Passion Pictures hires feature exec as head of animation development

Nicki Cortese

UK prodco Passion Pictures has hired feature film exec Nicki Cortese, who worked on franchises including Divergent and Paranormal Activity, as head of development for animated features and series.

Cortese will be focused on creating and developing IP alongside Passion’s in-house directors and creative team as well as acquiring outside IP before taking the projects to the wider market for distribution.

Her appointment comes as part of the company’s rapid expansion of its long form animation department, headed up by Pixar veteran and head of production David Park, and exec producer Debbie Crosscup.

The Andrew Ruhemann-led Passion has been pushing into long-form animation, producing episodes of Love, Death & Robots for Netfix, and also Headspace for the streamer, as well as 101 Dalmatian Street for Disney and Lego City Adventures for Nickelodeon.

Cortese joins the firm ahead of this week’s Annecy International Animation Film Festival, having led development for two of Passion’s project selected for MIFA Pitches in the TV series and specials category.

Prior to joining Passion, Cortese served as head of development for Elisabeth Murdoch’s Locksmith Animation, where she worked on Disney’s Ron’s Gone Wrong as well as the upcoming Netflix feature, That Christmas.

Previously, Cortese had a first-look deal with Brian Robbins’ studio, Awesomeness Films, she oversaw the Divergent franchise at Red Wagon and she started her career as VP of Akiva Goldsman’s Weed Road Pictures while their deal was at Warner Bros, leading projects such as Paranormal Activity and The Dark Tower.

Andrew Ruhemann, founder and creative director of Passion, praised Cortese as a “creative pioneer” who possesses “the perfect mix of an independent film making mind-set with vast experience of developing and producing major studio feature productions.”

He added: This exciting combination perfectly complements Passion’s intention to create original animated productions with a unique voice and clear vision that will appeal to the global market.”

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