Fremantle acquires stake in AWA, ‘Devil’s Highway’ adaptation in works

Devil’s Highway

Fremantle has acquired a minority stake in US comic book publisher and production company Artists, Writers & Artisans (AWA) and announced a new thriller based on one of its properties.

AWA Studios, AWA’s film and TV arm, will “benefit from Fremantle’s strategic input and investment” and the two companies have announced that the first project on the joint development slate will be Devil’s Highway. The thriller is based on the comic series by Benjamin Percy and Brent Schoonover in which a young woman seeks to unravel a sinister mystery hidden in the dark underbelly of the long-haul trucking industry.

Andrea Scrosati, Fremantle’s Group COO and CEO Continental Europe, and Matthew Anderson, co-chair and president of AWA, spearheaded the deal, building upon the development pact the two companies struck last year. Financial details were not disclosed.

The European production giant, along with New York-based investment firm Lupa Systems, co-led the investment round, which also included long-term backers of AWA and other strategic investors with expertise in production, finance, sports, human rights and technology.

Matthew Anderson & Andrea Scrosati

“We admire how Fremantle has built on its long-standing strengths to become an international force in scripted drama and film. AWA’s success is built on collaborating with our creators to publish their stories in their purest form and then steering them to their fullest potential in film and TV.

“Andrea and the Fremantle team share this ethos and we are delighted for the unique opportunities this partnership will provide to our creators,” said Anderson.

AWA is backed by Lupa Systems, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Sister. Marvel alum Axel Alonso serves as co-founder & chief creative officer, overseeing editorial output. In 2021, the company established AWA Studios, its film and TV division, helmed by Hollywood veteran Zach Studin as president. Anderson, co-chair and president, and Jon Miller, co-founder and co-chair, lead AWA’s executive team.

AWA Studios is working on feature film adaptations of Chariot by Bryan Edward Hill and Priscilla Petraites; Marjorie Finnegan: Temporal Criminal by Garth Ennis and Goran Sudzuka, which Ruben Fleischer will direct; and Hotell by John Lees and Dalibor Talajic, to be directed by Elle Callahan.

Scrosati said that the collaboration is “a perfect strategic fit, giving AWA access to our global footprint, distribution infrastructure and production expertise and putting Fremantle at the very forefront of graphic fiction innovation.”

The AWA deal is the latest in Fremantle’s widespread investment activity, which in the past year or so has seen the company take stakes in Normal People producer Element Pictures, UK indie Dancing Ledge (The Responder), scripted Italian production company Lux Vide (Devils, Leonardo), international development and production company Fabel (Bosch), Australian-American television production company Eureka Productions (Parental GuidanceFinding Magic Mike), UK unscripted production company Label1 (Hospital, Five Guys a Week, Soldier), This England producer Passenger, America The Beautiful producer Wildstar Films, Israel’s Silvio Productions and 72 Films, (The Elon Musk Show), as well as 12 production labels in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark from Nordic Entertainment Group.

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