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Asacha Media Group

Programming Profile

Building European connections with Asacha Media Group


Maria Ishak of Asacha Media Group outlines the fast-growing company’s plans to expand further into unscripted and what she looks for in a coproduction, and talks through the new slate of shows on C21’s Digital Screenings.


European production company Asacha Media Group is built around seven prodcos: Kabo Family, Srab Films and Mintee in France; Picomedia and Stand by Me in Italy; and Red Planet Pictures and Wag Entertainment in the UK.


The group predominately operates in the scripted space but produces unscripted content too and intends to increase its focus on the latter in line with a heightened demand for premium factual shows and docs.


“Our DNA is about 80% scripted but we’re looking to put more emphasis on and investment into factual programming,” says Maria Ishak, Asacha’s head of international content and coproductions.


Maria Ishak,
Asacha Media Group

“There is a big appetite for drama, where we feel most of the platforms and channels’ revenues are being invested, but it’s pretty obvious there is a growing appetite for premium documentaries as well.”


On the drama front, Ishak sees an interest from buyers in character-led series in addition to light-hearted shows, the latter being in response to a world dealing with a pandemic, wars and an economic crisis. Talent is also important, the exec notes, in an extremely competitive environment.


“When I look at the market and speak to buyers about what they’re looking for, I hear a lot about strong characters and uplifting shows. I feel that the dark Scandi noir has been overdone,” she says.


Caroline Skinner,
Red Planet Pictures exec producer

“If you have a strong writer and A-list talent attached – anything that’s marketable – the buyers want it. You can’t be mediocre anymore; you have to aim for the best. There’s currently such a fight for attention, that when once you could sell a solid but smaller show, now you must go big to get the buyers’ attention.”


Part of Asacha’s strategy is to forge international coproductions and talent partnerships, both internally between the companies it owns and with external partners.


“Our strategy is simple: to work with the best producers and best talent, and to look at IP that make the most sense for us. We want to make sure we add value to every project we take on board, that we can use our resources and contacts, and leverage our internal production companies with external ones as well,” Ishak says.


“The three things we always look for when reviewing external projects are talent, reputation and the relationships the producers have. But the key thing for us to understand is if there is a coproduction opportunity with the countries where we have offices and the production companies we’ve acquired.”


One example of an internal coproduction is drama The Exphoria Code, which is being coproduced by Red Planet Pictures and Kabo Family, about a young female MI6 agent.


Trouble Mum

“It’s based on a book that we fell in love with at Red Planet and optioned,” says Red Planet Pictures exec producer Caroline Skinner. “It’s a spy thriller written by the New York Times bestselling novelist Antony Johnson, who is amazing at coming up with high-octane thrillers. He wrote the graphic novel that the Charlize Theron movie Atomic Blonde was based on.”


Over at Kabo Family, the France-based prodco recently signed a strategic deal with Canadian filmmaker Christian Duguay (Jappeloup, Coco Chanel), under which they will collaborate on the development and production of TV series.


Asacha has 10 shows on its Digital Screenings playlist this week. In drama, Killer Coaster (8×30’), from Kabo Family-owned Vacarme, is about a sloppy cop disowned by her department, who decides to take on an undercover job selling cotton candy at a fun fair after discovering a dead body there.


Also from Kabo Family is Trouble Mum (10×26’), which follows a 40-year-old divorcee who, after feeling elated following her separation from her husband, quickly hits a wall when she discovers he is now dating her lawyer.


From Picomedia, Mad Entertainment, Medusa Film and Rosebud comes Nostalgia (1×104’), about a man who returns to his hometown after 40 years abroad and faces a past that eats away at him.


Also from Picomedia is Everything Calls for Salvation (7×40’), based on a true story about a young man who spends a week in a psychiatric ward, where he meets five other patients and must contend with research-happy doctors and cynical nurses.


Saint Omer

Our House (4×46’), meanwhile, is a show from Red Planet Pictures that ranked in the UK’s top 10 drama releases of 2022 – a thriller based on Louise Candlish’s novel about a woman who discovers that her house has been sold without her knowledge and her husband is missing. Red Planet is also working with Louise Candlish on further adaptations and original content.


Also from Red Planet Pictures is period drama Sanditon, adapted from Jane Austen’s final and unfinished novel, for which three seasons are available, totalling 20 hours. The show airs on ITV and Britbox in the UK and PBS/Masterpiece in the US, with BBC Studios attached for distribution.


Elsewhere in drama is The General’s Men (8×50’), which comes from Stand by Me and Italy’s Rai Fiction. It tells the true story of the Special Anti-Terrorism Unit created by General Dalla Chiesa in response to the attack launched by the Red Brigades on the Italian State during the 1970s.


In comedy is Derby Girl (18×26’), from Kabo Family, about a fallen ice-skating star who wants to become the greatest roller-derby champion of all time, but unwittingly joins one of France’s worst teams.


Everything Calls for Salvation

In unscripted is Wag Entertainment’s Weird Earth (18×45’), a factual series that captures weather phenomena that can’t be explained.


Also from Wag Entertainment is three-part docuseries Don’t Hang Up the Phone (aka Pervert: Hunting the Strip Search Caller). It tells the true story of a hoax caller who, posing as a cop, persuaded managers to strip-search and abuse young female employees in fast-food chains across the US.


Lastly, from Srab Films is the incredible feature Saint Omer. A young novelist attends the trial of a woman accused of killing her 15-month-old daughter. But as the trial continues, the words of the accused and witness testimonies will shake her convictions and call into question her own judgement.


Both Red Planet Pictures and Kabo Family have multiple shows in development and production that they will be working on for the rest of this year.


“It’s a really big year for us,” says Red Planet’s Skinner. “We’re just about to embark on season 13 of Death in Paradise in the Caribbean and we’re delighted by how the audience has taken its sister series Beyond Paradise to heart. We’re only three episodes in, but the first episode consolidated at well over seven million viewers in its first week.


“We’re also working on a number of shows that might feel a little bit unexpected for Red Planet. Some are set across Europe, we’ve got a series set in Latin America, we’re working with some US-based partners, and we are developing a big Canadian series that has been script commissioned, based on a series of novels.


The Exphoria Code

“In terms of projects based on big IP, we’re excited about Dark Pines, which is based on some enormously popular crime thriller books by Will Dean that centre on a female millennial deaf journalist. We’re developing that with screenwriter Charlotte Jones and are excited about its potential as a popular mainstream series that could say some very interesting things about deafness and disability.”


Kabo Family’s Moatti adds: “At the moment we’re working on a sitcom for France Television and a short comedy that is going to be broadcast on M6 in France this year. We want to launch new developments in high-end drama and have a series that we’re discussing with a French partner that will be coproduced with Stand by Me.


“We’ve also just coproduced La Storia, an eight-hour miniseries with Picomedia based on a bestseller and which will be distributed by Beta Film, and will soon publicly announce a European coproduction – a spy drama with an international distributor.”


Ishak adds that Asacha is working with “a couple of US showrunners that have come our way, given what’s happening in the US and the chaotic state the industry there is in,” she says, alluding to the potential writers’ strike. “We’re in discussion with strong American talent who are interested in working on European projects in Europe – there are a lot of deals that are bubbling in that space.”