BERLIN — Germany’s Tandem Communications continues to build bridges over the Atlantic as it ratchets up its production and distribution activities on both sides of the pond.
Launched by Canadian Rola Bauer and American Tim Halkin in 1999, Munich-based Tandem produces and distributes internationally bankable action, suspense, sci-fi and fantasy fare for TV.
While its focus has remained on English-language projects, Tandem has long cultivated strong relationships with all Germany’s broadcasters.
The company has just inked a deal with Peter Guber’s Mandalay Television and Stephanie Germain Prods. to handle international distribution on a series of TV movies based on the novels of best-selling author Nora Roberts.
The movie series has already pre-sold to pubcaster ARD in Germany and France’s TF1. The brisk business in Europe’s major markets is testament to Roberts’ huge popularity around the globe, says Bauer.
Roberts has written 161 novels in 25 years, including 127 New York Times bestsellers, and sold more than 280 million copies.
Mandalay and Germain are developing six projects, including “Blue Smoke,” “Carolina Moon,” “Montana Sky,” “The Villa” and “Virtue” and one other. They will choose the best four for 90-minute TV movies for Lifetime Television with an option to produce the other two if the first four are hits.
Bauer previously partnered with Germain and Mandalay in 2002 on ABC’s “Superfire” and CBS’ “The Pilot’s Wife.”
Bauer says it was the experience of working as a seller at Alliance Atlantis in Canada and as a buyer for ProSieben that gave her the insight to produce internationally attractive fare for primetime aimed at the 14-to-49 demo.
“We know the people; we know what they are looking for. Broadcasters aren’t buying big packages anymore. Today they are looking for event programming,” she says.
Because the company focuses on international fare, usually with U.S. partners, it has little direct competition from other German companies.
“We’re a specialized boutique in Germany,” Bauer says. “There aren’t many other companies here trying to produce for the entire world. We produce programming that is as viable in the U.S. as it is in Germany and Japan.”
Tandem has beefed up its own international distribution arm after a brief dalliance with ProSiebenSat 1’s SevenOne Intl. division, which last year agreed to distribute most of Tandem’s major TV productions.
While ProSieben and Sat 1 remain key broadcasting partners in Germany, Bauer and Halkin decided to keep distribution as a core business.
“We realized that distribution is a vital part of our overall strategy,” says Bauer. “It keeps us in touch with buyers and helps us make sure that what we develop meets their programming needs.”
Tandem recently named Pierre Weisbein of L.A.-based Green Room Pictures and former sales exec at Senator Intl. (now Mandate Pictures) to head the company’s international distribution.
It’s currently handling worldwide sales for CBS’ mini “The Hades Factor,” an adaptation of the first book in Robert Ludlum’s “Covert One” series, which is set to air on the network in May.
Exec produced by Larry Sanitsky and Paul Sandberg (“The Bourne Supremacy”) and starring Stephen Dorff, Mira Sorvino and Anjelica Huston, pic has sold to terrestrial broadcasters RTL Television in Germany, TF1 in France, Cuatro in Spain and satcaster BSkyB in the U.K.
“Working with such a seasoned and successful producer as Larry Sanitsky on a Robert Ludlum property was clearly a combination that we had to go after,” says Bauer.
Tandem follows a winning fantasy/sci-fi formula for its TV projects: hit fantasy two-parter “Ring of the Nibelungs” — which has its U.S. premiere on the Sci Fi Channel March 27-28 under the title “Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King” — and sci-fi actioner “P.I.: Post Impact” both tapped local and international talent.
“P.I.: Post Impact” starred Dean Cain and German thesp Bettina Zimmermann, while Alicia Witt, Kristanna Loken and Teutonic star Benno Fuermann toplined “Nibelungs.” The casting helped ensure plenty of exposure in Germany and made the pics an easy sell abroad.
Tandem will use the same strategy on sci-fi actioner “Lost City Raiders,” which it’s producing for the Sci Fi Channel as an original production.
Pic, about adventurers in a submarine who explore sunken cities after global warming has melted the polar caps and inundated the planet, has pre-sold to Germany’s ProSieben, Canal Plus and M6 in France and Cuatro in Spain; it’s set to start shooting this summer.