The increasing demand for original film and TV content has resulted in players targeting earlier stages of the production process. Now talent agencies, in both the U.K. and the U.S., are arriving earlier to the dance.
The latest agency to dive into content creation is The Artists Partnership (TAP), which is launching The Development Partnership (TDP) with a slate that includes a new take on Cyrano de Bergerac from Joseph Fiennes, a drama series with Anna Friel and a film project about a real-life con man, with James Norton.
TAP, which is part of the Marcus Evans group, aims to focus on nascent development; its new sister operation, TDP, is working with clients from the main agency and its book-to-film department, then going out to find production partners. The TDP team is aware that there are some sticky questions over agents getting into production – the effect it has on agents’ relationships with actors and with producers, for instance – but says it wants to go about things in a way that addresses such concerns.
“We want to have a development infrastructure but not be a fully fledged production entity,” says Robert Taylor, who is heading TDP. “On a case-by-case basis, we want to find the right production company to partner with, and to partner the talent with.”
TAP’s roster of stars includes Emily Blunt, Idris Elba and Fiennes, among other big names. Taylor says the agency’s new initiative will provide actors with a fresh outlet.
“We hope TDP will be able to take a high-profile actor who has not thought of themselves as being more actively involved in the development process, [and get them into] shaping and forming a piece of material,” Taylor explains. “People’s perception of them and us changes, and there’s something creative and entrepreneurial about working in that way.”
Taylor sees TDP’s mission as a response to market forces. “With this current age of television being financed in the way it is, and platforms having the desire for a huge amount of content, the client should be empowered, because they are an integral part of the industry being in the boom that it is currently in,” he says.
Other agencies in Britain have also waded into production. The BBC-backed parent group of U.K. heavyweight agency Curtis Brown just partnered with Tavistock Wood to launch a drama shingle, Open Book. Anonymous Content, Casarotto Ramsay and United Agents have set up Chapter One, a London-based drama production company with former Channel 4 scripted exec Sophie Gardiner at the helm.
TDP notes that its model will work for only some projects and will be applied only when it’s a value add for all concerned. On such projects, the company says it will provide a new way for producers to engage with talent. “It is important for us that there is a sense in the production community that this is a new and different way to collaborate,” Taylor says.
TDP has partnered with several established industry players for its first projects, which are being shopped to broadcasters, platforms and financiers. Fiennes is attached to executive produce and star in “Cyrano.” Also on board are DRG and its drama-commissioning entity Atrium TV, which counts the likes of BT, Orange and Televisa as members.
“McMafia” star Norton is attached to topline and exec produce “Chasing Agent Freegard.” The film is from “Captain Phillips” co-producer Michael Bronner and based on the true story of con man Robert Hendy-Freegard. Friel, star of Netflix and ITV drama “Marcella,” is attached to produce and star in “Borderlands,” which will be a TDP and Monumental co-production. It’s based on the memoirs of airport doctor Stephanie Green, and being set up as a six-part series.
TAP and TDP managing director Roger Charteris has previously balanced being in the production and representation business. He ran World Prods., which produces Jed Mercurio’s acclaimed British cop series “Line of Duty” and his current BBC hit “Bodyguard.” World Prods. was sold to ITV in 2017. “Being CEO of World was a brilliant learning curve and formed a good foundation for what we want to achieve now,” Charteris says. “That said, this is a very different proposition. For us, this model of putting a project together and taking it out to an independent producer to partner is the way to go.”
Other dramas on the TDP slate include “Amundsen and Scott,” which will be made with Red Arrow shingle Endor and Nordic producer Oslo Co. It will be written by Ed McCardie (“Spotless”) and directed by Per-Olav Sorensen (“Nobel”). Lee Tamahori (“Die Another Day”) is attached to direct “The Marriott Cell,” a drama based on Mohamed Fahmy’s memoir recounting his wrongful imprisonment in a maximum security prison in Cairo.
The TDP slate also encompasses film. Contemporary horror movie “Rose” will go into pre-production in November. It was written by first-time feature writer Matt Stokoe, and will be helmed by first-time director Jennifer Sheridan. It stars Stokoe (“Jamestown”) and Sophie Rundle (“Peaky Blinders”) and is being made in association with their production entity, Bone Garden, and Great Point Media.
“As a low-budget feature from a first-time feature writer, to be directed by a first-time director, it was always going to be a challenge to set up,” Taylor said. “I think it shows what we are hoping to be able to achieve.”