BlackBox Multimedia’s Chiara Cardoso

Storytellers to the core, BlackBox Multimedia has been developing and producing in more than five languages with an eye to content that feels bold and unique yet is still commercially grounded. The company is a firm believer in retaining as much IP as possible and trying to maximize windowing opportunities, soft money and tax incentives from different countries. Chiara Cardoso, head of development, talks to TV Drama Weekly about the sweet spot between entertaining, escapist content and stories with which viewers can easily identify.

TV DRAMA: What’s the creative ethos guiding BlackBox Multimedia?
CARDOSO: BlackBox is all about entertainment-led stories with a twist. Our main interest has always been compelling and enjoyable projects; however, it is also imperative to find stories that speak across borders. In the past decade, the industry has changed significantly; the arrival of streamers opened viewers to international content that they weren’t exposed to before. Shows like Money Heist or Shtisel might appear culturally specific, but it’s the essence of their story that appeals to the global audience and invites them to look over the 2-inch barrier of subtitles (as Bong Joon-ho put it after Parasite snatched the Oscars). These are the kinds of stories we are producing and are constantly looking to develop, having not only the U.K. market in mind but the international one as well. That is also why we don’t limit ourselves to English-language content, as we develop projects in Italy and Spain as well.

TV DRAMA: What’s the strategy for collaborating with creatives in the drama industry?
CARDOSO: We are always happy to collaborate with brilliant household names whose talent has already proved itself many times, but variety and diversity are key nonetheless. It is, therefore, important to think outside the box, looking for gifted voices and talent that we can champion. There are a lot of creatives in the industry who can bring ideas that we haven’t seen before or have maybe gone unnoticed. Whether it’s a novel or an original idea, some of our best projects were a result of our partners’ true passion, which only needed the right collaborator.

TV DRAMA: What’s working best in drama nowadays?
CARDOSO: Most commissioners today are looking for relatable, universal stories. People want to be entertained, whether by the thrills of a crime or the tears of a rom-com. Notwithstanding, it’s the sweet spot between entertaining, escapist content and stories with which viewers can easily identify that they are after. For that reason, we at BlackBox have a wide range of projects and genres, yet what’s paramount to us is always an incredible story that gives people a good ride.

TV DRAMA: What are some of the most common financing models you’re engaging with nowadays to get programs made?
CARDOSO: We’ve been firm believers in retaining as much IP as possible from the early days of our company. Accordingly, we’re trying to maximize windowing opportunities, soft money and tax incentives from different countries. As budgets are being slashed across the industry and new ways of collaborating are emerging, we are confident our vision will prove successful.

TV DRAMA: What are the narrative formats you’re working with, and what’s driving these decisions?
CARDOSO: In the past few years, we have produced a variety of projects in different formats. Since 2022, we have made three thriller shows for Paramount+, the first being The Ex-Wife, starring Celine Buckens and Janet Montgomery, written by Catherine Steadman and based on a novel by Jess Ryder. In 2023, we made two more. The Castaways, starring Sheridan Smith and Celine Buckens, is written by Ben Harris and based on Lucy Clarke’s best-selling novel. The second was The Serial Killer’s Wife, starring Annabel Scholey, Jack Farthing, Luke Treadaway and Angela Griffin, written by Suzanne Cowie and Ben Morris and based on a novel by Alice Hunter.

Being genre-agnostic, our projects also vary in their themes and audience. For example, on the film side, we produced the holiday rom-com This Time Next Year, starring Sophie Cookson and Lucien Laviscount, written by Sophie Cousens and based on her best-selling novel. We also produced the horror film Home Education, written and directed by Andrea Niada, which has entered the top ten highest-grossing Italian-produced horror films over the last 30 years.

TV DRAMA: Where will BlackBox be focusing its energy in the 12 to 18 months ahead?
CARDOSO: Our development slate has a variety of films and TV series with a strong focus on adaptations. We are particularly excited to be working on a new horror film. We can only say: imagine Mean Girls meets Squid Game—so you should expect one crazy ride. On the TV side, we have started to work on the exciting adaptation of the novel Bad Tourists by Caro Carver.

We also have some exciting news on the horizon that will see us working again with trusted collaborators, as well as a number of new limited and returnable series for the U.K. and European markets.