High-profile miniseries centers on Balkan crime gang

PARIS — Gallic arthouse production company Haut et Court is teaming with French paybox Canal Plus to develop “Pink Panthers,” a high-profile TV drama miniseries centering on the infamous international Balkan crime gang.

The six one-hour episodes will depict a sprawling web of heists that emerged from war-ravaged former Yugoslavia 10 years ago, and eventually re-shaped organized crime worldwide. Still active today, the Pink Panthers, who include many former Serbian soldiers, have conducted an unprecedented number of hold-ups in luxury boutiques in Paris, Saint Tropez, Monaco, Tokyo, London and Dubai; and they have also been involved in weapons and drug trafficking in Europe, defying international police organizations and secret services.

Budgeted at approximately Euros 15 million ($21.2 million), the show will center on three characters — a Serbian member of the Pink Panthers, a U.K. loss adjuster embroiled in the jewelry trade and a high-ranked femme cop from the French gang repression unit.

The thriller skein will lense on location in France, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the U.K., and will be shot in multiple languages, said Haut et Court co-founder and producer Caroline Benjo.

“Pink Panthers” is based on research from Jerome Pierrat, an investigative journalist specialized in organized crime, and Jean-Alain Laban, an up-and-coming crime novelist.

Benjo and Jimmy Desmarais, who co-head the outfit’s TV drama development team, are looking for a director with an international profile and a U.K. screenwriter to join the French team.

“We are looking to partner with a U.K. co-producer and broadcaster early in the development process to collaborate from script stage, and we’re aiming at casting well-known French and foreign actors for the main roles,” said Benjo.

The company is in negotiations with three companies — French sales company StudioCanal, and two U.K. shingles, ITV Studios and Warp Films.

Show marks Haut et Court’s further commitment to produce ambitious TV dramas. The company, which gained international recognition in 2008 after winning Cannes’ Palme d’Or for Laurent Cantet’s “The Class,” recently produced “Xanadu,” a drama skein centering on a broken family that inherits a declining porn business empire. Helmed by Canadian helmer Danier Grou (aka Podz),”Xanadu” will bow on Franco-German Arte net on April 30.

Meanwhile, Haut et Court is set to launch the production of “They Came Back,” an eight-part suspenser drama, for Canal Plus beginning 2012 . Other projects on Haut et Court’s TV slate include “Silex & The City,” an animated comedy series turning on a family living in the stone age, based on French illustrator Jul’s comicbooks, and “Bloody Milk,” a contempo TV drama set in the agricultural world.

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