U.S. sales a Vertikal leap

Gaul-based Ginsburg deals with ABC

A correction was made to this article on Jan. 13, 2004.

HOLLYWOOD — Paris-based producer Marla Ginsburg’s Vertikal Entertainment has sold seven one-hour series and one sitcom script to various U.S. networks for the upcoming season.

The number of script deals is impressive for a producer who is based abroad and doesn’t even have an agent. Ginsburg, an American, was responsible for developing “Highlander” and “La Femme Nikita” when she worked for French outfit Gaumont a decade ago.

Several of the current projects in development Stateside came out of Vertikal’s consulting agreement with Fremantle Intl. Distribution, a unit of FremantleMedia, which in turn is part of the Bertelsmann-owned RTL Group.

The most notable of the lot is a remake of “The Saint,” which Fremantle had previously optioned.

Moving to Touchstone TV

Five of Ginsburg’s current projects have been sold to ABC, and as a result the exec will segue to the Touchstone fold in June in a pod deal under her Vertikal banner.

She’ll report to the unit’s prexy, Steve McPherson, and his team; all her future projects in TV will be for that studio. Ginsburg will continue to commute regularly between L.A. and Paris.

Also in June, Ginsburg’s consulting agreement with Fremantle Intl. Distribution will end.

“Having focused on international co-production for years, I’m now turning my attention to primetime projects for U.S. networks as well as for cable,” Ginsburg told Daily Variety.

“I’m trying to use my international relationships and knowledge to bring in strong formats as well as to apply some smart economics to the biz,” she added.

While Fremantle hired Ginsburg 15 months ago to put the Eurocentric company more squarely into the U.S. biz, the fit was perhaps not a perfect one: “Ginsburg is a quick-study, energetic American who was probably impatient with complicated protocols and organigrams that companies like Fremantle labor under,” said one international TV vet.

Shared ownership

Fremantle will, however, share in the ownership of those projects put together by Ginsburg under its auspices. And Fremantle North America (a unit Ginsburg was only tangentially involved with) will continue to pitch its own drama projects to the U.S. nets and cablers.

Ginsburg’s projects for ABC include a detective show penned by Stacy Title and Jonathan Penner and an actioner, “Countdown,” based on an idea by Michael Harbert and to be written by “Boomtown” creator Graham Yost.

As for “The Saint,” scribe Stephen Nathan is penning the script for ABC. Longform TV vet Craig Anderson will exec produce alongside Ginsburg.

There’s also a yet-untitled one-hour drama from scribe Pat Cirillo.

In the half-hour genre is a comedy based on the British series “Hardware” from scribe Simon Nye that was produced for ITV in the U.K. The U.S. adaptation is to be written by “King of Queens” scribe David Litt, with Nye having ongoing creative input.

At FX, in partnership with British producer Kudos, is a one-hour series based on the British hit “Psychos” created by David Wolstencroft. Dan Therriault is writing the U.S. version of this drama, set in a psychiatric ward and told from the point of view of a psychiatrist who is himself on lithium.

Drama, docu projects

For NBC, Vertikal is developing two dramas: one from writers Steven Mitchell and Craig Van Sickle in association with NBC Prods., entitled “Pieces of Daniel”; and an offbeat mystery called “The Cleaner,” written by Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin and co-produced with Lions Gate. Stefani Deoul and Craig Cegielski will exec produce with Ginsburg.

In addition to her fiction projects, Ginsburg also packaged and sold “Wildlife Wars,” a two-hour back-door pilot for a factual series to run on cabler Animal Planet this month.

“The distance from Hollywood gives us a fresh perspective,” Ginsburg said of her Paris-based company’s efforts. “We are able to track trends globally and to access some of the very best European drama and sitcom formats on a regular basis.”

In the U.S., Ginsburg and her Vertikal shingle are represented by lawyer Leigh Brecheen and Richard Thompson. Mathieu Missoffe heads development for Vertikal in Europe.

Since October 2002, Vertikal has had a consulting agreement with Fremantle, which has backed the company’s development.

In addition, Vertikal has served as a consultant for French broadcasters Canal Plus and M6.

“We continue to seek opportunities working with key Euro broadcasters and producers to find new and profitable economic models outside of the traditional co-production model,” Ginsburg said.

Vertikal has developed directly with BBC Prods., for example.

“We’re seeking to develop U.S. series that pre-sell to selected territories in order to reduce production deficits.”

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