Constantin-backed Upgrade Productions expands senior team with Bron & Studiocanal alums

L-R: Akshay Mehta & Vanessa Saal

US-based Upgrade Productions has appointed Akshay Mehta as EVP of content strategy and business development and Vanessa Saal as EVP of production and distribution.

Mehta will be responsible for Upgrade’s overall content strategy and seeking out new partnership opportunities. He is taking the lead on managing these relationships and structuring the financing for the slate and Upgrade said that he was “instrumental” in negotiating its recent equity investment from Constantin Film.

He will work closely with co-presidents Matt Brodlie and Jonathan Kier to lead company growth, and run the company’s day-to-day operations as a senior member of the leadership team alongside them.

Mehta recently served as the head of strategy and business development for Luma Pictures and was chief investment officer for Bron Ventures. Prior to that, he worked as an agent in CAA’s Media Finance Group, and as VP, international, at Good Universe and VP, international sales and distribution for Exclusive Media.

Meanwhile, London-based Saal will spearhead Upgrade’s global distribution strategy and build out its European operations and ventures. In her new role, she will also work with Brodlie and Kier to source material as well as identify strong co-development partners and secure producers and showrunners for projects in development.

Saal most recently served as MD, sales & distribution for Protagonist Pictures, the London-based international sales, finance and production company. She originally joined Protagonist as head of worldwide sales in 2014. Prior to that, she served as SVP, international sales at Studiocanal in Paris and was a founding executive at Paris-based Kinology.

Mehta and Saal’s appointments follow the appointment of Mediawan and Leonine Studios exec Caroline Kusser as EVP and head of series last month, with the company also recently unveiling three new projects being developed to go into production in 2023 – Indian comedy Sunny Side Up, Italian series Untitled 1982 World Cup (working title) and a Mexican remake of My Teacher, Mr. Kim, a family movie based on the 2003 South Korean film.

“Akshay brings a wealth of experience to the role that perfectly positions him to lead the charge on content and business development at Upgrade, particularly during this key time of development for the company. He will serve as a foundational player of the executive team, spearheading our focus on world class content and strategic partnerships,” said co-presidents Matt Brodlie and Jonathan Kier.

“We are thrilled that Vanessa is joining Upgrade during this incredibly exciting time of expansion for the company. With her deep business and creative relationships around the world, and her excellent taste, we’re happy that Vanessa will be driving our European presence.”

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