Harlan Coben
Courtesy of Studiocanal

U.S.-based production company developing drama ‘Six Years’

LONDON — Bestselling author Harlan Coben is launching his own independent production company, Final Twist Productions, in partnership with one of the U.K.’s most successful producers, Red Production Company, best known for Sally Wainwright’s BAFTA award-winning series “Last Tango in Halifax” and “Happy Valley.”

Coben will be joint CEO alongside Red founder Nicola Shindler, with Studiocanal handling international distribution of the original content. Final Twist, which will be based in the U.S., will develop contemporary thrillers for U.S. broadcast networks.

Final Twist is already in development on a major returning drama series, “Six Years,” adapted from Coben’s bestselling novel of the same name. The series tells the story of Jake, a college professor who six years earlier watched the love of his life, Natalie, marry another man. But, when Natalie’s husband is murdered and Jake goes to find her, he discovers that the grieving widow is not Natalie at all, but a woman he’s never seen before. As Jake seeks to uncover the truth and find his lost love, his search takes him on a dark and unforeseeable journey that puts his life at risk.

Coben recently worked with Shindler for U.K. pay TV platform Sky on 10-part series “The Five,” which was his first original screenplay. The series premieres in the U.K. on April 15, and will be introduced to international buyers at content tradeshow MipTV in early April, where Coben will be one of the keynote speakers.

“The Five,” which Coben wrote with Danny Brocklehurst, tells the story of four friends who are haunted by the disappearance of one of their younger siblings years earlier. When the boy’s DNA turns up at a murder scene, they are forced to revisit the past and ask: Is he really alive?

Coben told Variety that his experience on “The Five” was “really gratifying” and led him to want to continue the working relationship with Shindler and Red, and with the revival in high-end television drama, he was determined to play an active role in the development of his own TV series.

“It’s a golden age of television — there’s so much great stuff, so much novel-like storytelling, that I really wanted to give it a try,” he told Variety. He said that the way they worked on “The Five” was “exactly how I wanted to do it — that quality, that independence.”

Asked what makes his stories work in both books and series, Coben told Variety: “It’s a combination of things, but mostly it’s about a story that is compelling. It is something that grips you and hooks you right away.”

Coben added: “And what I’m hoping is these shows have a real humanity to them. You really care about these people; you want to find out what happens — not just in the sense of, in the case of ‘The Five,’ where is this kid who’s been missing, but how is it going to impact these people’s lives, how did his disappearance impact them. My favorite moments are the small moments between the moments of excitement.”

Shindler told Variety that when Red was looking for an author to team up with, Coben was at the top of their list. “What became apparent working with him was he has a natural mind for television; he just has a natural mind for stories. So it wasn’t like working with someone who works in a different form of storytelling at all. He understood television without ever having done it before. He understood visual storytelling straight away. He understood episode endings, and part breaks. So straightaway, he was storylining with television in mind, not with a book in mind.”

She added: “So it was really great, and then once we had done ‘The Five’ I realized that I wanted to keep doing those kinds of stories — they are so good for television; Harlan has so much to say about the world, and his characters are so warm, he has humor. It is everything that I really enjoy in drama, and he was very keen to work in the American market as well, which is something we looked to do. So this just felt like the natural next step.”

Studiocanal will work with Final Twist on securing international co-production partners and will hold the distribution rights to the company’s finished programming.

Coben’s last eight consecutive novels all debuted at No.1 on the New York Times bestseller list. His books, which have sold more than 60 million books worldwide, are published in 43 languages in more than 100 countries. His 2001 thriller “Tell No One” was adapted into the critically acclaimed French-language movie by Guillaume Canet, and, more recently, French channel TF1 adapted his bestselling novel “No Second Chance” into a six-part series that became the highest-rated French TV series in a decade.

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