“We do what others don’t do,” says Henri Debeurme, producer at Empreinte Digitale, which has sparked major international sales for its sci-fi series “Missions,” wowing buyers with its authentic feel and surprising storyline that explores trans-humanism, artificial intelligence and environmental issues.
Produced on a €1.5 million ($1.76 million) budget, “Missions” garnered record ratings for Orange Cinema Series (OCS) and has been sold to AMC Networks/Shudder. The company acquired first window rights for the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Australia, U.K./Ireland and German-speaking Europe. AMC Networks will co-produce the second season, which is due to air in 2018.
The show has also been sold to BBC4, Denmark’s DR and Mediengruppe RTL. AB Intl. Distribution is closing a deal for Eastern Europe and has also strong interest in Italy, Spain, Asia and Latin America.
“Empreinte Digitale is bold, daring, audacious, authentic and super smart,” says Valerie Vleeschhouwer, AB Group’s VP for distribution and co-productions.
“It’s amazing what’s happening, no-one expected it. The BBC fell in love with ‘Missions’ and created a new 26-minute slot for the show.”
Empreinte Digitale is viewed as a trailblazer in Gaul’s new TV production culture, marked by new players such as Netflix and Amazon, major shake-ups at existing channels and rising demand for cost-effective genre-driven shows.
“Broadcasters really trust them, which allows them to bring authenticity and a special craziness to every project, producing real gems for the international market,” says Charles Touboul, AB Intl.’s VP for content.
Founded in 2003 by brothers Raphael and Benjamin Rocher, Empreinte Digitale cut its teeth on TV magazine shows and documentaries, such as 2007 docu “Suck My Geek.”
“We’re not geeks but we love how geeks are interested in everything — novels, comic books, cinema, TV,” says Debeurme, who joined the company in 2011. He previously worked for 4-16 Prod., which he founded with ‘Missions’ helmer Julien Lacombe, Pascal Sid, Canal Plus and Bonne Pioche.
With Debeurme, Empreinte Digitale has expanded into TV fiction, beginning with “Lazy Company” — an adventure comedy about a U.S. platoon during WWII, with three seasons produced to date for OCS.
“When they arrived with ‘Lazy Company’ they were a bit like UFOs in the French market,” says Vleeschhouwer. “They were the only ones in the market producing such original ideas in an innovative new style.”
Other major series include “Grown Ups,” “TANK” and Camille Delamarre’s “The Way” for Studio Plus.
The company has garnered multiple awards at such events as the La Rochelle TV Festival in 2016 and 2017.
For feature films, the company works with its sister company, Capture the Flag Films.
In 2009 Capture the Flag produced France’s first zombie film, Benjamin Rocher’s “The Horde,” which sold to more than 40 territories.
Other recent features include Jean Reno-starrer “The Squad,” which was a remake of 2012 pic “The Sweeney,” as well as Belgian crime caper “Above the Law,” which was co-produced with Versus and bowed at Venice.
Upcoming long-form titles include action thriller “15 Minutes of War” and comedy “Enchantées.”
TV series and documentaries are handled by AB Intl., while Playtime (formerly Films Distribution) has a first-look deal on some features and also holds a minority stake in the company.
In early 2017, Empreinte Digitale hired former Canal Plus exec Eric Laroche as development director. Laroche is now prepping new projects in a 52-minute format.
“One of the key differences between our 26-minute digital series, and bigger budget shows from Canal Plus or France Television is that we shoot much more quickly, shooting each episode in 2.5 days, half the typical shooting rate,” says Debeurme.
He’s also working on projects to pitch to Netflix and Amazon.
“Their original strategy isn’t so much to generate international sales. Their main concern is to make original shows,” concludes Vleeschhouwer. “But, thanks to our expertise, we can help them reach a worldwide audience.”