EuropaCorp Television’s U.S. arm is finishing out a busy year with the sale of an action-drama, “Bulletproof,” to Amazon Studios.
“Bulletproof,” in the early development stage, revolves around a female Marine sniper-turned-assassin who is hired to kill a cop. Corey Miller (CBS’ “Reckless”) is set to write the pilot and serve as showrunner. The series was co-created by Miller and EuropaCorp TV Studios USA president Matthew Gross. EuropaCorp’s TV’s Edouard de Vesinne and Thomas Anargyros will exec produce with Miller and Gross.
Gross was tapped to head EuropaCorp Television’s expansion into the U.S. in May 2014. In his first full development cycle, the company developed six projects, all of which have landed networks. Gross credits the success to the strength of the EuropaCorp brand of high-octane action and sci-fi thrillers established by the company’s founder, filmmaker Luc Besson.
Gross’ Beverly Hills-based team is focused on selling shows in the U.S. market, but projects are developed with one eye on the broader international market. At the same time, EuropaCorp is well positioned to tap into co-production opportunities and the rising demand for high-end series outside the U.S. Having a U.S. outpost only enhances its ability to develop and package compelling properties.
“It’s an exciting time to be producing television. There are so many different avenues to finding an audience,” Gross told Variety. “The buyers respect Luc Besson and what he’s built with the EuropaCorp brand.”
Gross is a veteran showrunner and producer who spent 11 years under producing deals at ABC Studios before joining EuropaCorp. He spearheaded the ABC drama “Body of Proof” for three seasons and the History miniseries “Sons of Liberty” before he was recruited by the EuropaCorp team. The offer to work with a company with significant resources but small enough to allow him to maintain a hands-on producing role was irresistible to Gross, who had long dreamed of running a studio. At present, Gross has a team of six staffers in Los Angeles.
“Luc was looking for a creative entrepreneur and a collaborator,” Gross said. “This was an opportunity to build something from the ground up.”
A number of Europe, U.K. and Canada-based production entities have planted flags in the U.S. by offering programs to networks at a reduced license fee. In that model, producers cobble together a string of foreign broadcast pacts that are enough to cover production costs, thus allowing them to shop the U.S. rights at an attractive discount.
EuropaCorp is taking the opposite tack, focusing on high-end deals in the U.S. first before shopping properties for top dollar to overseas buyers. “We’re here to create great content for the U.S. and to create more demand when we sell it abroad,” Gross said.
At the same time, Gross is realistic about the dynamics of doing business with major U.S. networks. The company will partner on the ownership and financing front with networks and affiliated studios on a show by show basis. “The first thing I told (Besson) is that you have to be prepared to give half your show away,” he said. “For our own longevity, you want to make sure that they have have some skin in the game.”
The company made a splash with a straight to series order from NBC for its first project, a prequel to the Besson-produced “Taken” franchise co-produced with Universal TV. Besson’s interest in controlling TV adaptations of his properties was a big part of his motivation for launching the EuropaCorp Television, Gross said, adding that there are more film titles in the library that are ripe for TV iterations.
Other projects set up at networks include Janus,” an ABC drama about a ruthless pharmaceutical giant; and “These Final Hours,” a redo of an Australian movie about the end of the world that is set up at Fox.
Looking ahead, Gross said EuropaCorp has just cut a deal with mystery writer David Baldacci to develop a project. Screenwriter Richard Wenk (“The Equalizer”) is also working on something for the studio.
Gross’ focus is on packaging projects with notable names and attachments to generate heat in the sales process. And he’s also committed to keeping a manageable slate. He was pleasantly surprised that the six projects EuropaCorp Television took to the market this past year all landed deals.
“I don’t see us doing more than six projects a year,” Gross said. “We need to put all of our resources and energy into getting them across the finish line. We need to get shows on the air and keep them on the air.”
(Pictured: Matthew Gross)