Mark Urman negotiated the deal with producers Sea Studios Foundation. The film is set to receive its first public screening at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on Thursday (2).

Paladin plans a spring theatrical release for the fact and fiction hybrid about a rescued one-week-old otter who was put in a pioneering surrogate programme where she was cared for by humans before being placed in the charge of a sea otter and ultimately released back into the wild.

“501 is one of the more adorable creatures we will see on screen this year,” Urman said.

“We are thrilled to be working with Sea Studios Foundation on this wonderful project, and their extensive relationships within the marine wildlife, conservation, and aquarium communities will allow us to build upon many of the innovative grass-roots marketing techniques we employed so successfully last year with Tom Shadyac’s I Am, and the highly acclaimed – and similarly themed – documentary, The Whale.”

Mark Shelley, executive director of the Foundation, conceived the story for Otter 501 and served as executive producer and director of photography.