Gaumont’s Vanessa Shapiro

Vanessa Shapiro, Gaumont’s president of worldwide distribution, TV and animation, tells TV Drama about what’s driving the company’s scripted drama strategy.

Arguably one of Netflix’s most successful original series, Narcos was recently given a two-season renewal by the global streaming service. The double order is a testament to the strength of the drug-trade drama and is emblematic of the type of high-quality series that Gaumont wants to be known for. The company has been making a name for itself in the drama-series market and recently tapped former MarVista Entertainment exec Vanessa Shapiro to oversee worldwide sales and distribution, co-productions, acquisitions, digital distribution and marketing.

***Image***TV DRAMA: What is guiding Gaumont’s drama strategy currently?
SHAPIRO: We have been very successful over the last five years, since we first launched the television division in the U.S., especially to license Narcos to Netflix and produce it for them. Narcos has since been renewed for seasons three and four. We will wrap shooting on season three soon, and we will begin shooting season four by the end of the year. It’s very exciting for us!

In a very short amount of time, we had four major successful series: NarcosHannibalHemlock Grove and F is for Family. We want to continue on that path, to be known for this level of production. For the last year, we were very aggressive on the development side as we still believe that television drama is very important for Gaumont. Clearly, we have very good partners in the U.S.—we work closely with Netflix—so we want high-level talent attached to a high-profile series. Our goal is to remain at the Narcos and Hannibal level. We ***Image***also have a French TV series division in Paris, which has been extremely successful.

TV DRAMA: Tell us about some of the French series. 
SHAPIRO: The Frozen Dead has been a huge success in Franceit just premiered on M6 and was the highest rated show of the night for the channel. The show, which won at the Festival de la Fiction TV in La Rochelle in 2016, is a limited series, with six one-hour episodes. It’s very compelling and perfect for binge-watching. With a bit of a Nordic noir style, the cinematography is gorgeous; it’s shot in the mountains and snow in the French Pyrenees. We have received a lot of interest from around the world.

The Art of Crime is a very different series. It is a procedural crime series set in the world of art. There are investigations that take place in the middle of the Louvre in Paris and in other major museums. There are crime and mystery aspects to it, but they are solved using historical pieces. It is kind of like The Da Vinci Code meets Castle. It is a very unique show. The series with air in France on France 2.

TV DRAMA: What other new shows does Gaumont have coming up?
SHAPIRO: In the U.S., we have about 20 series in different stages of development, some serialized and some procedural. We are working on the Narcos and Hannibal model.

We’re very active on the European co-production side as well. We have about 20 different projects in Europe in different stages of development.

We have been very focused over the last 12 months on developing quality content—making deals with writers, authors, directors and EPs. Now, we’re getting ready to start production and announce some sales later in 2017. So stay tuned—2017 is going to be a very busy year!

TV DRAMA: With how competitive and crowded the drama market is today, what does a series need to have in order to cut through?
SHAPIRO: We start by making sure the concept is going to find an audience. We are careful about the subjects we’re going to go after. We also want to be very original; to do something that has not already been done before. We’re looking either at IP that people know or ideas and stories that have not been exploited before. Attaching talent is very important for us as well. We are aiming to reach the broadest audience that we can.

TV DRAMA: What are your priorities for the year ahead?
SHAPIRO: There are a lot of opportunities on the co-production side. I really want to focus in 2017 on looking at new partners in Europe as well as in the U.S. We can produce quality series in the English language that will travel internationally. We’ve spent the last year developing a lot of great content. Now is the time to produce and release them.