Brad Pitt’s Plan B may have a new owner in Mediawan. But Pierre-Antoine Capton, the head of the conglomerate behind “Call My Agent!,” says he plans to take a hands-off approach to overseeing the Oscar-winning company he just bought.
“Plan B will continue to operate independently with the same leadership,” Capton told Variety shortly after the deal closed.
That doesn’t mean Capton isn’t looking to change some things. He says Plan B’s new chapter will include more TV and collaborations with Europe. Capton, a well-connected TV producer who launched Mediawan in 2015 with telco billionaire Xavier Niel and financier Matthieu Pigasse, began talks with Plan B a year ago and engineered the deal which is expected to formally close in January. Under the pact, Plan B was paid half in shares of Mediawan and half in cash. The deal values Plan B at about $300 million.
Mediawan had already set a foot in the U.S. earlier this year with the launch of Blue Morning Pictures along with Osar-winning director Florian Zeller and Frederica Sainte-Rose.
Plan B Entertainment, which is run Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Pitt, previously produced “The Departed,” “Moonlight” and “12 Years a Slave,” all of which won the Oscar for best picture. The company’s recent production credits include “She Said,” a look at the journalists and survivors behind breaking the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations, as well as Andrew Dominik’s “Blonde,” an off-beat drama about Marilyn Monroe.
What’s the starting point of this alliance between Plan B and Mediawan?
After consolidating in Europe for the last five years and bringing the best creative talents under the same banner we had to address an even bigger demand and have the possibility to export our European talents. A bit like Florian Zeller has done so successfully. The demand for premium global content has never been higher, especially from the U.S. Right now we have three series projects being developed with U.S. networks. We figured the timing was great to have a real presence in the U.S. But it only made sense if we could create a partnership with the best production company, one that matched the creative DNA of Mediawan and with whom we had a great fit on a personal level. Very quickly we thought of Plan B. The first talks between the Plan B team, Brad, and Mediawan began a year ago, and several meetings took place in Europe and California. Right away we had the desire to partner up at a time when things are moving very fast. Our common DNA, our desire to create, our need for independence made us think that we were meant to be working together.
Plan B is known for producing prestige movies that are often politically-minded. Will this editorial line continue at Plan B?
Yes it will. Like we’ve done with other production companies in Europe, Plan B will maintain a full editorial and artistic independence. The only things that Mediawan will bring them are the tools to create better together, as well as European talents and story ideas.
“She Said” flopped at the box office. How are you going to ensure that Plan B become more commercially profitable?
We’ll have the same strategy that we have in Europe with Mediawan, meaning that we’re going to focus on production and Plan B as well. So we’re working with all kinds of partners who buy our content and the demand for quality content is extremely strong. And “She Said” is exactly that.
What type of synergies do you envision between Plan B and Mediawan?
We’re going to open the doors of Europe to them and introduce them to European talents. More and more European filmmakers are now moving to Hollywood to work there and have the ambition to make bigger, more global films or TV series because it can be more complicated to achieve that in France. So we want to open that market for them, and also look at projects initiated by Plan B to see if some them would make more sense to produce out of Europe.
Who are some European filmmakers that Plan B is interested in working with?
It’s too soon to discuss it since the closing of the deal will happen in January, but clearly someone like Florian Zeller – with whom we created Blue Morning Pictures in the U.S. — is enormously talented and I know that the team at Plan B has a lot of respect for his work, and it’s mutual. So there will undoubtedly be things to put in place on that front. What I would like is that in the next months, or weeks, to introduce them to new filmmakers, talents, screenwriters from Europe and also from Africa where we’re present, to see how we can all work together. That’s my priority today, to go find tomorrow’s talents and give them the access to create global content.
What’s the stake of Mediawan in Plan B and what’s stake of Plan B in Mediawan?
We didn’t give figures but what’s certain is that we are taking a majority stake in Plan B and Plan B shareholders now have a stake in Mediawan. So it’s not a financial deal. I think Plan B could have made plenty more money if they had sold to a studio or an investment fund, and I think we could welcomed many other shareholders into Mediawan. The idea with this deal was really to build a creative alliance so that in the years to come we will create value through content. That’s an interesting challenge, one that is based on creativity, not on money.
When you talk about content that would like to make with Plan B, can you give some examples?
For instance the way Plan B made the movie “Blonde” and gave the keys to Andrew Dominick from the start to follow his vision all the way is very inspiring. It made want to say that we’re also capable of supporting and championing talents in the same way. That’s what we’re building with Florian Zeller and with others, for instance Christophe Charrier who made his first series with us and won a prize at La Rochelle Fiction festival and directed his first film for Arte and Netflix, and ranks among the platform’s global hits. So we’re not thinking in terms of how can we make the biggest budgeted movies and make the most money, but rather how can we work with the most promising and the best filmmakers to create films that will mark us and stay. And I’d like to add that Plan B is the independent production company with the most Oscar nominations and wins.
Plan B has an impressive track record. But even though they make great films, they don’t own the underlying intellectual property. Will that change?
That’s one of the strategic aspects that we’re going to pursue, meaning that once in a while we’ll look to finance content in order to keep 100% of their IP.
Is Brad Pitt and the leadership of Plan B going to stay in place?
What will change is that we’re going to launch a dedicated U.S. division that will be chaired by Vania Schlogel (the managing partner and founder of Atwater Capital which backs Mediawan along with KKR), and I will be the CEO to pursue our development in the U.S. and make sure that we’re doing much more than being a stakeholder. We want to do in the U.S. what we’ve done in Europe: aggregate the most exciting independent talents while keeping our European DNA.
Brad Pitt is currently being sued by Angelina Jolie, who is accusing him of physical and emotional abuse during a trip on a private plane in 2016. Do you have any comment?
I have no comment to make on this.
Few French companies have succeeded in breaking through in the U.S. — Gaumont made it, but others like EuropaCorp and Canal Plus Group failed.
It’s funny because before we made this deal everybody reminded me what happened with EuropaCorp and Canal Plus. But we’re talking about an era that people under 20 have not even heard of. Today, the content market is global, and 15 or 20 years ago the content market was local so it was a very different world. Now we have French talents like Omar Sy, Florian Zeller or Louis Letterier who are behind huge machines in the U.S. So what I’m focusing on now is a strategy for the years to come, for the future, in order to allow my group to grow and thrive. And I’m not a theatrical distributor like EuropaCorp was at some point, and I didn’t buy Universal like Jean-Marie Messier (the former boss of Canal+ parent company Vivendi) did at the time. I’m not making a deal with a company who hires 4,000 people. I’m in business with Plan B and its three founders. We’re doing something where we’ll be able to talk to each others regularly and keep our respective DNA. Everybody’s talking about what we did because we set a foot in the U.S. with the biggest star in the world but the reality is that we’ve essentially brought together like-minded producers.
Is Plan B going to produce more TV going forward?
They’ll certainly produce more series, that was part of their strategic ambition.
Are you going to move to Los Angeles?
Over the next couple years I’m going to be spending much more time there to build solid bridges between Europe and the U.S.