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Portfolio to fill kids show financing holes

Flush with capital from a recent string of lucrative TV movie sales to Canadian broadcaster CTV, Portfolio Entertainment has set up a new fund to top up financing for a variety of projects, including kids animation, live-action dramas and educational series.
April 1, 2002

Flush with capital from a recent string of lucrative TV movie sales to Canadian broadcaster CTV, Portfolio Entertainment has set up a new fund to top up financing for a variety of projects, including kids animation, live-action dramas and educational series.

The Toronto, Canada-based company’s co-founders Lisa Olfman and Joy Rosen are looking to meet with producers armed with solid track records and well-developed concepts that have already piqued the interest of broadcasters. Projects should have most of their financing already in place because ‘we’re just looking to fill some holes’ in exchange for distribution rights, explains Olfman.

A prime example of the fund at work can be found in Portfolio’s most recent acquisition Heads Up, an edutainment series about astronomy being developed by ex-BBC producer Nick Orchard (Eastenders) out of Vancouver, Canada’s Soapbox Entertainment. With a Canadian TV sale to public broadcaster TVOntario in place, Portfolio picked up the remaining financial obligation in exchange for worldwide distribution rights. The 13 x half-hour series is budgeted between US$250,000 and US$300,000 per ep and will air in Canada next January. Hosted by two 20-something presenters, Heads Up explores the practical contexts of astronomy through visits with a slew of North American experts in the field. Segments include ‘Eye Spy,’ which assesses the latest in telescopic hardware; and ‘Virtual Space,’ in which the hosts log on to the Internet and visit a different child-created space science site each week.

Portfolio is also plugging more money into its own productions. The company has earmarked US$10 million for this year–US$7 million to US$7.5 million for kids animation, and US$2.5 million to US$3 million for drama (targeting kids and older audiences)–with a goal to generate enough return on the initial investment to double that figure for 2003.

Two animated projects that will benefit from the extra dough are Jerry’s Insane Fish (which Portfolio will co-develop with Ottawa, Canada-based concept creator Funbag Animation and distribute worldwide) and Carl2 (an in-house original). Both 26 x half-hour tween series are in early development, with budgets running in the range of US$300,000 to US$350,000 per episode.

Jerry’s Insane Fish features Earl and Johnny, two clinically insane fish whose crazy antics have gotten them tossed out of every pet store in North America (and three in Europe). Jerry is an introverted guy with no friends–in other words, a perfect target for Earl and Johnny. They commandeer Jerry’s house and turn his life into a watery circus adventure, actually duct-taping him naked to the aquarium so they can raid the sofa for loose change in one episode.

Playing on humanity’s current obsession with cloning, Carl2 stars a 16-year-old slacker who is always trying to find a way to shirk his responsibilities. One day, he sneaks down to his dad’s basement lab to clone himself, but falls asleep and knocks a can of soda into the cloning chamber. Perpetually strung out on the soda’s sugar and caffeine, the resulting clone is the keenest–and most annoying–person on Earth.

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