Variety's Achievement in Int'l Film Award: Olivier Courson
While Tandem Communications may be the newest member of the Studiocanal family, the Munich-based company has long been one of Europe’s leading TV producers of English-language miniseries and event programming. The company is best known for lavish international co-productions such as Ken Follett’s “Pillars of the Earth” and upcoming sequel, “World Without End.” Studiocanal acquired a majority stake in January — a move that expands the Gallic giant’s operations into television and embraces growing big- to smallscreen synergies while providing a major boost for Tandem in getting future productions off the ground.
Diversification into TV was “a natural move,” says Studiocanal chairman-CEO Olivier Courson. “A real European studio stands on two pillars: film and television. There are increasing links and bridges between those two worlds, especially on the creative side.”
In many ways, Tandem provides the ideal entry into TV production. Launched in Munich in 1999 by Canadian Rola Bauer and American Tim Halkin, its high-profile event co-productions include the $40 million “Pillars” and the $46 million sequel, as well as “Pompeii,” a four-hour mini based on Robert Harris’ historical bestseller, currently in development.
Why Tandem? “Because they share our view,” says Courson. Having largely focused on primetime limited series, the company is eager to move into multi-season one-hour dramas.
“The idea is also to support Tandem, to help them reach the next level of their development, first of all to address the growing appetite for original content on pay TV and, secondly, to develop recurring TV series,” he says.
Tandem recently joined forces with “Criminal Minds” showrunner Ed Bernero to develop “Crossing Lines,” an English-language, one-hour primetime crime series about an elite European police task force.
For Tandem, Studiocanal’s backing means it can move more quickly into production, in conjunction with a small number of key co-production partners, says Tandem prexy Bauer. The company is adept at building international co-productions, which is still a painstaking and time-consuming process.
“I very much appreciate Studiocanal’s support and the broad shoulders they have,” Bauer adds. “It allows us to focus on what we do really well, which is sniffing out those projects, procuring them and attracting talent that might want to work with us, without getting bogged down.”
David Zucker, president of television at Scott Free, a regular partner that co-produced “Pillars,” “World Without End” and the upcoming “Labyrinth,” based on Kate Mosse’s bestseller, says Tandem offers “that incredibly rare and potent combination of being both keen creative partners and consummate sales professionals.”
Zucker describes the alliance with Studiocanal as “a powerhouse combination that should only further strengthen Tandem’s ability to do what they do best.”
While Scott Free and Tandem have so far focused exclusively on limited series, Zucker says they have a number of returning series in development, all of which already have U.S. broadcasters, and “the Studiocanal relationship will just further broaden the strategic options in how to proceed with new material in the future.”
“Working with Tandem, it feels as if anything can be achieved — no challenge is too steep — and they are as vigilant in protecting the quality and integrity of the project as in their determination to secure the premium broadcasters and funds essential to a successful production.”
Bernero echoes the sentiment. “Tandem dreams big. That doesn’t happen that often anymore with your producing partners; it’s generally, what can we do and how can we do it?”
Tandem, he adds, “just says, ‘Let’s do it, let’s go for it.’ They do huge shows. ‘Pillars of the Earth’ and ‘World Without End,’ those are shows you wouldn’t think they could have done with the money they had.”
For Bauer and fellow Tandem execs Halkin and Jonas Bauer (no relation), it comes down to having great respect for creative talent.
Says Rola Bauer: “It all starts with the narrative, it starts with a concept, it starts with a story. If you do not have that story that transcends boundaries, then it doesn’t make sense.”
(John Hopewell contributed to this report.)