Euro TV producers to pick American brains

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European TV drama producers, the British and Germans in particular, seem determined to learn all the tricks of their trade -- as they apply in the U.S. The industrialization of TV production by U.S. studios is something many European producers are urgently looking to adopt as they cope with harsh economic realities.

At least that is the viewpoint of noted international production consultant Katrina Wood, founder and CEO of Los Angeles- and London-based media firm MediaXchange. But her point is well illustrated by the fact that the Princess Anne Theater at the British Academy of Film and Television and Arts in London is booked for a conference Thursday that features a bevy of leading U.S. showrunners, including David Shore, creator/executive producer/showrunner of "House."

The aim of the gathering of TV executives from the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Spain and other big international territories is to look at how the U.S. process of writing and sustaining TV series could be a model for production in Europe.

Joining Shore in the panel lineup are Carol Flint ("ER," "The West Wing"), Scott Free Prods. president of television David Zucker, Sony Pictures Television International senior vp production Antony Root, BBC Drama's Julie Gardner and Paul Marquess, managing director at Endemol U.K.'s drama division.

"Basically, one of the roles that is aspired to by the Europeans but not yet established in the production process is the role of the showrunner. They don't really exist in Europe, and the process is greatly admired by the Europeans," says Woods, the event's organizer.

The Europeans see the U.S. model -- with multiple writers working as a team under the direction of a head writer, who also takes the chief production role -- as being the proven way to successfully sustain long-term productions, she says.

"The Americans have industrialized the process, while the Europeans are still hanging onto the tail end of public broadcasting and making shows that they think people ought to watch," Woods says. "But with the emergence of the commercial broadcaster all over Europe, producers are dancing to a different drummer."

The old European model rarely could produce a viable number of episodes for syndication, she says, which is what many are now looking to achieve by adopting models similar to the U.S. system.

Thursday's conference is just one in a long-running series of events organized by Woods designed to bring U.S. and European producers into working forums to figure out new international production models that can work in different territories.
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