×

LA-Based GIT Applies Indie Film Financing Formula to TV Series

Cable and streaming services’ ascendency has truly caused tectonic shifts in Hollywood. And as all good Los Angeles residents know, when the earth starts shaking, it’s time to rethink where you plant your feet. Still sloughing off decades of ingrained belief that the pilot-plus-22-episodes system is the only way to go has happened agonizingly slowly.

But not at the oldest movie studio in the world. A few years ago, Paris-based Gaumont felt those shifts and got a big idea: What if they opened up in L.A. and started making TV for the 21st century?

“Writers and directors and agents we were working with were saying, ‘We want to do TV, we want to do longer stories, creation is in TV now,’ ” says Christophe Riandee, the vice CEO of that new company, Gaumont Intl. TV (GIT), which launched in 2011 as an independent, boutique studio and in short order landed straight-to-series deals with NBC (“Hannibal”) and Netflix (“Hemlock Grove”).

“Our niche is to bring high-end talent to the fore, with ideas that have an essential brand inside the idea, and to hopefully excite the marketplace with those offerings,” says GIT CEO Katie O’Connell. “We handcraft our shows; we put together the auspices, the markets and look at the best partner on each of these projects.”

GIT has been built on the strength of an old company (Gaumont’s consolidated revenues still largely come from its film division, though GIT gave its parent a big boost in 2013), and takes Gaumont into new territory by adapting independent film financing models for TV shows. With GIT, money comes from a complex array of financiers that include Euro broadcasters and soft money from shooting locations around the world, Riandee says.

Meanwhile, GIT has leveraged its connections with those broadcasters, DVD and VOD companies and relationships with creatives including Bryan Fuller (“Hannibal”) and Eli Roth (“Hemlock Grove”) to lend the venture instant credibility. Internally, O’Connell’s prior executive experience at NBC was key in breaking the ice at the Peacock network when “Hannibal” showed up as a pre-packaged, paid-for deal.

“ ‘Hannibal’ was an attractive financial deal with limited risk,” says NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke. “It’s rare when you get material that also has a great creative person behind it, and companies are willing to work together creatively on the direction of the show.”

NBC reserved the right to contribute to the process of developing “premium elements” in the show, such as adding guest stars. The limited risk made it possible for the network to skip a pilot.

Riandee says working with Netflix was a goal all along. “It’s good for us as a company to work with the ones who are changing the market and making the market evolve,” he says.

GIT and Netflix shared a “philosophical meeting of the minds,” says Cindy Holland, Netflix’s VP of original content. “We have a shared vision with Gaumont in terms of how the business is evolving and the kind of programming that will proceed in the marketplace.”

Both sides agreed that “Hemlock Grove” was a natural binge-watching series, which made the match solid. Like NBC, Netflix wanted and got some collaboration abilities on various aspects of the series, but, Holland says, “We’re here as a support; the key is for us to never be where we’re not welcome.”

Both series have been renewed for a second season, arguably a higher retention rate than many other U.S.-based studios. But the 100% success rate for GIT, says O’Connell, won’t lead to “volume and churn” from the company.

For them, “longevity of series” is the priority, and both she and Riandee say GIT will top out at five series at a time. Other titles now in the works include “Narcos” (Netflix), “Barbarella” (Amazon Studios/Canal Plus) and a two-drama joint development deal with Fox Broadcasting.

“The TV market can be like a brand,” says Riandee. “We want to work with the best, with ideas that fit our research and provide quality. We are in a unique position. … We understand two-thirds of the world. Now we just need to explore the rest of the world. Everyone is trying to explore the next frontier.”

More TV

  • Luna Nera Netflix Italy

    Italy's Women Filmmakers Set to Make Waves

    The Berlinale in recent years has been a prime launching pad for Italian films directed by women, which though fewer in number to their male counterparts, make up a considerable portion of the country’s representation on the festival circuit — Alice Rohrwacher (“Happy as Lazzaro”) at Cannes, Susanna Nicchiarelli (“Nico”) at Venice, and Berlin regular [...]

  • Love Me Scandinavian Cinema

    Scandinavia Ups Its Game With So Many Markets for Its Fare

    When the Nordic entertainment group, one of Scandinavia’s largest media groups, announced last month during the Goteborg Film Festival that it was pulling out of non-scripted content to focus on scripted drama, and film production and distribution, it underscored two market trends in the Nordics: Subscription-based services, whether local or global, are driving the region’s [...]

  • Louis Hofmann in Prélude

    Berlin: Louis Hofmann Cast in Damian John Harper's 'Fresh' (EXCLUSIVE)

    German star Louis Hofmann is set to topline Damian John Harper’s upcoming drama “Fresh,” a German-language adaptation of Scottish writer Mark McNay’s novel of the same name. Hofmann plays a young man who must emancipate himself from his tyrannical older brother. Unlike the book, which is set in the outskirts of Glasgow, the film’s story [...]

  • Steve Stark

    Steve Stark Named President of Newly Formed MGM/UA Television

    The newly formed MGM/UA Television label has found a president in Steve Stark, who previously served as MGM’s president of scripted television production and development. MGM Worldwide Television Group chairman Mark Burnett made the announcement late Friday, adding that Stark has extended his contract with the studio as part of his new role. “We are [...]

  • Bad Education

    TV News Roundup: HBO Sets Premiere Date for Hugh Jackman's 'Bad Education' (Watch)

    In today’s TV News roundup, HBO Films set the premiere date for “Bad Education” starring Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney and “Volcano Live! with Nik Wallenda” tapes Chris Harrison and Sage Steele as hosts. CASTING “The Bachelor” host Chris Harrison will host “Volcano Live! with Nik Wallenda” alongside co-host Sage Steele of ESPN, ABC announced. [...]

  • Randall Park Ed Helms

    Randall Park, Ed Helms to Host Hybrid Alternative-Scripted Series 'True Story' for NBC

    Ed Helms and Randall Park are attached to co-host a hybrid scripted-alternative series titled “True Story” at NBC. The hour-long show has received a six-episode order. It is based on the Australian series “True Story with Hamish & Andy.” In the series, everyday Americans sit down with Helms and Park to share their most extraordinary [...]

  • Annie MurphyGlamour Women of the Year

    'Schitt’s Creek' Star Annie Murphy Cast as Lead in AMC's ‘Kevin Can F— Himself’

    “Schitt’s Creek” star Annie Murphy has been cast as the lead in AMC’s upcoming series “Kevin Can F— Himself.” The dark comedy centers around Murphy’s Allison, Kevin’s wife, who escapes her confines and discovers her rage. “Kevin Can F– Himself” probes the secret life of a type of woman we all grew up believing we [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content