Studiocanal Links with Paul Laverty, Iciar Bollain as TV and Film Become a Two-Way Street (EXCLUSIVE)

Courtesy of Cos Aelenei

Studiocanal is collaborating with Sixteen Films’ Rebecca O’Brien and Morena Film’s Juan Gordon to develop a series created by longtime Ken Loach scribe Paul Laverty and to be directed by Spain’s Iciar Bollaín.

The drama series will be the first for both Laverty and Bollaín after writing and directing respectively 19 and nine feature films, including collaborations on Bollaín’s multi-prized “Yuli,” “The Olive Tree” and “Even the Rain,” movies that established her as one of Spain’s top film directors.

Over the last few years, Cannes’ MipTV trade fair, once a strict TV silo, is now ever more MipFilm. Signs of an ever-building crossover between the two sectors look indeed to make up one of the hallmarks of this year’s event.

In multiple different moves, iconic film talent is plunging ever more into series.

Conceived for TV, content can sell to film distributors, such as has been the case this year with Global Screen’s “The Conference,” which was originally produced for ZDF in Germany.

Traditional film companies are increasingly attending TV markets, London’s 101 Films International and parent company Amcomri Entertainment making their MipTV debut this week, for instance.

Ever more frequently, outfits are announcing movies at TV events and not waiting for big film festivals. Abacus Media Rights, for example, is launching at MipTV “The Fire Within: A Requiem for Katia and Maurice Krafft,” a feature documentary from legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog.

Multiple factors are at work, turbo-charging traffic both ways on the film-TV two-way street. Behind most moves, however, is the seismic change ushered in by the platform-driven revolution in demand for high-end series dramas, accelerated by the pandemic, which have overturned the traditional balance between film and TV as revenue drivers.

Film once dominated that equation. In 2017, almost 70% of the U.K.’s film/high-end TV production spend went to film, according to a BFI report. But no more: In 2021, the ratio was reversed, with the HETV sector accounting for a massive $5.6 billion – 73% – of a total $7.6 billion spend, the report added.

“You really have to have a good package in place creatively to make proper pre-sales” on an independent film,” said Julia Weber, head of international acquisitions and sales at production- sales house Global Screen. Producers see there is such a lot of demand for series content. They see room to grow that there’s an opportunity there for the taking.”

Series also offer creators new freedoms – the sustained development of character, cinematic innovation, the ability to deal in detail with social issues in a thriller-driven plot – as well as huge online audiences as theatrical movie distribution remains challenged.

Other factors are also at play:

Following Talent

“As far as Studiocanal is concerned, it’s all about content and talent. We have no frontier between a movie and TV. What is foremost is the content and our relationship with talent, and as part of the Canal Plus Group we love a cinematic approach to series,” Françoise Guyonnet, Studiocanal executive managing director TV series, told Variety just before MipTV.

“We follow our talents when they want to work on a movie or TV series. It’s true, however, that more and more movie talent, especially directors and writers want to work on TV series,” she added, citing the cases of psychological thriller “The Night Logan Woke Up,” the first drama series from Cannes Fest favorite Xavier Dolan, backed by Studiocanal, Canal Plus, VVS and Quebecor Content.

Studiocanal is also handling distribution on the debut series from Thomas Vinterberg, Zentropa’s “Families Like Ours,” having distributed his Academy Award-winner “Another Round.”

“All these brilliant, prestigious and so talented creators are going into series and doing so with a spirit of experiment, which is really exciting,” said Guyonnet.

“People who did feature films thought they were in the royal class. That has changed. In the last four years the big names have gone into series much more than they would have done before. That is a great opportunity for them to have a larger audience,” agreed Global Screen’s Weber.

Studiocanal has also worked with multiple famed film actors – Jean Reno on Marc Levy’s “All These Things We Never Said,” Noomi Rapace and Matthias Schoenaerts in “Django” – who are very good assets when promoting a series, Guyonnet added. It helps Ito have contacts, said Guyonnet. “Having worked for long time in the movie business, Studiocanal had a long relationship with either the producer or the talent themselves in both these cases, so it was natural to continue the relationship on a series,” Guyonnet noted.

The contact with Laverty and Bollaín came from the relationship Alex Hamilton, Studiocanal CEO, U.K. has with O’Brien, and Guyonnet with Gordon in Spain.

Laverty and Bollaín came to Studiocanal with a five-hour near-future story set in Edinburgh – “but it could be any western city,” said Guyonnet – which Laverty had written during the pandemic. Studiocanal helped them – via notes – shape the story as a potential six-hour mini-series.

Film-TV Market Crossover

“Content can travel in all directions if it’s suitable content and good content,” Weber told Variety just before MipTV. “The Conference” is a good case in point. It was first aired on ZDF to commemorate the 80th anniversary of a conference organized by Reinhard Heydrich on Jan. 20, 1942 to discuss the Final Solution.

“But it had a big budget and it was done in a cinematic way, with a cinematic quality – in terms of directing, acting and so on. The film looked like a feature film – that needs to be seen on the big screen – for the international market, it was extremely suitable,” Weber recalled. “We knew specialized distributors who are looking for something like that and they know how to handle this on the large screen.”

So “‘The Conference’ was sold at Berlinale as a feature film to run in theatres around the world. It will now launch at MipTV as a feature-length film for TV.

Theatrical sales have been made. “It was very clear from the beginning as soon as we saw the first materials. We knew this had the potential to cross borders,” said Weber.

The Allure of AVOD

“The streamers are working heavily on one-offs, and trying to develop, produce and commission these. There is definitely a lot of room for growth for producers to work on one-offs for the streamers, especially when it comes to the local content for the streamers,” said Weber.

Also in play in a massive demand from AVOD systems, established and building.

Founded in 2012 as a U.K. domestic film distributor, but leaping into international sales from 2016 when investment from Amcomri Entertainment allowed it to acquire Metrodome and Hollywood Classics and step up in ambitions, 101 Films Intl. is making its MipTV debut. There are powerful reasons.

As streamers have taken more and more talent off the open market, Amcomri and 101 Films International has reacted in several ways: Moving into film production – it is bringing 19 movies, three completed, to MipTV – and has picked up 1,000 film titles for its sales catalog over the last year.

“There is a huge demand at the moment for content not from any one streamer but many streamers,” 101 Films’ Managing Director Andy Lyon said at MipTV on Monday.

The fastest growing market for 101, however, and “pretty much the sole reason” for its 1,000-title buy is “AVOD and fast channels. Turn on your Samsung TV and there are 500 fast channels accessed via Samsung Plus.”

Lyon added: “AVOD is coming, it’s very strong. Why should people buy or subscribe to services if they can have them for free?”

Expansion quite possibly has not ended at Amcomri, said its CEO Robert Price. “We are looking at several options which align with our whole life cycle strategy,” of creating, producing and distributing titles from inside the group, he noted.

Amcomri also aims to drive far more into scripted drama production, he recognized.