Tag Archives: Rola Bauer

Writers block

Top-tier television writers are in short supply, so how are producers finding new voices for the small screen? DQ investigates.

If there’s a downside to the current boom in television drama, it might be the often-heard complaint from producers that there is a shortage of writers.

And while it might seem like a bizarre claim – with writing TV shows surely ranking as one of the most coveted jobs in the world – what Europe’s producers really mean is there is a shortage of writers who are trusted to deliver workable scripts for big-budget drama productions.

Belinda Campbell
Belinda Campbell

Given the eye-watering cost of making a TV drama, and the influence a writer can have on other areas such as casting, direction and financing, the emphasis on a chosen few is understandable, says Belinda Campbell, joint MD of UK-based prodco Red Planet Pictures.

“But it does mean brilliant A-list writers get very booked up,” she adds. “We’re fortunate to have good relationships with the likes of Sarah Phelps [Dickensian, And Then There Were None], as well as a CEO with a strong track record [Tony Jordan], but we have waited a long time for writers we wanted for certain projects.”

There is a similar assessment from Kate Harwood, MD of FremantleMedia-owned drama label Euston Films: “Broadcasters don’t tell producers which writers to work with. But when they are constantly being pitched the very best projects, they are bound to select the outstanding work they get from geniuses like Sally Wainwright [Happy Valley]. As a result, there is a lot of competition among producers to secure the services of a handful of talented and experienced screenwriters – though that isn’t always a question of money. If you have the rights to an interesting piece of IP, that can help.”

The challenge is to make sure producers don’t become reliant on a small group of elite writers and prevent new talent coming through, which leads to a second issue – how to get into the TV industry in the first place. Compared with most professions, there is still an air of mystery about how young writers can get their foot in the door, with the industry often accused of failing women, BAME, LGBT and working-class writers.

This lack of a clear pathway, coupled with the bottleneck at the top end, puts TV at risk of over-reliance on similar-sounding voices.

The US doesn’t seem to face the same blockages as Europe. In part, this is because there is such a large demand for TV drama writers from a broad array of networks that commissioners can’t afford to be so prescriptive. But there is also a better talent-advancement model in the shape of writers rooms, says Frank Spotnitz (The Man in the High Castle), a sought-after showrunner who came up through the US system, most notably on Fox’s The X-Files, and now plies his trade in Europe.

UnREAL
UnREAL is written by Marti Noxon, who cut her teen working on such shows as Buffy the Vampire Slayer

“A young writer in the US might start in film school, then write a spec script of a show they are interested in. If the producer of that show likes it, they may be invited to join the writers room as a junior member,” he explains. “Alternatively, some people join a writers room as an assistant and, if they are diligent, may be introduced as a writer after a year or so. On the whole, it feels like a merit-based system.”

From here, says Spotnitz, they will take on more responsibility until they are deemed ready to run their own show. “It took me three years from joining The X-Files until I was running the show – which is pretty swift. Regardless of the speed, however, writers aren’t just learning how to write in a writers room, they are learning everything they need to know about the overall production process to deliver a shooting script.”

This system of on-the-job training has spawned scores of great showrunners – such as Fargo’s Noah Hawley (who cut his teeth on Bones), Sons of Anarchy’s Kurt Sutter (The Shield), Power’s Courtney Kemp Agboh (The Good Wife) and UnREAL’s Marti Noxon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer). But the writers room model is rare in Europe, says Spotnitz, whose current slate includes Ransom, Medici: Masters of Florence and The Indian Detective. “I use writers rooms for shows that come through my company (Big Light Productions). But it’s still not very common here.”

Kurt Sutter
Kurt Sutter

The main reason for this seems to be production economics. In the US, drama commissions are generally 10 episodes and upwards – with a hardwired expectation/ambition that they will be renewed. By comparison, the majority of dramas in the UK still get produced at eight episodes or under – a number that makes it harder to justify running a US-style team of writers.

So how do writers build their careers in the UK, one of the most prolific TV drama markets outside the US? Caroline Hollick, creative director at Red Production Company, says: “A lot of writers in the UK progress through the soaps or returning drama series. We were fortunate to produce Scott & Bailey for a number of years and that was a great way to nurture talent. After Sally Wainwright [who started her career on soaps like Coronation Street] set the series up, we brought in writers like Amelia Bullmore and Lee Warburton.”

Competitions – although a bit of a lottery – provide another gateway into the business. Lionsgate UK has teamed up with Idris Elba’s Green Door Pictures for the Write To Green Light competition, designed to discover new voices in returnable TV drama.

Also up and running for the last few years has been the Red Planet Writing Competition. “We’ve certainly seen the benefit,” says Red Planet’s Campbell. “It introduced us to Robert Thorogood and gave us one of our most successful productions, Death in Paradise. As an aside, it also provided a platform for Daisy Coulam, a writer who came to us after working on soaps like Casualty and EastEnders. Daisy has now gone on to be the creator and lead writer on Grantchester.”

Sally Woodward Gentle, founder of Sid Gentle Films, says theatre is an increasingly important testing ground for UK TV writers. “TV has got so expensive that there aren’t many slots to try out new voices. But there are some good young writers in theatre who have grown up understanding the grammar of TV. And with the recent changes in TV drama, it is an exciting option for them.”

The Night Manager was adapted by David Farr from John Le Carré’s novel
The Night Manager was adapted by David Farr from John Le Carré’s novel

Examples include Abi Morgan, who went from plays to Peak Practice to acclaimed productions like The Hour and River. Mike Bartlett and David Farr are playwrights who have just delivered two massive hits for the BBC in Doctor Foster and The Night Manager respectively.

Euston Films’ Harwood says authors can also offer a fresh voice for TV: “The transition doesn’t always work, but then there are great examples like Deborah Moggach and Neil Cross, who we are now working with on Hard Sun.” Cross was a novelist before coming on board Spooks and then creating detective series Luther.

Other ways to catch broadcasters’ attention include teaming established authors with proven screenwriters (Harlan Coben and Danny Brocklehurst on Sky1’s The Five) and trying to ride industry trends. Buccaneer Media did this when it hired Nordic Noir hotshot Hans Rosenfeldt (The Bridge) to write ITV’s Marcella.

It’s also noticeable that more movie writers are being enticed into TV – a classic example being John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator, Skyfall), who wrote Penny Dreadful for Sky Atlantic and Showtime.

“We have Neal Purvis and Rob Wade [Spectre, Skyfall] writing our adaptation of Len Deighton’s SS-GB for the BBC,” says Woodward Gentle. “Increasingly, film writers are attracted to writing TV series, which is a good development for producers.”

German drama Deutschland 83 has sold across the world
German drama Deutschland 83 has sold across the world

The recent success of German content in the international market with shows such as Deutschland 83 and the limited choice of local writers with international appeal has led Nico Hofmann, co-CEO of FremantleMedia-owned UFA Fiction, in search of foreign writers.

“For example, we worked with British writer Paula Milne on The Same Sky and, through our FremantleMedia connections, were introduced to Australian writer Rachael Turk. Rachael is now developing an exciting mystery series with us, set in the beautiful area around Lake Constance in south Germany. We are also working together with Oscar winner Dror Moreh [The Gatekeepers] on an adaptation of Frank Schätzing’s bestselling thriller Breaking News.”

Hofmann is also looking beyond the TV industry for fresh voices: “A good example would be Philipp Jessen, with whom we are working on Giftschrank [Poison Cabinet], a drama series about the world of tabloid journalism. Philipp came to us from the world of journalism and has presented us with an authentic and exciting series concept.”

French firm Atlantique Productions’ co-MD Olivier Bibas takes a similar line with regard to France: “Atlantique is focused on TV series that can work in primetime for international TV networks, and there is a shortage of French screenwriters who can deliver those. So we are also looking at the international market for writers.”

Bibas, however, is keen not to get caught up in the bidding wars for high-profile UK or US writers: “We are coproducing a spaghetti western called Django with [Italian prodco] Cattleya in Italian. In that case we have selected three Italian writers for the job because we believe they have the right voice for the project. And in the long run it makes sense for us to invest in new talent.”

Atlantique has also partnered with Sweden’s Nice Productions on Midnight Sun, a thriller set in Sweden’s Arctic region. “This series is written by Måns Mårlind and directed by Björn Stein, two Swedish talents involved in the creation and production of The Bridge,” says Bibas. “In France it is airing on Canal+ [as Jour Polaire].”

Stefan Baron
Stefan Baron

Of course, the popularity of Swedish writers has implications for the domestic market. “Sweden is not a big country,” says Nice Productions head of international coproductions Stefan Baron, “so there isn’t a large pool of writers for productions.”

Baron says the squeeze on Swedish writers is, ironically, being made worse by the increased investment coming into Swedish drama. “There is more money for drama, which is good. But that means a lot more projects in development. So if I try to hire a writer for a project, he may hesitate because he has his own project in development and is waiting for an answer. We could all do with quicker decisions to help free up writers.”

Rola Bauer, CEO of StudioCanal-owned Tandem Productions, echoes that sentiment, while adding that Europe suffers from a writer brain-drain: “A lot of writers, when they reach a certain level of expertise, are tempted to go to LA – which offers a different kind of challenge and potentially high levels of rewards.”

Bauer has also brought in writers with real-world experience, such as ex-cop Ed Bernero who was the showrunner on crime series Crossing Lines.

There are examples like this across the industry. In the UK, Jed Mercurio (pictured top) was a doctor before coming to prominence with medical dramas like Critical. In Israel, war journalist Avi Issacharoff and former soldier Lior Raz created Fauda.

Keshet International (KI) head of global coproductions Atar Dekel says Israel has a number of “talented and prolific writers” who ply their trade across a number of related areas. “It’s a small market, so it’s not uncommon for writers to make money in a number of ways. They’re very entrepreneurial. So you have people who are TV writers, playwrights and journalists.”

A variation on this is the kind of formatted drama KI is so skilled at. “With the UK adaptation of The A Word for the BBC, we needed someone who was interested in the subject matter (child autism) but also knew the local culture,” says Dekel. “So we were fortunate that we secured Peter Bowker.”

Bowker spent 12 years working in a hospital before taking a creative writing course and joining medical soap Casualty. It then took him two decades to secure his place on the UK writer A-list – which underlines two points. First, most writers who make it to the top have learned their trade the hard way; and second, their value to producers lies in the fact that they will almost certainly deliver a decent end product.

With that in mind, the negative connotations of writer blockages in Europe need to be set against the fact the TV drama system is booming in terms of ratings and quality. At the same time, however, the strength of the business shouldn’t be used as an excuse to ignore the issue of diversity.

Most producers agree that, in partnership with broadcasters, they need to take more risks if they are to truly reflect their audience. Red’s Hollick would also like to see “more development money going into this area, not just schemes that go nowhere,” adding: “Channel 4, Lime Pictures and our company did some good work with Northumberland University and the Northern Writers’ Awards, attempting to identify raw and diverse talent in the north of England. We really need to get out into communities to find exciting new talent.”

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Rola Bauer

The StudioCanal executive’s contemporary selection includes her firm’s darkly compelling drama Spotless alongside global mega-hits like HBO’s Game of Thrones.

How-To-Get-Away-With-Murder-s2-ep13-1How to Get Away With Murder
Viola Davis’s Emmy win last year for her performance as Annalise Keating was well deserved. Davis is a consummate actress who maintains an authoritative presence and tranquil demeanour that keeps this series grounded with its many plot twists. The ever-moving, breathless pace of the storyline and time-jumping devices provide a captivating thrill ride. Steadily rising dramatic stakes that excite and surprise are sustained by excellent writing and stellar performances. The development and complex evolving relationships of the principal characters are riveting and dizzying and keep the viewer absorbed in the story.

game of thrones-s7Game of Thrones
The cinematic scope of this adult epic fantasy, with memorable characters and rich storytelling, has succeeded brilliantly in making Game of Thrones one of the top drama series worldwide. It is ruthlessly brutal in its dynastic battles and there is so much texture to the series with its supernatural elements. The themes are universal – Game of Thrones is rife with treachery, heroism, honour and loyalty, all woven through a vast geography. And, of course, I love our Crossing Lines star Tom Wlaschiha, who portrays Jaqen H’ghar.

Spotless2Spotless
I must be a little self-serving as an executive producer of Spotless. The overwhelming critical acclaim the show has received has been validating and rewarding. Writer Ed McCardie has created morally ambiguous, complex characters – who are a delicious mix of dark and repellent while also charming and sexy – and a storyline peppered with black humour. Ed manages to hold, tether and build a compelling story that is, at its heart, a family drama, centring on two very disparate, though lovable antihero brothers, while they become increasingly entangled with perverse gangsters in some of the most absurd situations. Series leads Marc-Andre Grondin, Denis Menochet, Miranda Raison and Brendan Coyle give remarkable performances.

Fargo secured 18 nominations for FX

Fargo
Living up to the Coen Brothers’ iconic film version is no easy feat. To even attempt and risk the criticism of adapting a film that was not only nominated for a Best Picture Oscar but also features on AFI’s list of 100 Greatest Movies is quite audacious. But the superlative writing and cinematography have captured the look and feel of the source material, with the addition of a refreshing storyline. It’s still a crime series and the juxtaposition of humour and horror is done brilliantly. In season one, Billy Bob Thornton is wonderful as the inscrutable bad guy Lorne Malvo.

empire-cast-thatgrapejuice-600x310Empire
Empire engages with its sizzling and delicious soapy drama themes that the writers and actors bring marvellously to life. It works well and raises the stakes with great storyline twists that keep it fresh. It’s got everything: feuding characters, romances gone sour and the brilliant Terrence Howard holding it all together. And there is lots of slick, wonderful music with catchy tunes from Timbaland. The series quite simply has balls and is not afraid to break new ground.

mr-robotMr Robot
This show features a very unusual hero and unique premise that draws in the viewer. Rami Malek’s breakout performance succeeds in making a delusional, morphine addict with social anxiety disorder sympathetic as the cleverly and creatively developed lead character Elliot. This prickly character, who also serves as narrator of the story, to someone who exists only in his head, is made vulnerable and human by Malek without glamorising him. The brisk pace, editing, plot twists and intrigue keep the story moving and the audience thoroughly engaged.

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Two of a kind

Castle executives Andrew W Marlowe and Terri Edda Miller tell DQ how they plan to put some fun back into television with new series Take Two, which aims to replicate the light-hearted tone of the recently cancelled procedural.

US television viewers are used to seeing their favourite shows hauled off the schedules at a moment’s notice when a broadcaster wields its axe to halt poor ratings and critical maulings.

Yet for fans of Castle, ABC’s long-running crime procedural, the decision to bring the series to an end after its recent eighth season was still something of a shock.

Despite falling to its lowest ratings (averaging around six million) and suffering the departure of popular leading actress Stana Katic, reports suggested the cast had signed on for a ninth season in 2016/17 – Katic’s co-star Nathan Fillion among them.

The series followed Richard Castle (Fillion), a bestselling mystery novelist, and Kate Beckett (Katic), an NYPD homicide detective, as they worked together to solve unusual crimes in New York City.

But as ABC juggled its plans for the year head, the network decided it would not push ahead with a new season and instead dropped Castle. The series concluded on May 16 this year.

Fans of the show’s comedy-drama tone and its leading double act shouldn’t fret for too long, however, as creator Andrew W Marlowe is busy in development on a new series with the potential to eclipse Castle’s global popularity.

Alongside his Castle writer/producer wife Terri Edda Miller, Marlowe is setting up Take Two, a new procedural that sees a private investigator solving crimes with the help of the former star of a hit cop show.

Castle starred Stana Katic and Nathan Fillion
Castle starred Stana Katic and Nathan Fillion

“With Take Two, we thought that after working on a procedural show, what would we be able to bring to a crime scene and what would the actors bring to a crime scene having done so many?” explains Marlowe (pictured top alongside Miller). “We thought it would be an interesting pairing to have a PI, somebody who’s a former cop who’s serious about the job, and somebody who’s been living in this imaginary world but thinks they know everything and also has all these amazing plot lines to draw upon.

“We thought we had some really great elements for an amazing show because we could take a very familiar procedural format but populate it with these new and interesting characters and watch what happens when they’re forced to be together.”

While the premise might seem stranger than fiction, it may not be that far from the truth, according to Miller. “Living in LA and doing what we do, you actually run into that all the time,” she reveals. “What happens after coming off a show – where do you put all that energy after having been a star for eight or 10 years and then having all that go away? You have so much to give but then your energy becomes defused and it can go to a really bad place or, if directed more interestingly, can go to a really good place, which I think is what’s going to happen with our main character.”

Having created a hugely successful show that ran on US network television for eight years. Marlowe says the secret is having great characters – but with the understanding that they will have to be reinvented as the show progresses.

“You have to allow those characters to grow in ways that keep them in conflict and keep them moving towards each other and away from each other,” he says. “If you don’t have those ingredients, the show can peter out very quickly. It will just be a conceptual show. So the time and diligence really has to go into crafting a longer-term arc for all of your characters so that when people get to the end of a season, they can feel a satisfaction and a pay-off but also a desire to see the characters grow in new and interesting ways in the next season.

“Some of it is alchemy, some of it is just luck and some of it is the TV gods smiling down on you with a particular project. But you can stack the deck in your favour through smart casting, finding people who genuinely have chemistry that you can see on camera, and making the show aspirational for the audience.

Rola Bauer
Rola Bauer

“But we also know the audience has seen so many procedurals that you have to deliver great stories with great twists and turns. You always have to try to be out in front of your audience, given everything they’ve seen, to try to figure out how you can play fair and be surprising at the same time. Those are all the things you look at and then you cross your fingers.”

Though the pitch for Take Two might echo that of Castle – a cop teams up with an unlikely partner to solve crimes – that’s where the similarity ends, Miller says of the new LA-set series. In particular, while Castle’s homicide detective dealt only with murder, having a PI at the heart of Take Two opens up a wider range of crimes for its characters to investigate.

“You have new characters with a fresh and different point of view, so that changes the territory right away,” she continues. “You can have somebody like our main character Emma, who’s an actress and has been through 300 of these cases in her show – but what about the first time she actually sees a body? Her reaction is going to be really different from what Beckett’s reaction would have been or Castle’s reaction would have been. The audience is going to be living through her eyes and that will make it a completely different experience.”

The show’s creators believe procedurals are growing in importance as an alternative option for viewers in a market dominated by serious, hard-hitting drama. “There’s this desire in the US among the broadcast networks to compete with cable, but there is appetite for all sorts of different shows,” Marlowe observes. “When they compete with cable, they generally have a watered-down version of what you can do in a subscription or cable market. What we’re seeing is the result of that cycle, of that desire to compete. But it’s left the audience with a hole that we hope a show like this can fill.

“Audiences are still hungry to have some fun, to be able to be closed-ended, to not think, ‘Oh, I’ve got to watch all 12 episodes.’ So the ability to have closed-ended fun, to just drop in for the episode, have a really good time and have a fulfilling experience, still holds significant value for viewers. We totally get binge-viewing – we binge stuff ourselves – but sometimes you just want not to have that kind of commitment. Doing that, you can actually grow a fanbase over time.”

Marlowe says he and Miller share a love of classic screwball comedies and Hollywood power couples such as Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey, which have influenced their own screen careers.

“One of the things we love about our creative process is sometimes it mirrors our characters, with sparks flying,” he explains. “We each come at things from a different point of view so we naturally gravitate towards those sorts of stories. Part of it is in our artistic DNA but part of it is also in our relationship DNA.”

The pair are executive producers of Take Two for their MilMar Pictures label, alongside Tandem Productions’ Rola Bauer. StudioCanal will distribute the series.

It was the strength of Castle’s international popularity that persuaded Marlowe and Miller to set the show up with Munich-based Tandem. Looking back at their first meeting, Bauer recalls: “I had followed Castle for many seasons and I loved the lightness of it. We have a little too much serialised, dystopian, negative drama. The biggest challenge was really not talking about story but getting our respective reps to move on making the deal. We did and it got made and it’s really wonderful.”

Miller continues: “We listened to Rola talk about Castle internationally and how it was received. Her thoughts about what the foreign market was like and all the things she was looking for fitted with something Andrew and I had in our back pocket and really wanted to do.”

Unusually – but representing an increasingly common practice in today’s global television market – Take Two was announced without a broadcaster. Tandem and StudioCanal are scouring the globe to see who’s interested in picking up the story, at a time when European broadcasters are crying out for the type of light procedurals US broadcasters no longer appear to be interested in making as they instead pursue high-concept dramas in their battles against the dominant cable and SVoD platforms.

Bauer adds: “We have maybe sidelined the entertainment aspect of television, and that’s a shame because there has been a desire to dig more into our weaknesses and our desire to find a certain type of redemption. I get that, and that’s important. But it’s also important to be entertained. That’s what we’re looking for – to have a good, entertaining show. But there aren’t going to be ‘popcorn crime’ cases. There are going to be some really interesting crimes that are fresh and that will resonate with viewers. Combine that with the entertainment of the double-act lead characters – the banter, the potential love – and it will be fun.”

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Copro queen

Though international coproductions now seem ubiquitous, this hasn’t always been the case. Rola Bauer explains how Tandem, an early adopter of copros, put them at the centre of its drama strategy to impressive effect.

In the past couple of years producers and broadcasters around the world have become increasingly reliant on international coproduction partnerships to secure the budgets necessary for high-end drama series. But one company that based its business on copros is Munich-based Tandem, the production powerhouse behind epic historical miniseries The Pillars of the Earth and its sequel World Without End.

Formed in 1999 by Rola Bauer (a Canadian), Tim Halkin (an American) and Jonas Bauer (a German), Tandem’s first major success was The Ring of the Nibelungs, a €20m (US$24m) fantasy miniseries commissioned by Channel 4 in the UK, Sat1 in Germany and SyFy in the US.

“We realised after Rings of the Nibelungs that we had satisfied a need in the market that the US was no longer providing,” Tandem president/partner Rola Bauer tells DQ. “That encouraged us to build on this success and continue to supply the international market with high-end long-form dramas that broadcasters could create an event around.”

Pillars Of TheEarth (web)
The Pillars of the Earth

A run of drama productions followed, but the real game-changer for Tandem was The Pillars of the Earth, an 8×50’ miniseries based on the classic novel by Ken Follett. “Along with several others, we chased after Ken for years to option this book,” says Bauer. “He had pushed back on all theatrical offers, finding the format too limited for the richness of the novel, and held out for a solid commitment of a longer limited series, which we offered.”

In hindsight, securing the rights was the easy part. The real challenge was coming up with a viable financial model. Explaining Tandem’s thinking, Bauer says: “Along with our coproducing partner, Scott Free, we were hoping to pioneer a new way of producing television on a global basis without depending on having the first key broadcaster out of the US market. We needed a US$40m production budget to create the kind of eight-hour event not only that the book deserved, but that would have a cinematic quality to it.”

Unfortunately from a financial perspective, the Nasdaq had recently crashed and the German stock exchange segment, Neue Markt, had virtually folded – putting pressure on the production from the outset. “With French, German, Spanish and Canadian partners on board, we went into production with an US$8m gap and the hope that our years of combined experience would enable us to create a programme that we could later sell into the US market and not only cover our deficit, but also make a profit,” Bauer explains. “Two years of development, production and sleepless nights later, the risk we took did pay off: Starz supported the programme and enabled it to become an Emmy-winning show.”

The show also proved to be a success for the European and Canadian partners, says Bauer, “and that paved the way for World Without End, with a US$46m production budget.”

While Tandem’s event miniseries had put it on the global map, it was clear the company needed to diversify its output and secure additional financial resources to stay competitive in the rapidly consolidating drama market.

The good news was that Tandem’s success had started to alert potential suitors: “Three years ago Tandem was approached by two studios, one in the US and one in Europe, interested in making a strategic acquisition of Tandem. We spoke intensely with both, but were ultimately convinced to enter into a relationship with StudioCanal, which became Tandem’s majority (51%) shareholder.”

StudioCanal appealed for a number of reasons: it had the same European-led creative sensibility as Tandem; its TV production ambitions aligned with Tandem’s; and it provided assets Tandem could tap into.

Bauer adds: “There are so many synergies, such as remake rights from the StudioCanal library, producing originals for Canal+ and coproductions with our ‘cousins’ in the TV production unit, RED Production Company and SAM. We are already in coproduction with RED in the development of a format idea for the US and Germany.”

With StudioCanal backing, Bauer says Tandem has “set a benchmark to increase the programme hours we produce and sell per year.” The emphasis is clearly on one-hour series with potential for renewal. “The international market was in need of procedural series. Hugely successful US shows were coming to an end and that market was not showing signs of gearing up for the next generation of procedural shows. With StudioCanal, we were able to enter the narrative of one-hour drama very quickly. The relationship enables us to move fast and go straight to series once we have put certain basic elements together.”

Crossing Lines
Crossing Lines

The first idea to gain traction after the StudioCanal takeover was Crossing Lines, a series centred on a special crime unit that functions as a kind of European-wide FBI. “We wanted to create a show that focused on the very real and dangerous situation in Europe of criminals being able to escape justice simply by crossing over borders,” explains Bauer. “Showrunner Ed Bernero saw the similarity to the historical situation in the US before the inception of the FBI. Europe still has no proactive law enforcement agency that can effectively handle cross-border crimes and bring criminals to justice. This includes everything from drug and human trafficking to smuggling and serial killing.”

The show, which was backed by broadcasters including TF1 France, Sat1 Germany, NBC in the US and AXN (multiple territories) in season one, sought to combine the best of US and European stylistic elements: “It has a familiarity to audiences worldwide who have enjoyed US procedural series. However, the locations are exotic.” The 12-episode second season has just wrapped, with TF1, Sat1 and AXN still on board and Amazon UK joining the line-up.

Following on from Crossing Lines, Tandem recently entered production on Spotless, its second one-hour drama series since joining StudioCanal. A 10×50’ series for Canal+ Creation Originale, it’s a dark comedy shot on location in London. It stars Marc-André Grondin as the owner of a crime scene cleaning business who gets dragged into a murky gangster underworld by his reckless brother.

“Co-creators Ed McCardie and Corinne Marrinan have dreamed up a storyline and characters that are so special and unique,” says Bauer, whose company is handling global distribution. “We are very excited at the potential of Spotless to engage audiences worldwide.”

Other one-hour format dramas in development include Sex, Lies and Handwriting, a coproduction with Lionsgate based on a book by Michelle Dresbold. “We are currently in development at ABC in the US, TF1 in France, Sat1 in Germany and Bell Media in Canada, with a targeted start of principal photography in early 2015,” says Bauer.

Then there is Rubber Ducks, a 10×60’ ecological/psychological thriller that Tandem is developing with Haut et Court TV (The Returned) and July-August Productions. “The story is based on an experiment by Nasa, exploring ideas of ecological change not only on the environment but also on human behaviour. The series writer is Yael Hedaya, known for her work on Israeli drama series In Treatment.”

Tandem is handling worldwide distribution on this series, and the company clearly sees this side of the business as fundamental to its growth strategy – whether it relates to its own productions or those of third parties. For example, Tandem is sharing distribution duties with Sky Vision on The Last Panthers, a six-part series commissioned by Canal+ and Sky Atlantic, which has been developed and coproduced by Haut et Court TV and Warp Films (This is England, Four Lions, Southcliffe).

“The series originated as an idea from celebrated French journalist Jerome Pierrat and the screenplay is from Jack Thorne (Skins, This is England, A Long Way Down, Glue, The Fades),” says Bauer. “It’s based on the world-famous Pink Panthers, a network of jewel thieves. Filming began late October 2014 in the four key shooting locations of London, Marseille, Belgrade and Montenegro.”

Other current third-party distribution projects, include ZeroZeroZero and Pirate’s Passage. The former, says Bauer, is based on Roberto Saviano’s recently released book of the same title and is the follow-up to his international best-seller Gomorrah. “The eight-hour series was commissioned by Canal+ Creation Originale and Cattleya, Italy’s leading independent film and TV producer. It is a compelling and revelatory dissection of the global traffic of cocaine and how it touches lives across an international social spectrum.”

Pirate’s Passage, meanwhile, is an unusual project for Tandem to be involved with: “It is an animated movie coproduced and co-written by, and starring the voice talent of, Donald Sutherland. The book, written by fellow Canadian George Gilkerson, resonated with Donald in a very personal manner – he is passionate about the story.”

Anyone who has been around the TV business long enough will realise there is always a risk attached to ramping up production and getting ahead of demand. But Bauer doesn’t see any imminent danger of that: “The amount of programming needed each year just continues to increase, with many of the US nets’ demands now 12 months a year. With the summer re-run season dying out, channels need fresh programming where they are not carrying the full load of financing. The most attractive option to close these gaps is via an international coproduction, which is what Tandem has been producing since 1999. And, incidentally, every one of our productions has been sold into the US market.”

It’s not just the US market that is driving Tandem’s growth, however. “Another factor that has propelled the current wave of drama is the burgeoning media landscape worldwide,” says Bauer. “There has been enormous growth in media channels, broadcasters and platforms, and everything has become so niche and specific when it comes to programming. This requires a constant flow of new series to accommodate the demand – and there are just so many good stories to tell.

“Also, the industry’s success in producing cinematic television drama has continued to blur the lines between film and TV. Audiences worldwide can now get on TV what they were formerly only accustomed to viewing in the cinema.”

Explaining Tandem’s success with copros, Bauer cites factors such as: “Working with top-level writers/showrunners who have proven themselves as having editorial lines that transcend borders and maintaining budgets in keeping with the successful US one-hour series that have ruled the international primetime slots for years.”

Above all, however, she says: “For us, it always starts with the writing – telling the best possible stories with interesting and well-developed characters. The creative aspect must always come first. When this is sacrificed for the business side, it doesn’t work.”

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