TOP (The Oligarchs Productions), the Paris-based outfit behind international hit TV series “The Bureau,” is looking to expand into the Spanish-language scene, according to its executive producer and co-founder Alex Berger.
As befitting the executive producer of an intelligence show, the media entrepreneur gave his online keynote at Spain’s Conecta Fiction event from a top-secret location.
Berger was more forthcoming, however, on the subject of expanding into Spanish-language TV and is currently looking for partners in Latin America and Spain to work on a new TOP scripted TV formats in development such as “Dick” – which focuses on FBI activities outside of the U.S.
He told fellow U.S.-born Europe-based TV executive Steven Bawol (co-creator of police drama “Section de Recherches”), who was moderating the keynote: “I’d like to find an interesting show – that could bring to Spain what we have brought to France. The best of both worlds European and Spanish concepts and creative talent paired by a great prices to deliver yearly seasons.”
He added: “We also want to make sure, as a French company which also works in the U.S., that we are able to bring something interesting to the table and add value.”
TOP, which Berger founded 12 years ago with French screenwriter-director Eric Rochant – used the title of their first development as their namesake.
It now has a number of other shows in development. These include “Furtifs” which focuses on the geopolitics of France through the eyes of the army’s special forces; “Hormones,” which looks at the creation of the birth control pill and its impact on women’s lives; and “Solo“ – a serialization of Laurent Guillaume’s African-based detective novel “Black Cocaine”.
The company is also working on one project in Asia, “Warladies”.
Meanwhile “The Bureau” is now in its fifth season and has been sold into over 100 markets. The TV series was the first in France to adopt the U.S.-style writer’s room, but dropping this process into other territories only works if it can adapt to local labor laws for production, authors’ rights and regulations, Berger warned.
“We had to optimize how we were shooting and everything was so tight. For the first season we timed how long it took to lift an element off the set – and then put that element back together again, as every second counted- it was like a Formula One tire change,” he said.
Berger added that the team was also required to reinvent the role of the writing co-ordinator, who had to keep track on who came up with what in “The Bureau’s” writer’s room– to comply with French authors’ rights rulings that say that writers can’t be disassociated from their work or ideas.
Berger is clearly embracing the digital world –TOP is currently developing fashion house saga“ La Maison” for a streamer – he thinks there have been missteps. “The platforms are now coming of age, but there have been errors.” Short form outfits like Quibi and the now defunct platform BlackPills have been positioned as a marketing offer rather than a pure content proposal. “You don’t care about the format, you care about the story.”
“So for TOP, it’s all about the story, the concept and, once produced, managing the brand. TOP is definitely a writer-driven shop.”