Executives from Gaumont, Kanal D and IM Global Television discussed collaboration opportunities in the global drama market in a MIP Cancun panel moderated by Elizabeth Bowen-Tombari, the editor of TV Latina.
The panel, titled “Pulse of the Industry: Perspectives on Global Productions,” featured Robby Amar, VP of TV acquisition and distribution at Gaumont; Nilufer Kuyel, director of co-productions and foreign investments at Kanal D; and Eli Shibley, the president of international distribution and co-productions at IM Global Television, which is rebranding as Global Road Entertainment.
Gaumont is currently in production on Narcos season four in Mexico, Amar said. He said that the storied French studio, as part of a new initiative, is also joining forces with different production companies “that already have some projects in development that really resonate with what we’re trying to put forth in the international market” from a range of territories, including Mexico, Colombia and Argentina, as well as Canada and Europe. “There are a lot of good stories being presented to us. We are in the process of forming partnerships to eventually become co-producers and distributors of these series.”
IM Global this year launched Mundial Television off the back of its successful Spanish-language film business. “We saw a trend in Latin America, possibly being driven by the streamers and HBO and the pay-TV set, of higher-end, more serialized content that is impactful over the course of ten episodes as opposed to the customary 200 or 130 or even the 60 to 80 level super-series,” Shibley said. “With our relationships with amazing filmmakers, directors, creators and producers in the territory, we felt there was a natural transition into this higher-end content that might not only be relevant in Latin America and the U.S., but also around the rest of the world.”
Kanal D’s Turkish productions are resonating well across Latin America and in numerous other markets worldwide. Kuyel added that the company also wants to “focus on using the creativity coming from Turkey without the restrictions our market has, boosting up the creativity and providing them with some opportunities, [such as] partnering with international creatives, [assisting with] financing and offering creative input. We will be focusing on ten-episode commercial hours, which is completely different from the classic telenovela or Turkish drama. It will still have a Turkish DNA. But the narrative will be more global.”
Kuyel noted some of the creative limitations of producing just for the Turkish market, with long episode lengths, the need to constantly evolve storylines based on audience feedback and censorship concerns. “Our obstacles can do two things: stop us in our tracks or force us to be more creative. This is what happened. We want to see, what if we give them freedom in terms of content? If we give them opportunities to produce in reasonable lengths and also they can plan everything and then produce it, what could this creativity bring us? I think it will be really interesting to find out. We are very excited about this.”
Scripted series consisting of ten 60-minute episodes is the sweet spot for Gaumont, Amar said. “Episodic, not procedural. What interests us the most is working with [partners] that give us a platform to put forth whatever is creative enough, compelling enough, and that can tell a story that we feel will work. There’s no set standard as to what we’re willing to do. If we love a story, a character, something about a piece of work that comes our way, we will champion it all the way till it airs. With Narcos we discovered that subtitles are no longer an issue. Subtitles are now welcome by not just Europe but around the world.”
IM Global operates across a range of genres, with a key focus on drama and high-end factual. “It’s about working with amazing creators, wonderful producers, people we like to work with, people who do what they say they’re going to do,” Shibley said.
Kuyel said that drama series remains a key focus, but the company is looking at miniseries and animation. “Apart from co-production, we are also focusing on co-financing deals and co-development, where we can use our library content and make it travel more easily into other territories and being flexible in the adaptation.”
As for what kinds of projects she’s looking for, Kuyel said, “The story has to have some roots in Turkey. And our partnership should be organic, the only way the story can be told, otherwise it’s just doing a co-production for the sake of co-production.”
As for what makes for a good story, Gaumont’s Amar said, “The first five pages of the script have to grab you by the throat and not let go. A story has to be creative, compelling, and it has to be believable. And also a cast attached that makes a series more interesting. And the story itself, the IP. Is it a book? A short story? A movie? Or is it original? All these factors are taken into consideration.”
IM Global is doing a lot of genre productions in the supernatural and sci-fi space, Shibley said. “That puts pressure on the need for credible relationships, authentic reactions, characters that do things that people in real life do. It’s the only way to ground a big idea.”