MIPTV: Wild Bunch Exec Talks About Ambitions for TV Division (Q&A)

The Weinstein Company
Wild Bunch produced 2012's 'The Artist'

The TV division of the French indie behind 'The Artist' and 'Blue Is the Warmest Color' already has big shows and even bigger plans.

Just six months old, Wild Bunch’s newly launched TV division brought its first shows, the big-budget historical drama Medici: Masters of Florence and the Spanish-language crime drama Four Seasons in Havana, to MIPTV.

Medici, starring Dustin Hoffman and Richard Madden and with a budget of $28.5 million, is an ambitious start for the TV arm of Vincent Maraval’s company, the French indie with a deep roster of talent including Jacques Audiard, Arnaud Desplechin and Gaspar Noe.

Wild Bunch has been behind the Oscar-winning The Artist, the last two Palme d’Or winners Dheepan and Blue is the Warmest Color, and art house fare such as Noe’s Love. Medici, created by Frank Spotnitz, has already been greenlighted for a second season.

Havana, a crime series co-written by best-selling author Leonardo Padura, is budgeted at a much smaller $4.5 million, and will premiere its first episode at the Series Mania festival in Paris later this month.

Wild Bunch TV head Carole Baraton spoke with The Hollywood Reporter to discuss the launch, the ambition behind Medici and future plans following the company’s recent merger with Germany’s Senator Entertainment.

What was behind the decision to launch a television division?

It’s not really a decision or big strategy choice, because it’s something so obvious nowadays that when you are financing, creating, selling, distributing content for more than 10 years, moving images are going from cinema to television. These two domains are much less separated than they used to be. It was just an organic development, basically.

How are the two divisions integrated?

It’s more like a horizontal collaboration. There is a department that is totally dedicated to TV and working with specific TV producers. But Wild Bunch is a direct distributor in Italy, Spain, Germany and France, obviously, and so there is great synergy in scouting projects and financing from those countries where we have an ongoing daily relationships with the broadcasters and local platforms. With our relationships in cinema, we can talk to producers and propose to bring some of our talents on board at the very early stage.

Why did you select Medici and Havana — two very different series in scale and language — as your first projects?

The two are very good examples of how our spectrum can be large. We decided to look for a very ambitious series produced for international. Medici is an Italian production with a highly evolved and very solid producer, an American showrunner and creator, and an international cast and shot in English. So it was an obvious step for us and an obvious choice as one of the first series to announce as it’s something that can resonate with every single broadcaster in the world. We did not go out thinking we want something big and expensive. We went for the talents, the right team and the story, and it was great timing for us. But the second thought was that this is the level of production we want and we want to be players at this level.

Four Seasons in Havana is more focused on the storytelling; it’s a crime series, a procedural and an adaptation from a famous novelist with a very intelligent story. We thought crime in Havana would be a great combination — “Caribbean Noir,” as I like to say. So they are very different choices, but they are very representative of what we will be looking for in the future. The most important thing is to sell the series internationally, and we knew that there were opportunities for both of them, but in the meantime it was to send a signal to the production world of television that we can be a partner for both of these kinds of series, which are totally on different playgrounds.

Was the fact that Havana is in Spanish a strategic decision to reach that growing market for sales?

It’s not only about the Spanish market, it’s about going to different countries with their own stories that are rooted and local but can attract interest from everywhere around the world. The Scandis and the Nordics launched a way of producing their own stuff and discovered the world was interested, which we can replicate everywhere as long as there is quality and great stories.

Do you have any concern that you are jumping into TV at a time when there is an explosion of shows on the market?

I think that’s where we are [as an industry], asking ourselves the question, ‘Is it too much or is it just because there are more and more platforms?’ With the explosion of the OTTs and the explosion of the offerings, it’s going to be more and more competitive and the limit is the consumer. After a certain stage, they can’t watch that many series per year. So there is going to be a natural selection. I think there will likely be a shift in the creation of long-running series — there is still something very valuable there and I’m not saying it’s finished, but with binge watching you can feel after the first season the consumer often wants to go to something else because there is something new. So it’s going to shift the way of producing and delivery. But today there are more question marks than answers.

Will you be working with [Wild Bunch’s VOD offer] FilmoTV?

Because of the regulations in France, [FilmoTV is] more positioned on second windows. So in terms of TV series, it’s more focused on cinema for the moment, but there will be a natural evolution for Filmo to go for more series. But we are not at the stage of financing TV series.

Will you be working with Senator on TV series?

Yes, because Senator already had a production division and they are doing TV. So for us it’s quite new, but for them it was already routine. We have not yet announced or delivered anything together, but there are talks of developing series together, which could be produced by our German colleagues and financed internationally.

Are you seeking American partners?

It’s our second step. That is the direction we want to go.

What are your hopes for the growth of the division?

In five years we want to be co-producing, co-financing and selling between five and seven series per year from all over the world. We would like to really settle down with some European producers and establish more long-term partnerships with a couple of producers, but still want to be free to cherry-pick series and continue to keep an eye on indies.