Granada, Yanks Make Multi-picture Pacts

Down the lightly traveled U.S-European co-production highway, British broadcaster Granada Television is driving a vanload of telepics.

Eight projects are in development with various U.S. players including CBS (part of a three-year co-prod pact with Granada covering six titles), Fox Broadcasting and A&M Films. Budgets average $3.5 million, and it’s hoped the first batch will be ready to roll later this year.

Understanding the needs and culture of the American webs comes naturally to Granada’s American head of tv movies, Dighton Spooner. He was recruited by Granada last April from CBS-TV, where he was director of miniseries.

Spooner says he’s pitching each project to the U.S. broadcaster he feels will be “most sparked by the idea,” and he perceives a growing readiness to accept European elements, citing such alliances as the Granada-CBS pact, the NBC/Yorkshire Television co-venture Tango Prods., and a co-prod deal between ABC and Germany’s ZDF.

Unusually, Spooner is working initially with producers and writers, and says he’ll bring directors on board when he’s further down the road; only one telepic has a helmer attached thus far.

Among the projects slated is an Arthur Hopcraft adaptation of “Wuthering Heights,” to be done with CBS, and the “The Billy Tipton Story.” Latter, to be done as a co-venture with A&M Films of L.A., is the true story of a female jazz musician who lived as a man to further her career.

Spooner says the budget split on “Wuthering Heights” is not a straight 50-50 but reflects the relative size of the U.S. and British markets. Rights to the rest of the world will be handled alternately by CBS and Granada.

Two other telepics in development with CBS are “The President’s Child,” based on a Faye Weldon novel, and “Therese Raquin,” adapted from the Emile Zola novel.

A further three telepics are being nurtured by Granada in partnership with Hachette of France and Germany’s NDR, namely “Beyond Reason,” “Earth On Trial” and “Spring And Winter.”

Another telepic on the slate is “Stinger.”

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