British director Gurinder Chadha, best known for movies like “Bend It Like Beckham” and “Viceroy’s House,” is accelerating her drive into television production with the backing of global production giant FremantleMedia.
FremantleMedia, which has been expanding its scripted slate under drama chief Sarah Doole, will take a 25% stake in Chadha’s television production company Bend It TV, which is focusing on upscale scripted content.
FremantleMedia CEO Cecile Frot-Coutaz said: “Gurinder is a phenomenal storyteller and a real auteur; I’m thrilled to be working with her. When we set out to build our scripted business, at the top of my list was working with and supporting the best creative talent in the world, and this new partnership truly exemplifies that goal.”
Chadha, who was awarded an OBE for services to the British film industry in 2006, has directed films such as “Bend It Like Beckham” (2003), “Bride and Prejudice” (2004) and “Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging” (2008). Her latest feature film, “Viceroy’s House,” was released in March.
Chadha, who intends to tell “stories on a big scale for TV,” says her partnership with FremantleMedia is an opportunity to reach a global audience.
“The fact they have so many companies and partners around the world, benefits me because that’s how I see the world,” she tells Variety. “If I tell a story I want it to appeal to all the people who love my work [around the world]… I have reached those people’s hearts and minds with films like ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ and ‘Bride & Prejudice.’ I have an audience out there so for me working on this huge scale with this great partnership with Fremantle allows me to access that audience I have, plus a whole new audience through TV.”
Although she is best known for her work in the movie world, her career started in television. Her first job in the industry was on Channel 4’s “The Media Show,” and her first gig as a TV director was on the network’s arts and music show “Club X.”
Whether she is working in television or film, her objective remains the same. “For me the most important thing about why I do what I do is to tell stories about people you don’t often get to see on the screen and hear their perspective,” Chadha says.
“Twenty-five years ago I made my first feature, ‘Bhaji on the Beach,’ and I was the first Indian woman to direct a feature film in Britain, and now I’m still the only Asian woman directing feature films in the British film industry. That shows how hard it is to get out there,” she says.
“However, in my experience of late, television is much more open and responsive these days than the British film industry at getting those stories out there, getting them produced, made and on screens.”
In TV as in film, Chadha seeks to create “great content that is effortlessly diverse,” she said. The shows “will always be in the zeitgeist,” and would represent “the world as I see it.”
“My brand has always had a global reach and represents British storytelling, but from a diverse perspective.”
A diverse approach to storytelling can also be profitable. “I make commercial films,” she says. “I’m one of the few British filmmakers who consistently makes money for the British film industry.”
Chadha is energized by the altered landscape of television where the audience is increasingly in control of what they watch rather than network schedulers, thanks to the growth of streaming and downloading platforms.
“The audience now picks and chooses because of the platforms,” she says. “For someone like me who has always been trying to tell different kinds of stories, finally an audience can have access to them. That is the most exciting thing for a filmmaker like me, someone who wants to tell stories about people on the margins, or hidden histories and voices, and bringing them to the fore. It’s still commercial storytelling, very much about trying to appeal to as many people as possible, but I’m in charge of the stories.”
She is pleased that Fremantle has so many women, like Doole and Frot-Coutaz, in senior leadership roles. “I am working with bright, intelligent women at the top of their game, and we have a shorthand. When I pitch a story or idea they get it, so it allows me to be more productive,” she says.
Bend It TV will also develop entertainment formats and other non-scripted fare. “While my focus is on drama, I am excited to explore my entertainment side with Fremantle, and the formats I come up with are all about storytelling for an audience,” she says. “I’m using drama skills in non-scripted.”