UPDATED– Netflix continued to make strides in its European expansion on Thursday, unveiling a swanky multi-floor Paris office and announcing 20 new French shows and movies in the pipeline.
Located in the heart of the city and staffed with 40 employees, Netflix’s office launch attracted French industry figures, including producers and filmmakers working with or looking to work with Netflix, as well as France’s culture minister Franck Riester, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo and Dominique Boutonnat, the president of the national film board CNC.
Among the key executives working out of the Paris headquarters are Damien Couvreur, the head of French series originals; Sara May, the director of licensing of films and series for France and Italy; Dominique Bazay, the director of original animation for international who, like May, will be sharing her time between Paris and Amsterdam.
Netflix also recently hired Gaelle Maresci to handle development of French original films. Maresci, who reports to David Kosse, VP of international film at Netflix, is a well-respected French exec who worked for over a decade in international sales at Kinology after a long tenure at EuropaCorp. Maresci will be working out of the Paris and London offices. Also based in Paris are Nathalie Laurent-Marke, manager for original stand-up Comedy and Lucy Leveugle, manager for unscripted and docu Series;
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who was on hand at the event, said the service will be stepping up its investment locally and will target high-profile talent in 2020.
New titles include the film “Big Bug,” directed by “Amelie” director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Penned by Jeunet and Guillaume Laurant, “Big Bug” is a comedy set in the future starring Elsa Zylberstein, Isabelle Nanty and Manu Payet.
Jeunet participated in the first roundtable organised for the event, along with the directors Julien Leclercq and Leïla Sy, as well as rapper-turned-actor Kery James, and Sara May, director of licensing and co-productions for France and Italy at Netflix. Jeunet said Netflix had rescued “Big Bug” after major film studios in France passed on it because they “believed a science fiction comedy with robots had too little commercial prospects.”
Jeunet said the collaboration with Netflix started several months ago when he was approached by Kosse who told him that the company was looking to make a collection of European films in local languages. Jeunet sent him the script of “Big Bug” and got a ‘yes’ from Kosse a day later.
“Such fast decision-making doesn’t ever happen anymore in France; we’re going through a difficult period where the only two kinds of films that get easily financed are smaller French films with social themes or comedies,” said Jeunet.
A rep for Netflix said “Big Bug” was being produced by Richard Grandpierre at Eskwad, in partnership with the streamer which will retain global rights. The executive said Netflix is not planning on pursuing the level of in-house production it has carried out in Spain, where the company launched a production hub earlier this year.
Netflix is also working with “Call My Agent!” creator Fanny Herrero on a six-part series following the lives of four young comedians trying to make it in the Paris stand-up scene.
Following the action-packed film “Of Earth and Blood,” the streaming service will also re-team with Julien Leclercq on another actioner, “Sentinelle,” which will star Olga Kurylenko. It has also signed up for a second season of Frederic Garcia’s science fiction series “Mortel.”
Other previously announced TV shows and movies coming up in 2020 include “Arsène Lupin,” starring Omar Sy, and created by George Kay in collaboration with François Uzan, with Louis Leterrier directing the first three episodes; “La Révolution,” a historical thriller series created by Aurélien Molas; “The Eddy,” Damien Chazelle’s highly-anticipated series created by Jack Thorne, and starring Leïla Bekhti and Tahar Rahim; as well as “Vampires,” starring Oulaya Amamra and Suzanne Clément, and created by Benjamin Dupas and Isaure Pisani-Ferry.
Two documentaries are also slated for 2020: one is about Nicolas Anelka, developed by Franck Nataf, and the other title, directed by Florent Bodin, will feature Maître Gims.
“It is a real honour to be in France, with its rich culture and history of storytelling. This office is a sign of our long-term commitment to the country, and will enable us to work even more closely with the French creative community on great shows and films that are made in France and watched all around the world”, said Reed Hastings, founding chairman and CEO of Netflix.
Hastings also said Netflix was proud to support the animated feature “I Lost My Body” at the Oscars. Jérémy Clapin’s feature debut, “I Lost My Body,” was acquired by Netflix at Cannes and recently earned an Oscar nomination.
Hastings said “I Lost My Body” was a “great exemple to Netflix’s flexible approach to partnership,” since the streamer picked up global rights outside of France where the film was released in theaters and will roll out on Netflix later on. “Like Canal Plus, we recognise that we have obligations, but conversations about this are for later,” added Hastings, who was certainly referring to ongoing discussions with the culture minister to have Netflix pay more taxes in France and ramp up its investment in local content, as well as split more rights with independent producers.
Since launching in France in 2014, Netflix has developed 24 French titles, including six films, nine series, five stand-up shows, three documentaries and one unscripted series. Some of the biggest French hits so far include horror series “Marianne,” the comedy “Family Business” and the critically-acclaimed documentary series “Gregory.”
Riester said in his speech that France isn’t like any other country because movie theaters are a big part of the local culture, but he later revealed that he was in favour of shortening the subscription-based window to services like Netflix to reflect their roles in co-financing local films.
“Netflix and France’s relationship wasn’t easy at first, it was tainted by “shyness, wariness… mistakes on both sides and even perhaps some misunderstandings… but we’ve realized that we can’t live without each other… So today it’s a new chapter and we think a ‘Plan Coeur’ is possible between us,” said Riester, alluding the Netflix’s Paris-based romantic comedy series.
Netflix also unveiled new partnerships with major French creative institutions to champion new voices and promote diversity.
The company will start collaborating with 1000 visages, an association founded in 2006 by Houda Benyamina, the filmmaker behind Cannes Golden Camera winner “Divines” and co-director of “The Eddy.”
The org is meant to help minorities and youth from underprivileged backgrounds break into the industry. Netflix will become the main partner in the program, which is dedicated to series’ screenwriting which is kicking off this month.
The streaming company will also continue working with film school La Femis to support an 11-month full-time training course. Netflix started working last year with the Gobelins animation school and will continue to do so by funding
four-year scholarships for five students.