It’s a tough time to be a journalist.
Digital upstarts are faltering and newspapers are running on fumes. The freelance market for glossy magazines has dried up along with their ad sales. That’s left many top reporters looking for a way to support their work.
Enter the Vespucci Group. Founded by producers Daniel Turcan and Johnny Galvin, the three-year-old production company and incubator is helping to fill that gap by getting in on buzzy stories and penetrating investigative reports from their inception. In return for supporting journalists’ projects, the company gets the rights to develop their finished work as podcasts, television shows, streaming series or feature films.
“It’s a harmonious relationship,” says Galvin. “It’s no secret that journalism is under threat and reporters are underfunded. The core of our company is the relationships we have established with about 150 working journalists around the world.”
Since it was founded in 2017, Vespucci Group has developed roughly 60 projects, working with such companies as Zachary Quinto’s Before The Door Pictures, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s Ill Kippers, Frank Spotnitz’s Big Light Productions and Steph Curry and Erick Peyton’s Unanimous Media. The company’s partners also include Topic Studios, Audible and Blumhouse.
These reporting projects that have blossomed into works of entertainment include “One Click,” a podcast series based on an article they commissioned from Jessica Wapner about the deadly diet drug, DNP, as well as “Daphne,” a TV series with Topic Studios and Italy’s Indiana Production Company, exploring the 2017 assassination of Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. The latter stems from a book Vespucci Group incubated, “Murder on the Malta Express” by John Sweeney, Carlo Bonini and Manuel Delia. The company is also working on a documentary by Ramin Bahrani (“Chop Shop”) about the man who invented the bulletproof vest. Endeavor Content will produce the film, which is Bahrani’s first non-fiction feature.
“We’re not just randomly optioning stories that speak to our interest,” says Turcan. “We have established companies coming to us looking for certain types of stories and asking us to find projects that are based on real-life events that they can build films or shows or podcasts around.”
The company signed a deal in 2019 with Dorfman Media Holdings that allowed it to expand its funding capabilities and further develop its content studio to fully produce fact-based stories.
Turcan began his career as an editor, transitioning to producing with “Marjorie Prime,” a 2016 drama with Jon Hamm and Tim Robbins. Galvin worked in development for producer Brad Fischer and screenwriter Jamie Vanderbilt on films such as “White House Down,” as well as on Showtime’s “American Dream/American Knightmare” and Marc Forester’s TV series “Hand of God.” Still, they were relative newcomers to the world of content creation when they set out to dorm a company three years ago. What they did have was ambition, vision and willingness to hustle to get compelling projects.
After reading “Confessioni di un trafficante di uomini,” the work of journalists Giampaolo Musumeci and Andrea Di Nicola, Turcan and Galvin flew to Italy to convince them to allow them to option the rights.
“We realized we didn’t have a lot of credits to our names, so what we did was show up on their doorstep in Milan,” says Turcan. “Six hours and a couple of bottles of wine later they gave us the rights to their book.”
Vespucci went on to attach a writer, Noe Debre (“Deephan”), to handle script duties, and a director, Claudio Cupellini (“Gomorrah”), to oversee the adaptation. That project is still in development, but their company had earned a greenlight.