Shaftesbury signs first-look deal with ABC

Canuck shingle to work with Alphabet and both import, export product

Canadian shingle Shaftesbury Films has inked a first-look deal with ABC, offering the Alphabet a flexible, cost-effective approach to development and production.

Tom Mazza, who co-heads the shingle’s Stateside arm with Maggie Murphy, told Variety there is often a perception that in Stateside output deals with Canuck companies, content is heading on a one-way highway from north to south. In reality, programming could be imported from the U.S. to Canada, or developed simultaneously in both countries, a favored strategy for Shaftesbury.

“We have had a great amount of fun finding the northern-based talent in L.A., and the southern talent that’s passionate about a story that hasn’t been able to get out yet,” Mazza said. (Shingle had recently set sci-fi drama “Weird Desk” at ABC for summer, but the net shelved the series for the time being, placing Canuck crime drama “Motive” on the summer lineup instead.)

When it comes to tone, the co-heads mentioned that while dramas are fairly easy to import to American auds, laffers can prove challenging, since comedic sensibilities differ in the two countries.

Nevertheless, Shaftesbury has plans to bring Canadian comedies Stateside. Shingle just wrapped production on a half-hour presentation for Bravo Canada that features Fred Willard. Pair anticipates bringing the project to the American market next.

Both Mazza and Murphy joined Shaftesbury from Cookie Jar Entertainment. Before that, Mazza logged over a decade at Paramount TV and Murphy worked at Eastside Entertainment, a part of 20th Century Fox TV.

“We understand the U.S. objectives, sensibilities and issues,” Mazza said. “We do that while also offering the ability to take advantage of having a Canadian production partner.”

Duo noted their ability to pair, say, an American writer with a Canadian director, or easily lens a Stateside project in the wallet-friendly Great White North.

“We see it as an opportunity to put more money on the screen,” Mazza stated. “We want to do shows for less money, but not less quality.”