Drama Co-pro Toppers Stir It Up at MIPTV 2014

PASSION, trust and shared vision. That's the name of the game when it comes to original drama co-production for several major MIPTV 2014 keynoters and 60 top drama co-producers attending the third edition of the MIPTV International Drama Co-Production Summit in Cannes.

Long time colleagues Starz CEO Chris Albrecht and Playground chairman and CEO Colin Callender traded anecdotes about past and present collaborations  at MIPTV's opening Media Mastermind keynote. The two collectively have won more than 200 Emmies, Golden Globes and other awards while working together at HBO and more recently on such projects as the BBC's eight part series The Missing

Earlier co-productions were always "a conversation about two co-producers trusting or not trusting that each was on the same side," said Callender,  adding,  "As I look at the market now, although things have changed, the challenges of co-productions have remained: it’s about trust and relationships.” Albrecht pointed out that what is true for networks financing their own shows is also true for co-productions and co-producers:  "You've got to find a good idea, you have to have someone who you believe in who has a vision and can execute that vision, then you have to make sure they have the resources necessary to fulfil their vision...."

Resonance is everything when it comes to co-production and both Albrecht and Callender were cautious about the current wave of reformats of European drama co-productions. Callender cited Upstairs, Downstairs as a case in which cultural nuance prove a stumbling block.  "In the original British version, all the people living downstairs thought they should be living downstairs. In America anyone who lives downstairs thinks they should be living upstairs," he said, adding that the nuance of the British class system did not resonate in the American remake.

The MIPTV 2014 International Drama Co-production Summit drew some 60 veterans and top executives in the business of drama co-production, among them industry  players involved in such major projects as War and Peace (The Weinstein Company, Lookout Point and BBC Worldwide), Borgia (Atlantique Productions/Beta Film/ Canal Plus and EOS Entertainment) and The Honourable Woman (Sundance TV/BBC/Eight Rooks/Drama Republic).

A closed door event, the Summit also included, among others, mavericks players such as DR's Piv Bernth, Lookout Point's Simon Vaughan, UTA's Peter Benedek, CBC's Sally Catto, Boomerang TV's Pau Calpe Rufat, Haut et Court's Jimmy Desmarais, Scalli Filmworks Chris Long (The Mentalist) and Entertainment One's Carrie Stein. Aim was to give the top players and maverick movers and shakers in drama co-production time to meet with each other in an environment where they could talk about future projects as well as thorny issues emerging in the new co-producton landscape specific to the decision-making level at which most of them are operating.

"The room was filled with real players," Tom Fontana, a first timer at the Summit, told Future Vision. Fontana, who has just wrapped the third and final season of Borgia and Big Light Productions CEO Frank Spotnitz took to the stage in two separate Q&A sessions to talk up, among other things, the increasing demand in Europe for showrunners. Spotnitz (X-Files/Hunted/Transporter Season 2) was clearly cooking with energy during the event both onstage and off and announced shortly after the Summit ended a first look deal with STUDIOCANAL'S Tandem Communications.

Yellow Bird producer Marianne Gray, currently at work on the TV2 Norway/ARTE co-production Occupied, based on an original Jo Nesbo idea, was at the Summit for the second year in a row. Said Gray, "It was good to hear showrunners talk about their roles since they are perceived very differently in each country." Dariusz Jablonski, CEO Apple Film Production (The Passing Bells/Spies of Warsaw),  also at the Summit for the second year in a row, believes the potential in drama co-production is 10 times what it was 20 years ago. "Mixing it up with talent from different countries, from different cultures, is on its way to becoming as natural as breathing," he added.

Caption: Borgia showrunner Tom Fontana