The Indian conglom that has seeded a lot of high-profile investments in the film biz during the past few years has turned its attention to the smallscreen.
Reliance Entertainment is behind the launch of Georgeville Television, the shingle headed by film and TV vet Marc Rosen that made a splashy entrance in May when NBC announced a straight-to-series order for its 18th century pirate drama “Crossbones,” from “Luther” creator Neil Cross and producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald.
The “Crossbones” deal grabbed the biz’s attention in part because Georgeville is bankrolling the entire production. Nothing thrills the creative community these days quite like a new source of deficit financing.
Reliance’s foray into TV is being routed through London via film finance whiz Leon Clarance, who launched investment vehicle Motion Picture Capital with Reliance’s backing in June 2011. With CAA playing matchmaker, Clarance hooked up with Rosen last September, and Georgeville formally opened its doors in L.A. with backing from Motion Picture Capital in March.
Rosen and Clarance clicked because they shared the same vision for approaching the tricky business of fielding series programming to major networks and international markets. Instead of enduring the traditional uphill climb — pouring millions into a pilot that may never see the light of day — Georgeville’s approach is to bring together a compelling package of properties with a built-in brand and notable creative auspices to secure a straight-to-series episodic order.
“We were both seeking out the same kind of opportunities,” Rosen said. “We want to fill the gap in helping U.S. networks and studios finance and produce high-end, costly projects more effectively. We’re bringing the independent film-financing model to TV.”
Georgeville has a few competitors in the space. Entertainment One’s busy TV division has mounted a number of straight-to-series projects, as has the newly minted U.S. arm of Gallic production giant Gaumont.
Georgeville’s selling point is its deep pockets: It’s not dependent on international co-production pacts or tax incentive financing, which usually come with local-content strings attached. Clarance wouldn’t get specific but emphasized that Reliance is committed to the TV biz in a big way — with the ultimate goal of enabling Reliance to control worldwide distribution of properties and exploitation in ancillary markets.
Clarance is also in the process of assembling a film fund to help Reliance identify promising projects to board or acquire. This effort comes on top of Reliance’s existing investments with DreamWorks and the slew of starry pacts inked in 2008 with George Clooney’s Smokehouse Prods., Brad Pitt’s Plan B and Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman’s Playtone, among others.
“This is a significant undertaking for Reliance,” Clarance said of Georgeville and MPC. “They have a big appetite to be in this sector. They’ve been incredibly encouraging and enthusiastic about what we’re trying to do.”
In the case of “Crossbones,” NBC and Universal TV had been developing the project with Parkes/MacDonald Prods.’ newly formed TV division, headed by Ted Gold. When Rosen and Clarance started to make the rounds of network buyers to explain their business model, Peacock execs saw “Crossbones” as a perfect fit for them.
“NBC’s faith in bringing us ‘Crossbones,’ for which we are so grateful, speaks to what we can do with financing and production,” Rosen said. “They know that our goal is to help them make the best possible NBC show that we can.”
Georgeville is in the midst of scaling up its staff, with the plan to hire about eight to 10 execs over the next eight weeks. It’s closing a number of deals for development projects, including redo rights to the cult-fave British sci-fi property “Blake’s 7.”
The Georgeville moniker stems from the tiny town in Quebec where Rosen met his wife while he was a student at Princeton U. Three years ago, Rosen and his family retreated to his in-laws’ bucolic Georgeville farm. He wanted a break from the showbiz grind after wrapping up a multiyear production pact at CBS in partnership with producer Lynda Obst.
Lending the Georgeville name to the company was a natural given the crucial role the farm played in allowing Rosen to “get perspective on the business and figure out how to go about producing shows in a new way.”