‘Dreamin’ Wild’ Producer Zurich Avenue to Adapt Celia Laskey’s ‘So Happy for You,’ German ‘Hansen’ Saga (EXCLUSIVE)

After 15 years running the Zurich Film Festival, directors Viviana Vezzani and Karl Spoerri stepped down in late 2019 to take their expertise to the next level and launch a film financing outfit. And then the pandemic struck.

The Los Angeles- and Zurich-based SPG3 Entertainment was formed in 2020 by Spoerri and Urs Wietlisbach and Alfred Gantner, the founders of international private equity outfit Partners Group, with Vezzani as COO. But gaining momentum amid the COVID crisis had its share of challenges, not to mention the creative detachment of being financiers as opposed to hands-on producers on a project.

Last year, the duo launched production banner Zurich Avenue in a bid to become more active creatively on feature films, and leverage their strong talent relationships borne out of running the festival.

The company’s slate includes Venice 2022 title “Dreamin’ Wild” from Bill Pohlad, which stars Casey Affleck and Zooey Deschanel, and Take That musical “Greatest Days,” starring Aisling Bea. Projects in post-production include the action-comedy feature “Thelma,” starring June Squibb, Fred Hechinger and Parker Posey; and “Nyad,” based on the marathon swimmer Diana Nyad, and directed by Oscar winners Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, and starring Annette Bening and Jodie Foster.

“We started with the financing angle, and then we realized that there were some projects where we were more like investors on projects that we really wanted to develop or play a more active role in,” says Spoerri. “We thought it would be good to have a separate entity that’s more focused on that part.”

Adds Vezzani: “There’s also the possibility of developing something from scratch and then having somebody else finance it. We want to have that flexibility as well, so that we don’t need to do both on all of our projects.”

Zurich Avenue’s next titles include a feature film adaptation of the 2022 bestseller “So Happy for You,” about a wedding weekend gone wrong and the complexities of female friendships. Author Celia Laskey is adapting her book for screen.

Also on the slate is “Hansen,” a new series based on the German book series by Ellin Carsta that currently consists of eight volumes. Almost 2 million copies of the books have been sold in Germany. “A Thin Line” writer Nicki Bloom will pen the script, and production will be set in Hamburg, Vienna and Cameroon.

As the WGA strike wares on and the spectre of a tri-guild strike looms large over Hollywood, European independents will begin to look increasing attractive to U.S. players, putting financier-production companies like Zurich in a strong position. Around 50% of the writers and talent the outfit is currently working with is European, with many German-speaking.

The company’s development slate includes “Bad Company,” a feature based on the tell-all exposé charting the collapse of German firm Wirecard and the ensuing scandal. The film is directed by Robert Schwentke.

Also in the works is the psychological thriller “A Perfect Marriage,” directed by Israeli “Losing Alice” writer Sigal Avin, and written by Academy Award-nominated William Broyles. The project is produced by Picture Perfect Federation’s Patrick Wachsberger and Ashley Stern.

“Some people love to develop 100 projects at the same time, but our philosophy is to focus on a few developments that we really believe in so they grow naturally,” says Vezzani. “We like to take our time.”

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