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Frank Giustra

Michael Falco/The Globe and Mail

From Vancouver, the Lionsgate Bridge will get you onto the Sea to Sky Highway – a route entertainment/mining mogul Frank Giustra, as a resident of West Vancouver who spends a lot of time in Whistler, knows well.

On Tuesday, Giustra's latest venture – Sea to Sky Entertainment – was unveiled. It's a joint partnership between Lions Gate Entertainment Corporation, the company Giustra founded (and on whose board he now sits), and Vancouver-based Thunderbird Films, which Giustra recently joined as a major shareholder.

The 50-50 venture, which has been in the works for about nine months, will focus on developing television projects for U.S. and Canadian broadcast and cable networks, with a strong emphasis on co-productions.

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"We're planning to fully utilize the fact that we're Canadian-based, and if the opportunities arise we will direct productions to Canada, not always necessarily British Columbia but certainly we have some ideas that we're currently thinking about that would be very well suited for Canada," said Giustra, who is also a well-known philanthropist (among other projects, he launched the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative with former U.S. President Bill Clinton in 2007).

Sea to Sky already has several projects in the pipeline, including deals with documentary/reality TV producer R.J. Cutler ( The War Room), who is transitioning into scripted programming; and author Dennis Lehane ( Gone Baby Gone).

It has also optioned the rights for the upcoming book An Uncommon Youth, a first-person account of the events surrounding the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III in Italy in the 1970s. Anne Thomopoulos ( Rome) will produce the project as a limited series for international co-production.

"We're in a business where track record and credibility is really important," said Thunderbird co-founder Tim Gamble. "So the partnership with Lions Gate really adds so much credibility to things that we envision in the future."

The Lions Gate name was something Giustra went back to in trying to come up with a name for the new company.

"We wanted something that had a Vancouver/British Columbia attachment and something that was symbolic of Vancouver," said Giustra, who does a lot of thinking on those drives up to Whistler. "Sea to Sky … really represented what we're trying to create. And it's a well-known landmark in Vancouver, given that it's the highway that connects Vancouver to Whistler. And it sounded great."

Added Gamble: "And they didn't like my idea, which was Pissing Rain."

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