FremantleMedia, 'Rake' Producer Team on Australian Production Firm Easy Tiger

Fremantle takes a majority stake in the new company headed by former Essential Media executive Ian Collie.

FremantleMedia has taken a majority stake in newly created Australian TV production company Easy Tiger Productions, set up by acclaimed Aussie producer Ian Collie (Saving Mr. Banks, Rake).

Collie, one of the principals in Australia's Essential Media Entertainment, will run the new drama shingle as managing director with a team culled from Essential Media, including development executives Rachael Turk and Tanya Phegan.

Easy Tiger Productions board members will include FremantleMedia’s Sangeeta Desai, COO and CEO emerging markets; Sarah Doole, director of global drama; and Ian Hogg, regional CEO, Australia & Asia Pacific.

Essential's scripted assets, including several projects in development and its slate of past drama series, among them the award-winning Rake with Richard Roxburgh, Jack Irish, which stars Guy Pearce, and Doctor Doctor with Rodger Corser, will be transferred to Easy Tiger.

Essential will continue to operate under CEO Chris Hilton. The company remains one of Australia's leading production outfits, with a slate of shows ranging from animation to reality TV formats.

“We are extremely proud of the exceptional drama IP Essential Media has created and financed over the years and are pleased to see it find the additional resources it needs to prosper under FremantleMedia. We wish Ian Collie the very best in the new venture," Hilton said.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Collie said being part of FremantleMedia would give the company access to the international marketplace, both to sell Australian-made drama worldwide, via Fremantle's distribution network, and to better cooperate on international co-productions.

“There is definitely a lot of cross-pollination between companies in the FremantleMedia stable and that's the real beauty of this deal,” Collie said. “It allows us to work with companies like (The Young Pope producer) Wildside in Italy or Germany's UFA (Generation War). It just makes things a lot easier.”

FremantleMedia, which produces such entertainment formats as Pop Idol and Got Talent, has shifted its global strategy significantly towards drama production in recent years, with series such as HBO's The Young Pope and Starz's American Gods.

Easy Tiger kicks off with several shows already up and running. Doctor Doctor (aka The Heart Guy) recently bowed its second season on Channel Nine in Australia, and comedy drama Rake has been picked up for a fifth season on Australia's ABC TV, with production to start later this year. Toni Collette, Rachel Griffiths, Hugo Weaving and Sam Neill are among the A-list Aussie talent that have guest-starred on Rake. Collie executive produced Fox television's short-lived U.S. remake of the series, about an outspoken and self-destructive criminal defense lawyer, which starred Greg Kinnear.

“There's been a lot of recognition of Australian actors in the past but now people are coming to see we have amazing writers and director down here too, who can produce incredible high-end drama for the international market,” said Collie.

Upcoming projects from Easy Tiger include the four-part miniseries The Sunshine Kings, starring Anthony LaPaglia, Melanie Lynskey and Vince Colosimo, which was commissioned by SBS in Australia. FremantleMedia will debut Sunshine Kings at the MIPCOM TV trade fair in Cannes in October. The series follows Jacob Garang (newcomer Wally Elnour), a Sudanese-Australian basketball player on the cusp of being recruited by U.S. scouts for the U.S. College league who gets caught up in a police investigation involving a teenage girl from the rich suburbs around Melbourne. The Sunshine Kings was picked to open this year's inaugural Melbourne chapter of television festival Series Mania.