SPI’s Loni Farhi & Producer Philippe Martinez on the Power of Partnership

Loni Farhi, president and CEO of SPI, and movie director and producer Philippe Martinez talk to TV Drama about their storied relationship and new multi-project pact.

Having been a distributor of theatrical films and TV programming in the international market for nearly 30 years, SPI International is making moves to produce its own movies and TV series. The growth of SPI International/FilmBox’s bouquet of channels is driving the demand for new content, leading to co-productions like the one it recently entered into with Martinez.

“We started in 1991 as a content distributor, and in 2001, we started with our channels,” explains Farhi. “Now we are on five continents and have 55 million subscribers. Original content is becoming more and more the name of the game.”

Martinez and Farhi had worked together for many years, in a relationship that saw SPI distributing Martinez’s films but in limited territories. “Slowly we expanded the territories, and now we are producing together,” says Farhi. “In short, the market is taking us places, and we have to answer the demand.”

“The basis of this business is relationships,” adds Martinez. “One day Loni called and said: ‘Philippe, the company now has 55 million viewers, and we need more product—more TV series, more films. Why don’t we work together and produce, produce, produce!’ So, the relationship didn’t happen overnight; it was more like a growing relationship over the years that came to maturity.” He adds that the timing felt right, since the growth of the SPI/FilmBox platforms have left them with an optimistic view on the industry as a whole.

***Image***The partnership calls for the production of four TV series, including Salvage Marines, based on a book by Sean-Michael Argo. Casper Van Dien and Peter Shinkoda play the protagonists in the story, which is about a group of soldiers on a militarized deep-space operation called Salvage Marines. Production started in April.

In June, production began on Mister Mayfair, a movie trilogy. Starring Armand Assante, Steven Bauer and Ken Davitian, Mister Mayfair centers on Max Mitchell, a former New York gangster living the good life in Mayfair, London. The arrival of his unknown granddaughter bearing stories of his past will turn his life upside down. It is directed by Martinez and produced in partnership with Alan Latham and Kirsty Bell’s Goldfinch Studios.

The partnership will also bring to the screen The Intergalactic Adventures of Max Cloud, starring Scott Adkins and Tommy Flanagan. The story features a space cruiser that crashes on a planet that is home to an intergalactic prison. The sci-fi action-comedy is also produced by Goldfinch.

“At the end of the day, what motivates Loni and SPI is the desire to make the channels’ customers happy,” says Martinez. “Normally it takes forever to get a project off the ground with a studio. The way that Loni and his team work is dynamic and extraordinary. I wish for any producer to work with SPI and FilmBox on a project.”

“It’s a lot of fun,” adds Farhi. “To be working with a character like Philippe is amazing. He takes me to the places I want to go, and I feel like I am having the same effect on him. It’s a fantastic partnership. We listen to each other very carefully, and we respect and pay attention to each other and make sure that what we are going to create is going to really be liked by our viewers. We do not get spoiled; we are extremely careful and meticulous about what we’re working on.”

He adds, “I always love to have long-term relationships. I am looking forward to the next 15, 30, 45 years with Philippe!”