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P-H prepping TV pix, series

A year after getting into business with French pay channel/distributor Canal Plus, Papazian-Hirsch Entertainment continues to churn out longform projects, in part by allying itself with other independent producers.

Topping its development roster is a planned NBC miniseries, and a number of TV movies are in production. The company, whose principals are Robert Papazian and Jim Hirsch, is also back in the series business, partnering with filmmakers Robert Zemeckis and Frank Marshall on “Johnny Bago,” an eight-episode CBS midseason series.

The mini, “The Pretenders,” is an original romantic epic by soap writer Pam Long about a New Orleans family whose ancestors were pretenders to the Bourbon throne. The concept is designed as either a four- or six-hour miniseries–perhaps to be used in NBC’s female-oriented longform arsenal against the baseball playoffs–and could eventually lead to a spinoff series.

Two other NBC projects, previously announced, are being designed as potential continuing movie franchises: “Nothing Personal,” an action concept starring “L.A. Law’s” Amanda Donohoe and Bruce Dern; and the tentatively titled “The Shooter,” a co-production with Canal Plus’ Ellipse Programme arm starring Ally Sheedy as a photojournalist working in Europe.

Another TV movie, “Deep Trouble,” is being produced with Canal Plus for the USA network, starring Robert Wagner.

Both Canal Plus projects are, according to Papazian, true co-productions on all levels, including financing. “The Shooter,” for example, will feature a mixed cast and will lense versions in French and English.

The relationship with Canal Plus eliminates the coproduction “nightmare,” Papazian said, since the producers “don’t have to go shopping around” for partners and can let their French compatriots deal with local customs and officials.

In terms of domestic relationships, “Nothing Personal” and “The Shooter” represent projects brought to Papazian-Hirsch by other independent producers–Bruce J. Sallan and Allan B. Schwartz, respectively–as was “Johnny Bago,” through Creative Artists Agency, uniting the team with feature producer-directors Zemeckis and Marshall.

Hirsch noted that teaming with other indie producers is a significant part of the company’s strategy. “We offer a real alternative to giving your project away to a studio,” Hirsch said. “We pride ourselves in affording independent producers another place to go.”

Papazian added that deficits have compelled producers “to search out other ways of doing things,” such as the company’s non-exclusive ties to the French outlet. The partnership is designed to increase the value P-H can put into longform programming and provide Canal Plus with movies it can distribute worldwide.

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