CANNES– Variety caught up with Caroline Torrance, who took the reins of Zodiak Media’s international scripted in October. Torrance joined Zodiak from BBC Worldwide where she headed scripted, content and production of such high profile shows as “Da Vinci’s Demons.” Owned by giant Italian conglom De Agostini, Zodiak Media ranks as one of Europe’s leading producer and distributor of drama series and formats, including “The Returned,” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,””The Inbetweeners,” “Totally Spies” and “Being Human.” It operates in 17 countries and owns Yellow Bird in Sweden, Marathon in France and Bwark in the U.K., among other shingles. Zodiak Media’s MipTV slate boasts French hit crimer “Braquo III,” Swedish comedy series “Solsidan” and entertainment format “Dropped.” Torrance discussed Zodiak Media’s plan to expand its geographical footprint in the U.S., Spain and Italy, as well as production trends for international drama series.
How do you envision the evolution of Zodiak’s strategy with regards to in-house and third-party productions?
We are looking to grow our in-house drama productions both in terms of domestic productions and also collaborations within the Zodiak group. We already have well established operations in the Scandinavia, France, Belgium and the UK and we are looking to expand in the US, Spain and Italy.
In terms of third party productions we encourage producers to come and talk to us with their ideas. We can help them in terms of raising co-production finance as well as being a successful distributor for the finished programme.
What are the emerging markets for interesting drama series? What countries are on your radar?
It is a great time for drama in the international market. Series are traveling everywhere. Channels are no longer so concerned about language. They are looking for exciting, well produced series from wherever they find them.
Our most recent sales deals epitomize this trend: pan-Asian platform Cinemaworld recently acquired a raft of European drama, while Russia’s first broadcaster (channel One) acquired both ready-made and format rights to the French prestige drama series “Braquo” and “The Returned.”
We are therefore more than ever looking to grow our catalogue with high quality drama, wherever it comes from.
What kind of series works best in today’s market?
Crime is always popular and shows no sign of decreasing. Major event pieces also and we have just announced 2 major productions. “Versailles” to be co-produced by Capa Drama and Marathon for Canal Plus and “Occupied” – a co-production between Yellow Bird, GTV, TV2 Norway and ARTE.
Genre series – like “The Returned” – are very popular right now. Are you looking to produce more of them?
Definitely. “The Returned” produced by Haut et Court TV was a fantastic success for us – sold in 75 territories to date. It broke through in markets that would not normally consider subtitled series. We have quite a few shows in development and would love to have more in our catalogue.
What’s your take on remakes? Are you looking to produce more remakes of your popular shows?
Again there is real interest in remakes and for channels to look at what we has been produced in other territories and adapt for their local market. At the moment we have a lot if interest in “Solsidan” – a Jarowskij production… This is a very popular comedy in Sweden and perfect to be re-made.
Are you aiming to produce more English-language shows?
Our company – Touchpaper – is a very successful producer in the UK. They produced “Being Human” which was sold into over 200 countries as well as being remade for Syfy in the US. They also produced the BAFTA award winning series “Murder” and are in production and development on a number of exciting series.
How hard is it to finance ambitious series today? What new sources of financing do you have access to? How important are international pre-sales in the financing of an upscale series?
The market is good at the moment. Of course it can be tough but there are lots of opportunities and a real will amongst producers to find areas of collaboration. Co-productions, pre-sales, location and tax incentives, distributor MGs are all important in making up the jigsaw puzzle of funding but no two shows are ever the same.
What do you hope to achieve at Zodiak?
Zodiak’s stated aim is to increase both its own drama production and it’s representation of third party producers over the next few years so I am actively working with Zodiak producers to develop ideas suitable for the international market as well as looking for producers to bring us great ideas.