HOLLYWOOD — On June 23, seven U.K. indie producers made their U.S. debut at the Brit consul general’s Hancock Park home in Los Angeles. It was the culmination of 12 months of training for the producers through the aegis of TRC Media’s international program.
Program project manager Agnes Wilkie introduced the producers to the assembled bizzers, saying, ” ‘Networking opportunity’ sounds boring in the center of show business so I’m going to call it speed dating.”
Funded by the BBC, Channel 4 and other media companies, TRC Media offers industrywide training and development. The 4-year-old international program targets the U.S. as the largest buyer of series. Of the 30 or so producers who applied last year, seven were chosen; in years past the program has been able to help as many as nine.
The recession has cut the funding for the program, which this session received about $40,000 per participant.The money mainly pays for travel and lodging.
Wilkie says Brits are reticent to promote themselves so they have to be taught how to pitch their shows. Once a month they meet at TRC’s headquarters in Glasgow, where Yank professionals or Brits who’ve done business with Americans teach everything from how to pitch to how to put together publicity materials.
As part of their training, the producers visit Toronto and New York. Canada is great for the producers, Wilkie says, because it’s an English-speaking country, next door to the U.S., that offers attractive tax breaks.
“There are very important co-production opportunities,” she says. “It’s a good place for British companies to start.”
In New York the producers met reps of many of the cable networks, and they took a side trip to Maryland to meet Discovery webheads.
Hollywood-based media consultant Pat Quinn, who accompanies the producers in L.A., says they frequently come with certain ideas and, after a few meetings, have a more realistic grasp on what will sell.
In L.A. the producers had joint meetings with broadcasters ABC, NBC and CBS plus agency WME. Then, according to the shows they produce, they met in smaller groups with such webs as Lifetime, Bravo and Comedy Central.
Adrian Lynch of Dublin-based Animo Television says the American market has been very receptive. Among the shows his company has optioned is “Anonymous,” a hidden camera laffer that Tiger Aspect is producing for the U.K.’s ITV.
Phil Morrow, managing director of Dublin’s Wild Rover Prods., says the TRC program offers an “open door” to America, while John O’Callaghan, creative director with Angel Eye Media in Glasgow, appreciates the fact that the meetings are with principals and not assistants. Uzma Mir-Young, founder of Turmeric Media, is trying to find a co-producer for her drama “Curse of the Maharani.”
Being together for the year creates a bond, the participants say.
The experience helped program alum Angela Smith so much that her company has not only set up an office in New York but is establishing one in L.A.
Smith’s Manchester-based Turn on Television is adapting its shows for the U.S. market.
“It’s easier for buyers to see something that’s been a hit in the U.K.,” she says. Turn on Television has sold “Midwives” and “The Gym” to Discovery Health and is pitching “Tranny School,” “Passport to Passion” and “Unlikely Lovers.”
“I pitch to everyone who will listen,” Smith says.