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Elizabeth Guider Reports: View from the Indies


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The ever-shrinking but determinedly energetic indie sales sector will wind up its four-day content market today at the InterContinental Hotel in Los Angeles on an upbeat note.

Some 70 companies, including the offshoots of the big American studios that cater to the Latin American market, exhibited their wares in suites or held viewing events at the venue during the period, which is essentially a precursor to the larger L.A. Screenings put on by the major Hollywood studios to showcase their upcoming prime-time fiction series. Exhibitors ranged from boutiques like Boomdog, Fly Content and Puya! to European powerhouses like Beta Film, BBC Worldwide and FremantleMedia International.

“What’s happened in our part of the business” is that it’s become tricky to be middle-sized, one veteran distributor told World Screen Newsflash. “Better to be a boutique or grow yourself into—or get absorbed by—a mega-player. You have to conduct things cost-effectively and exercise some kind of clout. Of course, it also helps to have content that people want!” To cite just one example: Alfred Haber Distribution, which, as it approaches 50 years in the biz, has a lock on most all the high-end U.S. award shows and pageants, including the 2018 60th Annual Grammy Awards.

Among other hot commodities being bought, sold and talked about by the 350 to 400 participants who traipsed through the hotel this week were Turkish telenovelas, South Korean reality formats and assorted content from the bulging catalogs of the U.S. majors.

And given all the overlapping entities engaged in content production in all major territories, it’s sometimes surprising to see who is handling what. London-based Daniela Harris, senior creative manager for Fox Networks Group Content Distribution, for example, pointed to her company’s catalog of 20-odd Turkish dramas, most of which were backed by the Fox outlet in Turkey with local producers there and for which the group has worldwide rights. She also pointed to the ongoing interest from buyers in high-profile series from National Geographic (another 21st Century Fox-owned entity) like Origins and Mars.

On another floor of the hotel, Smilehood’s international sales rep, Carolina García, singled out the interest from buyers in her company’s latest limited series, Gilda, which is a small-screen version of a feature film about the legendary Latin American singer Miriam Bianchi. She will be played by telenovela actress Natalia Oreiro.

Although it is well-nigh impossible to ascertain how much money changes hands during or because of this indie sales bazaar each year, a handful of sellers told World Screen Newsflash that business was “fairly buoyant” thanks in large part to so many content-hungry outlets that have emerged in LatAm in the last few years. There were a few caveats to that assessment: most notably and problematic is the ongoing political chaos in Venezuela, which has not only engulfed the government but also hindered sectors as disparate as medicine and media. Mexico, too, is experiencing hiccups with the peso in that every time President Donald Trump tweets something about his problems with that country, the currency appears to take a dip. And finally, on Thursday the Brazilian stock market took a sizeable tumble as a result of a graft scandal now including the current president, Michel Temer.

Most veteran executives in the international TV trenches take these ups and downs with a grain of salt, but it’s undeniable that national economic ills and political roiling eventually unsettle the media landscape, putting a crimp in business plans and/or transactions. Still, most of the attendees on this go-round in Los Angeles were focused on chalking up deals or putting together projects with producers from multiple territories.

As for the last, a growing number of European producers are utilizing the Screenings as an ideal time to meet with and pitch network executives on transatlantic projects that they are developing.

One such is a Paris-based boutique called Wildcats Productions, run by two women with substantial experience working with American, Canadian and French distributors and creatives. Together, Odile McDonald and Valerie Pechels were instrumental in putting together the international co-production Ransom, whose first season aired on TF1 in France and on CBS Stateside. The two principals told World Screen Newsflash that expanding outlets and broadened appetites for content made this a perfect time to be in the global creative business. In Los Angeles this week they’re trying to push along several other projects, including one developed with Britain’s Hat Trick called Lady S, which is based on a graphic novel by Belgium comic book writer Jean Van Hamme. “We believe the stories we come up with or acquire should drive the outlets we go after in putting these projects together,” McDonald said.



About Elizabeth Guider

Elizabeth Guider is the contributing editor of World Screen.

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