Please wait...
Please wait...


What the world’s producers, platforms and channels are developing.

Bringing your A game to TV

Belgian film prodco A Team Productions, which was acquired by Fremantle in March, is expanding into drama series. Co-founder Hendrik Verthé tells C21 about the company’s TV ambitions and how backing from the European production giant has changed things.

Trizombie is a zombie apocalypse story with a twist

Belgium’s A Team Productions had already learned it could reap major benefits from a close partnership with another company. So when global production giant Fremantle came knocking on the door, it didn’t take long for the two producers behind the Flanders prodco to convince themselves that selling was the right thing to do.

“When you start up a production company, about 60% is working on a movie and about 40% is all the other stuff,” says Hendrik Verthé, A Team’s co-founder. “And then it starts shifting. If you’re in the editing suite and all day long you’re thinking, ‘Oh no, my mailbox is exploding!’ That’s not how we want to operate.”

The production company, known for launching the careers of directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah with award-winning movies like Image, Black and Gangsta, sold a majority stake to Fremantle last spring, after the co-founders grew tired of spending so much time and energy on financing, distribution and other tasks they found tedious.

Hendrik Verthé

Verthé founded the company together with Kobe van Steenberghe when they were both fresh out of film school nearly 15 years ago. “We wanted to make movies but didn’t want to have to convince a producer first,” Verthé says, laughing.

They started with documentaries and shorts, directing some of them themselves. Van Steenberghe continues to write, penning A Team’s recent feature Baghdad Messi, based on the previously produced Berlin-winning short of the same name.

“Kobe and I like the process of making the movie, and we do the financing and the distribution process, but it’s less our strength. That’s where Fremantle comes in. We wanted to change the structure so that we can focus on the making.”

And it wasn’t as big a step as it might seem. A Team already had a structural partner in The Searchers, an Antwerp-based distribution company co-founded by Elise Van Marcke, who Verthé also knew from film school. That partnership also grew out of A Team wanting to sharpen its focus and leave distribution to others.

Streamz drama Alter Ego is in post-production

“I knew Elise and had followed what she was doing,” recalls Verthé. “The Searchers was not really involved with local productions, rather it brought international content into Belgium.”

But soon The Searchers was distributing A Team’s movies both locally and abroad, and now is helping to finance them. “We had had some propositions from companies to enter structural partnerships,” says Verthé, “but we never dared to because it’s hard to know who you are getting into business with internationally. It’s a big risk if you don’t have control of a production. So we avoided that situation. We’ve worked with The Searchers for years now and have built up trust with them.”

The latest project with The Searchers is the second Gangsta movie, which starts shooting next spring. The Searchers, taking steps to expand its services from solely distribution, has secured co-financing from Amazon Prime Video, which has acquired the worldwide streaming rights. Theatrical release is already assured in the Benelux markets, with rights retained to sell into other territories.

The success with The Searchers primed Verthé and Van Steenberghe for the eventual offer from Fremantle. “It fits in with our international ambitions to have these strong partners beside us,” says Verthé.

Kids on the Block for youth broadcaster Ketnet

And Fremantle’s support “convinces us to think bigger. We have tried to grow the company in the last few years, but we kept just going with the flow. Sometimes smaller production companies stick with self-imposed limits. We really feel like, in the last six months, working with Fremantle has helped. It has obliged us to think bigger, and you can do that because you have the backing.”

A Team moved into television last year, shooting series Kids on the Block for local youth broadcaster Ketnet, owned and operated by the Flemish public broadcaster VRT. The short stories of about 12 minutes each revolve around the simple adventures of a group of multi-cultural pre-adolescents. The prodco is also in post-production on drama series Alter Ego, commissioned by Belgian streamer Streamz, and on Trizombie, to be released by Flemish broadcaster VTM next spring.

Slated for release by the end of the year, the eight-episode Alter Ego is about “how death lives among us and how it functions.” Death appears in human form, and not just one human. “It could be anybody,” Verthé continues. “It touches you, and then your time has come, and you die in the next few hours. And there’s a love story.”

Trizombie, meanwhile, is just what it sounds like – “it’s a zombie apocalypse,” says Verthé. But naturally there’s a twist. “Everybody changes except for people with a different string in their DNA, and that means they have Down syndrome. They don’t change, and they have to save the world.” Trizombie will be released by VTM on March 21, 2024, World Down Syndrome Day.