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C21 DIGITAL SCREENINGS

Cineflix Rights

Programming Profile

Cineflix in the best of both worlds

17-06-2020
As the largest independent distributor in the UK, Cineflix Rights blends global scale with a boutique mindset and has a slate of programming on C21’s Digital Screenings to match.

 

Among international distributors, Cineflix Rights stands out as an independent company able to take advantage of parent Cineflix Media’s global scale while retaining an ability to be agile and nimble in negotiations with producers and buyers.

 

It’s a position CEO Chris Bonney calls the “sweet spot,” with the business also standing on a creative front foot that has helped it build a geographically- and genre-diverse slate that boasts scripted series such as Iceland’s The Minister, Israel’s Tehran and Russia’s An Ordinary Woman alongside factual series that take viewers to all corners of the globe.

 

Bonney
Chris Bonney, Cineflix Media Inc.

“We’re very much playing to that position and enjoying it,” Bonney says. “One of the interesting things about Cineflix is we are independently owned and creatively led. That allows us to make the right decisions about projects that we really believe in and can enjoy taking to market without too many of the complications that might come from some of our bigger competitors. And as the market continues to consolidate, our position should strengthen in that regard.

 

“Certainly, producers who’ve come our way have referenced the concerns they’ve had about dealing with some of those bigger players, where they worry about how well their content will be promoted in the context of being part of a huge library. We keep playing that role really well. It’s giving us a quite fruitful approach to building both the in-house and third-party slates across all genres, scripted and unscripted.”

 

Durie
James Durie, Cineflix Rights

Though Cineflix’s pipeline of content delivery has been largely unaffected by the pandemic so far, the past few months have not been without their challenges. Not least for recently appointed head of scripted James Durie, who joined the company from Miramax in March and enjoyed two weeks in the office before the UK lockdown forced him and his new colleagues to start working from home.

 

“Someone joked at the beginning, ‘Cineflix is the kind of company that will make you feel very at home,’ and I didn’t quite realise how literal that was going to be,” Durie says. “Two weeks in the office and then the rest in my spare room. It wasn’t quite how I envisioned it.”

 

Based in London and with offices Dublin, Toronto, Montreal and New York, the firm is well placed to handle remote working and ensure business continues as normal as much as possible.

 

“Launching content is proving to be the key requirement,” Bonney says. “How can we stay noisy in the market with relevant news? The marketing team have done an awesome job with initiatives and jumping into stuff like the ‘e-premiere’ of The Minister, which worked well. We completely overhauled our marketing platform a year ago, and that was good timing. We’ve also had quite a lot of newsworthy PR. We’re conscious times are not normal, but we’ve managed to keep on track.”

 

In scripted, Durie says Cineflix wants to expand its slate through acquisitions and coproductions via Cineflix Studios, describing the focus of his new role as “evolution, not revolution.” Therefore, IP and talent are at the forefront of his mind when considering a new project, while the size of Cineflix means he needs to take a more targeted approach to selecting shows.

 

“We can be a little bit obsessed in this business with high-concept, massive-budget TV shows, which catch all the press and attention and rightly so. They are so impressive, and how far we’ve come in the last five years is insane,” he says. “The TV I like watching is more that sort of mid-range, US$1m-to-US$1.7m-an-episode shows, which really have to work hard, or maybe even harder, at telling that story instead of relying on big budgets and big talent to pull it through.”

 

An Ordinary Woman
An Ordinary Woman

Durie also describes himself as “territory-agnostic,” believing a show’s origin and language are not barriers to it becoming a hit. “I came from a background where if it wasn’t produced in LA, it didn’t exist,” he says.

 

“What’s fantastic about An Ordinary Woman and The Minister is these are two great shows produced out of countries traditionally ignored by the English-language scripted world. They are great stories produced fantastically well, and ones that resonate internationally no matter what language is spoken. We will continue on foreign-language development but, equally, we will look a little bit more at working with our partners at Buccaneer Media on English-language content.”

 

Durie believes the Covid-19 situation has been a “double-edged sword” for distributors, with the increased demand for content to fill holes in schedules balanced out by reduced budgets as a result of an advertising slowdown.

 

“We certainly have felt the former and the demand for content has been strong,” he says. “But I’m not sure whether that is caused by the Covid situation or the alchemy of the launch of new platforms at exactly the same time.

 

“In this period, we’ve had Disney+ launch, we’ve had HBO Max, Peacock and Salto, while Britbox had a soft launch early last year but really it’s now coming into its own. All across the international market, we’ve got these new platforms, which, whether we were in the Covid situation or not, would have had an impact on distributors, so I’m not convinced on what the impact would have been with or without [the pandemic].”

 

The Minister
The Minister

Cineflix has certainly been quick to partner with some of these platforms, recently announcing a deal for espionage thriller Tehran that will see AppleTV+ become the exclusive streaming home of the series around the world. From Fauda writer Moshe Zonder and produced for Israeli network Kan 11, it tells the story of a Mossad agent who goes undercover on a mission in the Iranian capital that places her and everyone around her in jeopardy.

 

Meanwhile, a unique political drama for unique political times, Iceland’s The Minister (8×60’) charts the rise of an unconventional politician with a hidden mental health condition. “The language they speak is almost irrelevant in that show,” Durie says. “We have so many populist politicians that it just really played into our psyche on that. If you want a diverse portfolio, this really has to be a part of that. We’re just now putting the marketing into place and the sales drive into place; the feedback has been really positive and we hope it will find some really nice homes.”

 

Coroner
Coroner

Recently selling to Channel 4 in the UK and The CW in the US, Canadian drama Coroner (16×60’) is based on the bestselling books by MR Hall. It stars Serinda Swan as a recently widowed coroner who investigates suspicious, unnatural and sudden deaths in Toronto.

 

Discussing the show, Durie says: “A lot of buyers always talk about their marketing divisions giving them giving them trouble if they’re not picking up things that have a hook. The hook is often associated with talent, IP or stories they can relate to. Coroner has all of those. The IP is great. It’s a beautifully produced show and it’s that classic closed-ended episodic crime procedural, which we know has a great place in many schedules internationally. The CW and Channel 4 deals, and the fact we have announced season three already, will hopefully propel that show in some other markets as well.”

 

Happily Married
Happily Married

Happily Married (10×45’), a French-Canadian drama that debuted at Berlinale earlier this year. Set in 1974, it follows two couples in crisis who embark on a deadly path to marital bliss. The series mixes drama and offbeat humour with some criminal characters who are eminently likeable, despite their decent into darkness.

 

“It’s a Coen Brothers-style satire in many ways, whichh is definitely finding its audience with broadcasters,” Durie says of the series. “I love a show like that, which different territories view in a different way. I love having it on the slate, because you can have the shows that do exactly what they say on the tin and then you can have shows where people can make what they want of them. Happy Married fits that demographic pretty well.”

 

Across two seasons, An Ordinary Woman (17×60’) follows 39-year-old Marina, a seemingly normal woman living a regular life in Moscow. But behind this facade lurk many dark secrets, not least that Marina actually runs a clandestine group of prostitutes, her husband has a mistress, her older daughter is a drug dealer and her youngest child is a sociopath. Durie says the mix of melodrama and crime – “the Breaking Bad model” – never fails, with this breakout Russian series winning local awards and star Anna Mikhalkova being named best actress at French festival Series Mania in 2018.

 

Marcella
Marcella

Airing on ITV in the UK and Netflix internationally, Buccaneer Media’s Marcella (24×60’) is set to return for a third season later this year. Starring Anna Friel, the series is a dark and complex crime thriller about a police officer struggling with personal problems.

 

“Marcella will go down as one of the great UK detective series because it’s so unique,” Durie says. “We are obviously slightly obsessed in this business with the mix of family life and crime, and how those two things are oil and water but they always come together at some point. It’s a show we’re very passionate about and we are discussing a number of international format rights for it, so it’s clearly something broadcasters are buying into.”

 

Pure
Pure

Loosely based on true events, Pure (12×60’) tells the story of a newly elected Mennonite pastor who is determined to rid his community of drugs and its ties to cross-border smuggling. Meanwhile, Mirage (6×60’) stands out as the first drama France Télévisions and Germany’s ZDF have ordered under their Alliance co-commissioning banner. The mystery thriller sees a woman starting a new life in Abu Dhabi with her son and husband, leading to intrigue, espionage and an explosive love triangle when she discovers her former husband, believed to be dead, is still alive.

 

Discussing Mirage, Durie says: “It’s a great story situated in a unique location and it plays into the spy thriller genre, which is having a comeback. It’s definitely catching attention from public broadcasters, which are looking to emulate what France TV and ZDF are doing. We’re excited about the show and where it where it can lead to.

 

Mirage
Mirage

“We are certainly looking to work with those partners more and repeat the trick again if possible.”

 

In unscripted, Bonney highlights five series that mix factual entertainment, wildlife, adventure and home makeovers.

 

“In this current world within unscripted, any stuff that’s slightly lighter and feel-good has been avidly picked up, and quite often in volume,” says the CEO. “We’re bringing season 21 of aviation investigation series Mayday: Air Disaster (190×60’) to market now, and season 22 is about to start production once lockdown allows.

 

“That has a really loyal audience besides the core broadcaster National Geographic Channels International, which has a very loyal audience worldwide. We know how to produce it with drama, pace and energy to a market that is very receptive to it.”

 

Property Brothers
Property Brothers

Property Brothers (187×60’), fronted by Drew and Jonathan Scott, is “extremely hot property,” Bonney jokes, with several spin-offs also on offer such as Property Brothers: Buying & Selling, The Property Brothers at Home, Brother vs Brother and latest incarnation Property Brothers: Forever Home.

 

“They know how to give good-value entertainment. The home-transformation element you see in these shows is a huge crowd-pleaser, and the brothers bring an extra level of engagement for the viewer,” Bonney says. “The latest spin of turning houses that people have outgrown or want to update into a ‘forever home’ is really fresh. Perhaps in this current world, where we will be a bit more financially challenged, this concept is more appealing. It’s one of those shows that keeps on giving.”

 

My Family and the Galapagos
My Family and the Galapagos

In My Family and the Galapagos (7×60’), marine biologist and conservationist Monty Halls and his family enjoy spectacular wildlife encounters and life-changing adventures surrounded by the islands’ unique biodiversity. “It plays to a real family audience,” Bonney says. “It gives both takeaway information for the keen biologist and animal lovers of the world and this great, warm feeling as a family experience. It works incredibly well for Channel 4, and it’s selling nicely for us too. That’s beginning to become a bit of a franchise. You feel that it could keep on keep on returning.”

 

Fellow wildlife-focused series Inside Taronga Zoo (10×60’) offers exclusive access to the Sydney attraction. Narrated by Hollywood star Naomi Watts, the Channel 9 show has been placed with National Geographic in the US and More4 in the UK. “The beauty of this is there are some really great characters among the staff at the zoo, but the animals are really the stars of the show,” Bonney says. “You get the added advantage of Australian animals that we don’t see so much, or in such abundance, in our own zoos. We’re hopeful of a season two.”

 

Into the Unknown
Into the Unknown

Finally, Into the Unknown (6×60’) is a Travel Channel series in which survivalist Cliff Simon tackles forbidding landscapes as he investigates myths. “He takes his survivalist and intuitive skills from his army training to explore these myths and uncover them.” Bonney says. “That’s just rolling out now and getting pickups from some male-skewing networks. That’s a nice one for the slate.”

 

At a time when holidays are likely to be postponed for the foreseeable future, Cineflix Rights has a slate to take viewers around the world, in both scripted and unscripted.