LILLE, France — Few industry figures are more qualified than Jan Mojto – CEO of Beta Film, one of Europe’s biggest independent film-TV companies, once deputy CEO of KirchMedia, and current producer of “Babylon Berlin” – to place the current international scripted drama boom in perspective.
Fielding questions on a broad range of subjects from Le Film Français’ editor-in-chief François-Pier Pelinard Lambert, Mojto’s on stage conversation at Series Mania saw the dapper, courteous, self-deprecating and hugely experienced Mojto take several large bulls by the horns regarding a still building but challenged international TV landscape. Five takes:
1.THE RUB: IP
The advent of digital platforms – Netflix, Amazon, Facebook Premium, now Apple – was “very good news” for producers and sales companies: Those are new clients, Mojto said: What’s “more complicated” is that, with the exception of France, platforms are paying 100% of the costs and taking 100% of the rights.” Those rules of the game mean producers “become a kind of employee.” “A show’s success is not reflected in producers’ economic affairs.” One big question is whether creativity of production sits well with platforms’ complete control of rights, Mojto said.
Could hiked competition in the OTT space make OTT players more flexible? “Anything I say today might not be true tomorrow,” said Mojto. “Also, it’s a power game: If you’re the most interesting of producers or distributor, or have the most interesting of properties, there may also be geographic priorities” for the platforms.
A book by Peter Bart, Variety’s former editor, suggested that only thing many big blockbusters have in common was that is miracle they ever get made at all. Most people thought they wouldn’t make a dime. Mojto buys into a slightly similar idea of “improbables.” “The more improbable, the more you can be sure we will join a project.” Deciding which project to board is more about “attitudes, feelings” than a story, he added, citing “Arde Madrid,” a Movistar + series set in 1962 Madrid, turning on Ava Gardner and her domestic retinue, and written in a great Spanish comic transition of bathetic farce. Local authenticity and international reach – glocalism – is a Mojto ideal.
3.CO-OPERATION, NOT CO-PRODUCTION
Is what Mojto favors. The business is about people, the heart of the creative process a showrunner in the U.S. but in Europe mainly the producer, Mojto argued. “Producers should not be taking decisions based on other needs other than the creative needs of a project.”
4.’ATLANTIC CROSSING,’ RIGHT UP MOJTO’S STREET
Mojto’s biggest – and sometimes greatest titles – have sometimes turned notably on huge figures who have shaped history (“The Downfall,” “Napoleon”) or individuals living in world shaped by huge ideological forces (“The Counterfeiters”). Selected for the MipDrama Buyers Summit, “Atlantic Crossing,” one of Beta’s current banner titles, takes in both, charting the true-facts-based relationship between Norway’s Crown Princess Märtha (Sofia Helin, “The Bridge”) and Franklin D. Roosevelt (Kyle Maclachan), which most certainly influenced Roosevelt’s favoring intervention in Europe. Another bold series from Norway’s NRK, “Atlantic Crossing” has an “amplitude of production values, “historic themes” and “a romantic love story” lending a human face to events. Very Jan Motjo.
5.A SQUEEZE ON INTERNATIONAL?
Mojto never suggested international drama series production threatens peak TV. But there could be, he suggested, a squeeze on international.
There are three markets: National, international and global, he said. The first have a deep demand for fiction series. However, “national series are now being produced anticipating future income from international markets. International markets cannot absorb everything being produced.” That’s partly because not everything made with one eye on international markets is really international, Mojto argued. Also, some national shows break out into international such as “Arde Madrid,” and “buyers now have a big choice of series,” he added.
This is not, however, a problem for Beta “because it always makes the perfect choices and has the right projects,” Mojto clarified, smiling broadly. In moves which look set to be announced shortly, Beta is also reenforcing core priorities to take full advantage of the new TV landscape.