryFirst to expand our global reach with Starlings, which is very well positioned in the U.S. and Canada. Karine and Chris bring us a depth of experience and contacts, and it has been a pleasure to work with them and their entire team on several projects. We believe this partnership will greatly benefit each company’s development potential and resources, and see it as a great fit.”