“As global TV grows, my job is to be looking at the world market and not just the Hollywood market,” says Carrie Stein, EVP Global Production, eOne, speaking at the EDTVFest panel and networking event at BT Tower last week.
“Our budgets are getting bigger and bigger – that’s probably the reason that global production is getting so much attention,” she adds.
The fact that British indies are having greater success in winning commissions directly from US channels – and crucially, they are also getting the right deals – is one reason we were keen to host this event with BT TV, with A&E Networks chief marketing officer Amanda Hill chairing a panel of three leading US buyers spanning the reality, factual and drama genres.
With a new London hub and a partnership with Creative England, eOne is keen to work with UK indies through head of drama Polly Williams. Offering funding deals, Williams aims to build her slate and work with Stein to find funding for drama projects for both the UK and North America. Having a creative impact in a crowded genre with lower licence fees means people are increasingly receptive to new partnerships, explains Carrie.
“The most interesting thing about this partnership with CE is that we’re not just looking at talent in London but also regional talent, including writers and directors, and that’s been great,” says Stein.
Recent eOne projects include Foreign Bodies, about young travellers on a Gap Year from UK indie, Eleven Film which was in development with Channel 4 for several years.
“It wasn’t an obvious show to sell in the US but it’s about timing. TNT was rebranding and wanted something more entertaining on the air as they’d bought a lot of darker drama. TNT and C4 are two kind of unlikely partners but we’ve had some really great success this year taking shows that were developed in other markets and bringing them into the US market.”
Meanwhile Ransom –eOne’s drama based on a real-life negotiator in Paris – has four broadcast partners with TF1, Corus, CBS and RTL. With Frank Spotnitz as showrunner and a writers’ room in London, Stein says that working with multiple partners can be challenging but they have succeeded in producing a story with local and universal appeal
Laura Crowson, director of development at Discovery US, is actively seeking formats created by British indies who, she believes, excel at producing this kind of male-skewing content spanning adventure, expedition, history and crime. And with 500 hours per year to fill, with budgets ranging from $350-600 per hour, it can be a lucrative deal, compensating for the fact that 95% of the time, Discovery is a work for hire model retaining all the rights.
With Andrew O’Connell appointed three months ago as the UK contact for indies wanting to work directly with Discovery US, Crowson believes the volume of UK commissions is set to rise.
Crowson is particularly seeking what she dubs the ‘immersive test’ such as Renegade-produced Naked and Afraid and spinoff Naked and Afraid XL. “It’s a man or woman Vs themselves rather than a social experiment which reflects more broadly on society as a whole. There’s so much potential to move out of the pure physical survival space and find challenges that we can put on air.”
Crowson – who says 75% of the shows Discovery US commissions come from paid development – is also seeking character-driven history series such as the upcoming Coopers Treasure, which follows the friend of astronaut Gordon Cooper as he searches for billions of dollars-worth of treasure using the treasure map Cooper created from space.
Meanwhile, Toby Faulkner, VP programing and development of A&E’s entertainment lifestyle brand FYI, regularly commissions UK indies, including Blast Films and Brighton-based Lambent Productions, to produce content in the relationship space, home and food. Budgets range from $5k for a pre-sale to $300k per hour and with a range of different business models on offer. Recent hits include My Floating Home a 4-way co-pro including C4 from Windfall Films, Find My First Love, produced by UK indie NERD and Married at First Sight which Faulkner says go back to “real reality”.
He adds: “There was a glut on US telly of over-produced, constructed reality. With these shows you are watching real relatable people going through real issues and you put yourself in those people’s shoes. With Find My First Love, everyone has a first crush and it’s taking people on emotional journeys to reconnect – and why they want to.”
Even though Faulkner is in London twice a year before the markets in Cannes, and says the door is “very much open” all year round to British producers – who need only send emails with loglines to spark his interest – he stresses the importance of retaining a US voice within the production process.
“Find My First Love was produced by Brits in the UK – but with a US showrunner. My learing at FYI over the last 3 years has definitely been its important to have an American voice on your production team – some shows that haven’t worked is when it’s all UK voices. So whether that’s the producer, editor, showrunner or director, it’s so much easier once you get to the edit if you have that voice from the start.”
Faulkner also stresses that he can be “very flexible” when it comes to the business model – with My Floating Home it involved giving a chunk of money at the end for example.
“We don’t have international rights but it has opened up a conversation which is why I’m here in the UK at the moment. My Floating Home is a cut down version of the C4 show with an American voiceover and it does really well any time of day, any time of the week.
“What’s interesting about this model is that we could replicate it – it’s a very clean, simple format that everyone has agreed in advance and we follow the construction – which rates well in the US as opposed to just show and tell – and everyone’s happy.
We are more open than we ever have been to doing different co-pros because we can only get US rights to some of the projects.”
Finally, Amanda Hill summed up the event: “There is something about British production now – it’s on a real high- if there’s one thing that everyone takes out of this room is that it’s very real – there’s something bubbling up that means everyone should be excited and enthused.”