Scripted formats are enjoying increasing success in Asia. But what makes them successful varies from case to case.
French producer, Harold Valentin of Mother Production (“Call My Agent”), Akehi Yuki (“Mother”), business director at Japan’s Nippon Television, and Hong Kong’s Tommy Lo, executive producer and script supervisor of the Hong Kong version of “Ossan’s Love” joined Content Asia’s Janine Stein on Tuesday at FilMart to discuss.
Valentin: “We were very surprised that [‘Call My Agent’] began travelling really after season two, because initially Netflix didn’t know what to do with the strategy. The mixture of drama and comedy had disappeared a bit in U.S. and U.K. television. They had either drama or comedy, but not the mixture of the two.
“[While the characters are passionate and can be universally related to] ethe remake has to be about each country’s culture. In England, it will be more musicals and TV shows. In India, it’s about Bollywood, sport and fun movies.”
Akeki: “ ‘Mother’ is a story about a school teacher with little motivation in life, who one day discovers that a student is being abused by her parents. She finds the girl on the street in a garbage bag and decides to save her at the risk of becoming a criminal wanted for kidnapping.
The enthusiasm that we received from our international producers was impressive. It hit a chord in them. They wanted to tell the same story, but in their own way for their own culture, to send the [same] message that child abuse is intolerable. And that you don’t have to be an actual mother to be a mother to a child who needs help.
Our original ending was a little bittersweet and left the conclusion up to the viewers’ imagination. But the South Koreans wanted to take it a different way, and change the ending, so that it’s clearer that the mother is finally reunited with the daughter. We had many meetings, and when we learned that the local producer understood what was important about the format, we gave them the trust [to go their own way].
I think consumer preferences have changed. Series that can be binge watched are in high demand. Genre wise, so too are mystery series. I’m getting a lot of inquiries for crime mystery series. I think this trend will continue. [Such shows appeal to young adult audiences who may be using social media with their friends while watching the show.]
Valentin: “In France, I see is that we adapt more miniseries than long running shows.”
Akehi: “Our ‘Mother’ was adapted in France and there was six episodes. Our original was eleven. The Turkish one ran to 33 episodes, the Chinese created 22 episodes.
The average of Japanese series is 10 episodes. We used to say that we need more episodes. Now I think the time is right for short, but really interesting, good series.”
Lo: “In Hong Kong the situation is also changing We used to have 20, 30 even 50 episode drama series. But now people are looking for maybe 15 or 20. That’s still not miniseries!
With ‘Ossan’s Love’ the original one had seven episodes. We had to extend it to 15 because Hong Kong audiences like to watch their dramas every night from Monday to Friday. This may be changing, because of the influence of the streaming platforms.”
Valentin: “Each country has its own culture of screenwriting. In the Turkish remake of ‘Call My Agent’ where we took 45 minutes, they expanded it to two and a half hours. Our main character, a lesbian with very strong opinions, has a scene where she gets up and goes to the bathroom. It’s 30 seconds for us. But in the Turkish one they follow her every move. It is a different kind of storytelling [adapted for local conditions]. And they are able to sell it to the Middle East.
[Despite those differences] I’m surprised to see that we all share the same kind of big questions, big issues, and that ‘Squid Game’ speaks to everyone around the world [about their feelings towards] the elite.”
Akehi: “Co-production is really on the rise. We’ve had wonderful experiences with our scripted format sales. But now we want to go down a new road. We decided to co-develop a scripted series with a U.K. company. And create the original idea together.
It’s a series about international detectives who help each other over the internet, without leaving their homes, to solve crimes. We will air the first episodes on Nippon TV in April. Now we are searching for global production companies who will create their own version of the international online detective and continue from our story.”
Valentin: “Co-production can be very good if you have the same artistic point of view [but] you need a leader for the project. Because if everyone is equal, then you make compromises. Compromises because you respect your partner too much. And they respect you and you want to meet halfway. And that can damage the project.”
Lo: “I definitely agree. You always need to have a decision maker.”