Producers ink deal with Imagenation

Parkes/MacDonald secure $10 mil in funding

With studios tightening their budgets, production banner Parkes/MacDonald has found a new source of funding -- Abu Dhabi's Imagenation.

As part of a new venture, the Middle East funder will pipe $10 million into Parkes/MacDonald development projects in a revolving fund, with the money replenished as it is used. Imagenation also will be given the opportunity to co-finance productions if the projects are greenlighted.

Parkes/MacDonald has a first-look deal with DreamWorks, so all projects from the Imagenation venture would go first to the Steven Spielberg-Stacey Snider studio. But any projects that DreamWorks passes on could be shopped to other studios, or produced directly with Imagenation. The venture, principals saud, is for future projects only; it will not be applied to anything Parkes/MacDonald now has in development.

While the deal is being made specifically with Parkes/MacDonald, it creates associations that go beyond the banner. The venture indirectly extends the global relationships of DreamWorks, which is financed by India's Reliance Entertainment, to the Middle East. And it creates a link between Imagenation and Disney, which will distribute DreamWorks films domestically.

Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald are the producers behind high-profile pics such as "The Kite Runner," "Sweeney Todd" and "The Terminal" and have a number of pics moving forward at DreamWorks, including ensemble comedy "Dinner for Schmucks" and Len Wiseman thriller "Motorcade."

For the producers, the venture offers a chance to access funds that studios are increasingly reluctant to provide, moving scripts along faster and making peddled projects more appealing to studios -- since those projects would require less development investment on their end.

"In these tumultuous times when every aspect of every model is being questioned, we felt it was important to try to protect the process that is at the foundation of it all - the development of screenplays," Parkes said.

The fund also puts Imagenation on the ground in Hollywood in a way it hasn't been previously.

Parent firm Abu Dhabi Media Company has an umbrella deal with Warner Bros. that was inked several years ago but has yet to bear much fruit, and has pacts with indie shingles Participant and Hyde Park (among the movies it is developing is the Doug Liman thriller "Fair Game" with Participant) but has not pacted with studio producers before. Imagenation chairman Mohamed Khalaf Al Mazrouei noted that the venture will "complement and enhance our existing partnerships" and "create new relationships with other major Hollywood studios."

The two entities will work together but with a clear division of responsibilities, principals said. "It's our intention to involve Imagenation, but we aim to provide the creative guidance as they are providing the financial backing," Parkes said.

Formed about a year ago as a financing arm for features, Imagenation moved quickly to cement its Hollywood bona fides, hiring Edward Borgerding, former executive vp of Walt Disney International TV, as CEO.

Parkes came to be involved in Middle Eastern affairs after "Kite Runner" caught on globally and he participated in symposiums and other events in the region.