MipTV was awash with producers, networks and broadcasters looking for international partners to co-finance high-end drama projects that appeal beyond national borders.
Keynotes from Starz chief executive Chris Albrecht, Playground boss Colin Callender, StudioCanal chief executive Olivier Courson and Tandem Communications president Rola Bauer set the tone, and a raft of high-profile drama collaborations were revealed during the market or just prior to it.
These included Sundance TV’s tie-ups with the BBC on Hugo Blick’s The Honourable Woman and Guy Hibbert’s One Child; Tandem Communication’s Spotless, in collaboration with Canal+ and Rosetta Media; Kudos’ Real Humans reboot, backed by Channel 4 and Xbox Entertainment Studios; and Gaumont International Television’s Pablo Escobar series Narcos for Netflix.
Other projects are being fuelled by big-name writers and directors. Sky Italia and Wildside’s Italian-US co-pro Young Pope will be directed by Oscar-winning film director Paolo Sorrentino, while Tandem has struck a first-look deal with Frank Spotnitz’s UK outfit Big Light Productions.
Beta Films managing director Jan Mojito said: “This is a new phenomenon. Producers now have to operate in two universes – the local and international – and follow what is happening abroad.”
Beta’s slate was one of many to reflect the increasing amount of international collaboration.
Among the company’s in-demand dramas at MipTV were Gomorrah, the Italian-language co-pro between Sky Cinema, Cattleya, Fandango and La 7, which was picked up by TWC for US distribution, and Spanish-language drama Velvet, a Bambú Producciones project for Atresmedia Televisión that Beta is co-financing and distributing.
While non-English-language European producers and financiers have been collaborating for years, UK and US partners are relatively new to the party. “There’s a very fluid global economy where partners are finding new ways to work together,” acknowledged Look Out Point chief executive Simon Vaughan, one of the 60 producers and brokers who attended the market’s third international drama co-production summit.
Prior to the market, he helped Victorian crime drama Ripper Street secure a third series thanks to a deal between Amazon and the BBC.
“I think those big, non-traditional platforms coproducing with the broadcasters will create the next big wave of co-financed drama,” he said.
“We recently did an internal survey of our customer base. That used to be primarily the four UK broadcasters, but there are now more than 70 customers who could potentially pay more than £1m an hour as a catalyst for a big drama. A large number of those are in the US, but half are from outside.”
Screen spoke to companies from the US, UK, Australia, Israel, France, Italy, Germany and Scandinavia all looking to piece together high-end drama series with financiers from other countries.
Backers are hiring accordingly. C4 bolstered its co-pro ambitions with the appointment last week of Simon Maxwell as head of international drama, while Zodiak Rights recently hired Caroline Torrance as head of scripted to grow its drama slate.
The proliferation of international drama is also informing corporate acquisition strategies, as evidenced by StudioCanal’s continuing penchant for European production houses.
At MipTV, chief executive Courson announced that the company would look to back seven international TV series a year, through subsidiaries Tandem and the UK’s Red Production Company, as well as third parties.
He also hinted that a move into Swedish drama production could be on the cards.
English-language remains the standard. But while US audiences are still largely unmoved by foreign-language dramas, increased collaboration on high-end, quality foreign-language fare is beginning to resonate with UK viewers.
“I come from a generation that didn’t think the UK would ever open its doors to non-English language product,” said Mojito. “But for the first time there is space and curiosity from the UK about non-English-language product.”
Foreign-language drama is moving beyond BBC4 in the UK.
Gomorrah was picked up by Sky Atlantic, which found success with The Bridge remake The Tunnel, while BBC2 is eyeing a primetime slot for Beta’s German-language Cold War series Generation War.