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Aussie kids drama kingpin aims to bring his countrymen to the world stage

Australia's Jonathan M. Shiff Productions isn't monkeying around with the launch of its new boutique distribution arm Banana J Media. Principal Jonathan Shiff sees the move as a natural evolution, and while he'll be involved with Banana J's day-to-day business, he's tapped executive producer Kay Ben-M'rad to be the new rights outfit's CEO. 'We're not looking to build a mammoth catalogue,' says Shiff, adding that Banana will work with a small number of producers to secure presales and financing, in addition to distributing their projects worldwide.
October 1, 2005

Australia’s Jonathan M. Shiff Productions isn’t monkeying around with the launch of its new boutique distribution arm Banana J Media. Principal Jonathan Shiff sees the move as a natural evolution, and while he’ll be involved with Banana J’s day-to-day business, he’s tapped executive producer Kay Ben-M’rad to be the new rights outfit’s CEO. ‘We’re not looking to build a mammoth catalogue,’ says Shiff, adding that Banana will work with a small number of producers to secure presales and financing, in addition to distributing their projects worldwide.

Banana will head to MIPCOM with financing in place for Pirate Islands – Lost in Fiji, a 13 x half-hour, US$8-million sequel to tween live-actioner Pirate Islands, which aired in Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. between 2003 and 2004. As for additions to the catalogue, Shiff is looking to acquire a select number of preschool shows and family films intended for broadcast or direct-to-video release. Banana J is open to looking at projects of any length or style, and will be zeroing in on children’s non-fiction as an underserved niche to pursue.

While its main goal is to bring the work of prodcos down under to the international marketplace, Banana will also try to pad its portfolio with non-Australian shows, and securing all content rights (including digital) on new pick-ups is vital. Even though the market for content on next-gen screens is still developing, Shiff says mobile delivery is coming on quickly, and he wants Banana to be active in that sector.

Merch rights are also in Banana J’s crosshairs. At press time, Shiff was working out a partnership with an established Australian licensing company to use its infrastructure, contacts and expertise in the international consumer products market and represent Banana acquisitions.

About The Author
Lana Castleman is the Editor & Content Director of Kidscreen and oversees all content for Kidscreen magazine, kidscreen.com and related kidscreen events. lcastleman@brunico.com

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