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Elizabeth Guider Reports: The View from the Indies


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“Nobody, strictly speaking, distributes shows anymore at markets. Everyone is now a producer too. And these events are more about forging alliances than anything else.”

So opined Jim McNamara, a seasoned international executive who is now vice chairman of the board at Hemisphere Media Group, which focuses much of its business operations on Latin America. Buttoned-holed in the corridor of the InterContinental Hotel on the final day of the Independents Screenings here in Los Angeles, he went on to explain how much the media business is changing.

“Most of the companies here are producers of content as well as sales operations,” McNamara suggested. “They’re here to network, exchange ideas, talk about co-production, come up with format possibilities, or form partnerships.” His own company now operates multiple channels in Puerto Rico, Colombia and elsewhere and is involved in a joint-venture streaming service with Lionsgate called Pantaya.

A fluent Spanish speaker, McNamara described the independents bazaar as a “useful” forum for furthering any number of media opportunities.

While we were standing at the hotel elevator bank, another attendee approached and greeted him; in the space of three minutes they did an informal negotiation for the next installment of a film franchise she handles, all in Spanish, which McNamara wants for one of his stations.

All to say that’s how some deals get advanced at media markets these days, especially among independent operators who have fewer, if any, corporate hoops to jump through.

Other attendees at the three-day market had generally upbeat stories to tell as well—even if several eventually got around to mentioning the uncertainties caused by the latest wave of digital disruption: namely, the advent of multiple streamers into the market.

“Nobody knows quite how all these platforms will work or differentiate themselves—or what opportunities might open up for us (independent suppliers) if certain program rights are held back from linear broadcasters by these new OTT players,” one European executive suggested.

“Some slots may become more open to outside, unaligned providers,” he further hazarded, stressing, however, that it was too early to be definitive about anything on the subject. “We have to keep doing what we do,” he concluded, “and hold on to rights wherever we can.”

Meanwhile, up on the busy 11th floor of the InterContinental, the folks operating the expansive Viacom International Studios (VIS) Americas suite appeared to be having multiple back-to-back meetings. The group is particularly high on a pair of its latest titles: Atrapa a un Ladrón, which is a contemporary reversioning of the Hitchcock classic To Catch a Thief; and the telenovela-length series 100 Days to Fall in Love, which boasted a 45 percent share on Argentina’s Telefe. (The station is actually owned by Viacom, as is Channel 5 in the U.K.)

“This market here in L.A. works for us,” said Federico Cuervo, the SVP/head of VIS Americas. “It’s always good to be with our partners and with other big players.”

As for the remake of the Cary Grant/Grace Kelly classic in Spanish, Cuervo said it was shot as a ten-hour limited series and has been widely sold.

“Its auspices suggest how international and interconnected the business is becoming,” Cuervo continued. “We obtained the rights to remake it in Spanish as a limited series from Paramount Pictures (another Viacom unit); we found a top showrunner in Spain; we cast the two leads from Buenos Aires and from Madrid; we’ve licensed it to Telemundo in the States; and it will air [among other outlets] across Paramount channels in Europe.”

Like McNamara, Cuervo put the accent on the “energizing” aspects of the market.

“We’re all feeding one another with ideas and we take away so much from seeing and hearing about the latest trends. Yes, there’s uncertainty in the industry regarding these new platforms—how they’re going to develop and shake out—but business is being done. We’re developing, producing and selling our content to multiple outlets, and we’re expanding.”

The unit has opened hubs in Los Angeles and in Madrid, for example, and celebrated other one-year milestones at an invitation-only breakfast Friday morning at the hotel.

Along with the Viacom subsidiary, several other offshoots of the Hollywood majors—including Turner and Warner Bros.— also set up shop Tuesday to Thursday to service their Latin American clients. Their suites, too, appeared to be bustling throughout the morning on Thursday.

A smattering of smaller independent players were also satisfied about the usefulness of the L.A. gathering.

Adam Horner of Thriller Films set up shop on the ground floor, where for the first time an open-plan area with tables was set up to facilitate business meetings with a half-dozen outfits like his.

“There’s smaller attendance here at the Independents Screenings than at the larger film festivals/markets we’ve long attended, but things here are more concentrated, less diffused and distracting. People are here to do business and we’ve been quite busy,” Horner said.

Although the company has its roots in the film business and has shot movies in places as far-flung as Australia and China, Thriller is moving increasingly into the TV trenches. “We think the growth is in television,” Horner said.

The indie L.A. Screenings officially wrap Friday and many of the attendees will then shift gears to attend the various viewing sessions at the Hollywood major studios, starting Saturday and running through next Thursday. Those studios will be showcasing the drama and sitcom pilots picked up by the U.S. networks for the fall.

Visit WorldScreen.com’s Fall Season Grid for all the details on the new and returning shows on the U.S. broadcast networks, and a listing of pickups by studio.











About Elizabeth Guider

Elizabeth Guider is a contributing editor at World Screen.

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