Paris-based pan-European producer-distributor-sales agent Wild Bunch, which won its fifth Palme d’Or this year with Jacques Audiard’s “Dheepan,” is heeding the siren song of television.
Wild Bunch is the latest French studio to step into TV, following Gaumont, EuropaCorp and Studiocanal.
The shingle — best-known for its relationships with top European auteurs — kicks off its TV adventure with two high-profile international projects: “Medici: Masters of Florence” with Dustin Hoffman and Richard Madden, and “Four Seasons in Havana,” co-written by Leonardo Padura.
Unlike Gaumont and EuropaCorp, however, Wild Bunch will not handle production, focusing instead on financing and international distribution, adapting its film division business model — which consists of partnering with ambitious producers worldwide and keeping its overhead to the minimum.
Although the European TV drama landscape seems crowded, Vincent Grimond, co-founder of Wild Bunch, emphasizes the growing demand for high-quality premium drama and the increased diversity of outlets, from cable channels to digital networks, multi-territory streaming services and OTT platforms.
“A few years ago there were just about six buyers for TV drama in the U.S., today there are about 50, and meanwhile, in France, series have become a key component of (pay TV giant) Canal Plus’ programming,” says Grimond. He notes that the boundaries between film and TV have never been more porous, while financing avenues are increasingly opening up to television drama.
He says Wild Bunch TV is aiming to sell four or five shows per year with an estimated €50 million ($56 million) of investment per year. It expects to generate, in the long run, about $111 million in annual revenue from the new division. Eventually, Grimond projects, the television sector will rep about one-fourth of all of Wild Bunch’s business.
Wild Bunch TV will be spearheaded by Carole Baraton, who has been with the company since its 2002 launch and heads up international sales. Wild Bunch has a solid track record in bringing in significant financing to projects via international sales. The TV team is completed by Diana Bartha, head of development and international sales; Thomas Triboit, who will handle acquisitions; and Aurelia Porret, who will oversee marketing.
TV producer Georges Campana (Erick Zonca’s “Soldat Blanc,” Giacomo Battiato’s “L’Infiltre”) helped set up Wild Bunch TV and will be adviser to the board for content selection and executive production.
Wild Bunch’s biggest asset remains its powerful brand, which for talent, buyers and festival programmers is synonymous with bold films and high quality. As Grimond points out, Wild Bunch’s advantage is that it’s tightly connected to some of the world’s most critically acclaimed auteurs — Audiard, Ken Loach, Gaspard Noe, Arnaud Desplechin and Nicolas Winding Refn, to name a few — via its core movie business, and it’s connected to broadcasters through its direct distribution operations in key European markets: France, Germany, Spain, Austria and Italy; Grimond also confirmed Wild Bunch is looking at ventures in the U.K., Italy and Australia.
As underscored by “Medici: Masters of Florence” and “Four Seasons,” “Wild Bunch TV will go after original stories whatever their language,” says Baraton.
“We’re already seeing with movies that local is the new global — there is tremendous appetite for content that has a strong local flavor and is culturally-specific,” Baraton says. “In today’s TV world, there are absolutely no reasons for shying away from foreign languages and talent as long as we remain budget-conscious.”
Grimond concurs. “We’re not going to try to replicate what American producers are doing and pull our inspiration from blockbusters.”
Indeed, “Four Seasons” is a Spanish-language thriller based on writer Padura’s anthology, which follows detective Mario Conde in Havana against the backdrop of the downfall of communism in the 1990s.
“Medici: Masters of Florence,” an English-language series created by Frank Spotnitz and Nicholas Meyer will bend the period genre, mixing political thriller and murder mystery.
Broadcasters around the world are likely to give Wild Bunch TV a warm welcome: Baraton says “Medici: Masters of Florence,” which WME reps in the U.S., is already set as one of the rare international co-productions from Italy’s RaiFiction targeting global audiences.