Atlantique Prods. Poaches Haut & Court TV Exec Jimmy Desmarais

PARIS– Jimmy Desmarais, the producer of high-profile French skeins such as “The Returned” and “Panthers,” has been tapped co-CEO of Atlantique Productions, a subsid of Lagardere Studios.

Desmarais, who joins Atlantique Productions from Haut et Court TV, will serve as co-CEO with Olivier Bibas. The arrival of Desmarais at Atlantique Prods. signals the company’s ambition to ramp up the production of international series to two shows per year and firm up its position as a leading player in European coproduction, explained Lagardere Studios’ president Takis Candillis. “(Desmarais) has an outstanding track record with director-driven series ‘The Returned’ and ‘Panthers’ that have a broad appeal, and he has developed a vast network in Europe and in the U.S. — together with (Bibas) they form a strong duo,” added Candillis. Patrick Nebout complete Altantique Prods.’s team.

During his 10-year tenure at Haut et Court, Desmarais helped create Haut et Court’s TV division and was leading force behind edgy shows like “Xanadu,” a dramedy set in the adult film world that was commissioned by Arte, and the critically-aclaimed supernatural thriller drama “The Returned” which broke grounds in France and traveled worldwide including in the U.S. to Sundance Channel and the U.K. to Channel 4. ‘The Returned” also won an international Emmy award in 2013. Desmarais also produced the anticipated first season of “Panthers” with Samantha Morton, John Hurt and Tahar Rahim.

Along with Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp TV, Atlantique Productions is one of France’s first companies which pioneered the production of upscale English-language series, kicking off with Tom Fontana’s period drama “Borgia” for Canal Plus. The company has now produced three seasons of “Borgia,” two seasons of “Transporter – the Series” as well as Rene-Balcer-penned procedural “Jo” with Jean Reno.

The company’s current slate includes “Midnight Sun,” a French-Nordic noir miniseries starring Leila Bekhti which marks the first co-production between Canal Plus and Sweden’s pubcaster SVT. Other Atlantique Prods. projects include “Métal Hurlant – Origins,” the adaptation of the cult graphic novels, “Django,” in coproduction with Cattleya and “Crater Lake” in coproduction with Keshet U.K..

Bibas said Atlantique Prods. was currently raising the financing for “Crater Lake” and “Metal Hurlant.” “Django” is now in development.

“The lesson we’ve learned with Scandinavian series like ‘Borgen’ and ‘Bron’ is that mid-budgeted European series can travel around the world if they have strong enough storylines and characters,” said Candillis, noting however that Atlantique was “not planning to stop producing English-language shows either, because today there is room for a variety of drama series.”

Desmarais concurred. “There is an increasingly broad range of financing resources available to series.” Bibas also said the company was having discussions with multi-territory streaming services about projects and was eager to work with a platform like Amazon on a series. “These global services are no longer only interested in English-language content for the U.S. and they’re looking to expand their European content; so that opens doors for us,’ said Bibas.

The pair, which is highly complementary, said they’re currently identifying European producers they want to collaborate with. “More than ever, we’re able to work hand-in-hand with overseas producers and develop projects creatively before attaching a network, which allows us to enjoy a greater independence and move more efficiently,” explained Desmarais.

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