Entertainment One’s Polly Williams and Jude Troy presented the company’s new scripted projects and discussed expansion into the U.K. and Australia in a Series Mania session moderated by World Screen’s Anna Carugati in Paris today.
Upcoming projects from the indie include Sharp Objects with Amy Adams for HBO, Picture Paris with Meg Ryan for EPIX and La Dolce Vita with Mediaset in Italy. The company has been broadening its development slate outside of North America, and on hand at Series Mania to discuss those initiatives were Williams, the head of scripted drama in the U.K., and Troy, executive VP of TV development and acquisitions in Australia.
Having a presence on the ground in the U.K. was key for eOne as it expanded into British drama, Williams noted, allowing the company to “build relationships with key producers and key talent in that territory and really speaking their language and building trust, which takes time, in order to secure and develop special content.”
Troy talked about Australia’s rising profile as a scripted drama exporter. “If you look at shows like The Kettering Incident, The Warriors, The Slap, Wentworth, Please Like Me, even Top of the Lake, there really is much more of a focus on that territory. We were particularly competitive in distribution in Australia, but prior to my taking on this role, we didn’t really have a creative team focused solely on television. It made sense to have someone on the ground who can take advantage of what the territory has to offer—which includes amazing tax credits. In New Zealand there’s a 40-percent rebate, in Australia, there’s 20 percent for television, 40 percent for film. Also, the funding bodies are really generous both in terms of their development support and also their production support. In order for us to remain competitive in Australia, it made sense for us to move into development and production.”
Carugati asked Williams about how eOne is working with scripted talent in the U.K. “We’ve been building a really big talent base. We’ve got a lot of first-look deals,” among them director Tom Harper and Stanley Tucci and Steve Buscemi’s Olive Productions. “In terms of a European producer coming to us, it’s not just contacts in the U.K. that I can tap into and use to build a project. It’s all over.”
Troy noted: “Historically, the sensibility that we had that grew from Hopscotch [which was acquired by eOne] is we’re looking for distinctive voices from around the globe. We’re looking for high-end drama propositions, co-production opportunities, and Polly and I work very closely in terms of finding what that project could be. A lot of the Australian sensibility can lend itself at times better to a U.K. or U.S. co-production, but we’re also actively looking at partners in Europe. Also, because we’re a film company, we can bring a filmic quality [to TV projects], whether it’s writing talent or directing talent.”
Williams said she has an “eclectic slate. Principally I’m focused on U.K. talent for the U.K. market, but with an eye on stories that travel. Those can be quite British stories—shows like Happy Valley or Broadchurch are quintessentially British shows, but because of their quality and uniqueness, they’ll travel. I’m not actively looking for co-production, I’m looking for great stories. If they have a European angle or a U.S. angle, then we can make those work. A lot of the British shows I’m producing I think we will look at bringing on a U.S. partner in time. There are other projects which would be European-based. Sometimes we’ll go to European producers or vice versa. And Jude and I are talking now—there are a lot of Australian writers coming into the U.K. who are doing incredibly well, so we’re looking at ways to collaborate.”
Williams talked about an upcoming project with Italy’s Palomar on Muammar Gaddafi. “They came to us saying they had a deal to produce Roberto Saviano’s (Gomorrah) next original TV series. He wants to tell the story of Gaddafi. We got incredibly excited by this—one of the top names in Italy, a fantastic subject. Often with our deals, we have ideas that have been developed in the U.K. or the U.S. and we take them to a European broadcaster. This is working the other way around. I think it’s a real game-changer for eOne.”
In Australia, eOne is working with the likes of Goalpost Pictures, Aquarius Films, director Robert Connolly and Hopscotch Features. Projects that Troy is looking for co-pro partners on include one created by Gregor Jordan, the director of the Australian cult hit Two Hands (which starred Rose Byrne and Heath Ledger). “Gregor brought us the project as a film, but we’ve since decided to make it as a TV series. We’re looking for a U.K. partner. It’s gritty social realism running parallel with a supernatural bent that shines a light on the surf culture in Australia.” The show “speaks to some of the themes we’re facing now, in a world that is going so far to the right, post-Brexit, post-Trump, Marine Le Pen hanging over France. It speaks to people trying to find a sense of place and identity.” Troy said she’s aiming to enlist a British or European writer on the show.
Australian platforms, Troy noted, “need to go to international platforms to finance something, so there’s a lot more outwardly facing drama, but also there’s an eagerness within Australia now to make co-productions.”
In the U.K., eOne is working on an adaptation of the Charlotte Brontë novel Villette. “It’s set in the U.K. and France. We have an Oscar-nominated writer who will adapt it. That’s something we’ll be looking for a French partner on. We’d be open to a high-end French director on that.”
Carugati asked Williams and Troy about how they tap into eOne’s broad reach to enlist talent in a competitive environment. “We’re really uniquely placed to come up with a strategy” for a show that needs European or Australian partners, Williams noted. “It’s quite a minefield now with all these different elements and moving parts in big projects. We really have the know-how and the capability to pull those projects together and bring on the right partners and make sales in other territories.”
Troy referenced eOne’s growth strategy, acquiring “like-minded entrepreneurial companies around the globe. All of those companies had a fighting independent spirit and amazing relationships within the local production community and in distribution and development. All those players bring those relationships to the table. There is an unprecedented access to amazing writing talent, directing talent, and really strong producers in each territory. It’s quite a unique company in how it’s placed.”