Anna Marsh, the newly appointed CEO of leading European film and TV group Studiocanal, comes off as self-contained and mild-mannered, but her bullish track record at the company and relationships with big-name producers such as David Heyman (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”) and Andrew Rona (“Non-Stop”) suggests she has an iron fist in that velvet glove.
A 12-year Studiocanal veteran, Marsh — who replaced Didier Lupfer as chief executive — knows the company inside out. She started managing international sales in her early 30s, then became executive VP of distribution and, later, managing director of the banner’s U.K. subsidiary. At 40, the sophisticated New Zealand-born, France-educated Marsh now ranks as one of Europe’s most powerful executives in the industry, and one of the continent’s few women in a top leadership position in entertainment.
Marsh has succeeded in “striking distribution deals and built relationships with creative talent and with every platform and every studio,” notes Maxime Saada, managing director of the Canal Plus Group, Studiocanal’s parent company. “She has a different background than the usual executives running studios in France, but it’s more appropriate for the future — she has a 360-degree perspective on everything we do.”
Marsh allows that a key asset has been her understanding of languages and the subtleties among different cultures. “My Anglo-Saxon background helps me understand people — notably, different negotiation styles — while my knowledge of French
cinema and culture has been vital as well.”
Marsh takes the helm of Studiocanal at a pivotal time; her expertise in dealmaking will come in handy as the industry is faced with a tide of new streaming services, such as Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus, in addition to competing with established players Netflix and Amazon.
Marsh says Studiocanal will be working more closely with parent company Canal Plus Group, and will ramp up in-house production in key European territories, including the U.K. — where British TV veteran Nicola Shindler (TV series “Happy Valley”) is developing several projects — as well as Germany and France.
She says the company will continue development work with other subsidiaries of Canal Plus Group parent Vivendi, including Universal Music Group, with which it previously teamed on the Grammy-winning documentary “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week,” directed by Ron Howard; publishing house Editis, which Vivendi bought in 2018; and video game company Gameloft (the app “Paddington Run”).
Other projects in the pipeline: a reteaming with Heyman’s Heyday Films, a long-running partner, on a big-screen adaptation
of “Pippi Longstocking,” as well as the adventure epic “Shackleton,” which is being produced through Tom Hardy’s Hardy Son & Baker banner and is set to star Hardy as Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton. Heyday and Studiocanal are also developing a third “Paddington” movie and an as-yet-untitled psychological thriller.
Studiocanal’s next films with Rona and Alex Heineman’s The Picture Co., with which it has an overall deal, include “The Paris Trap,” a female-driven thriller directed by Harry Bradbeer (“Fleabag”); and “Gunpowder Milkshake,” which will lens this spring and star Karen Gillan.
Studiocanal is a massive ship to navigate. The banner boasts distribution operations in the U.K., France, Germany and Australia and New Zealand, as well as stakes in multiple production companies, such as Adam Ackland and Benedict Cumberbatch’s SunnyMarch out of the U.K. and Teresa Fernández-Valdés and Ramón Campos’ Bambu in Spain.
During her 12 years at the company Marsh has handled some high-stakes crises, but perhaps none as fraught as rescuing “Paddington 2” from The Weinstein Co. — finding a lifeline in Warner Bros. — after the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke. The movie grossed more than $40 million in the U.S. and $228 million worldwide in 2017-18.
Reminiscing about the tough negotiations with TWC, Marsh jokes that it had been a “trial by fire.” “I’m a different person than I was before [this crisis],” she says. Heyman, who saw her on the crusade to salvage the fate of “Paddington 2” in the U.S., was impressed by her determination and skills. “We’ve been in the trenches negotiating deals together, and she doesn’t take no for an answer. She will fight for what she believes in. She will always fight in your corner,” says the “Harry Potter” producer.
Marsh, who moved to France 20 years ago, attended the prestigious business school HEC. When she joined Studiocanal in 2008, she quickly formed a winning team with Ron Halpern, the head of international productions and acquisitions, with whom she has worked hand in hand, beginning with Tomas Alfredson’s Oscar-nominated “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” in 2011.
“Filmmakers like working with Marsh and Halpern,” says The Picture Co.’s Rona, “because they know they are filmmaker-friendly and Studiocanal is a label of quality.”