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Cineflix Rights

Programming Profile

Cineflix Rights builds on factual slate with international drama

16-11-2020

James Durie and Richard Life of Cineflix Rights showcase the UK-based distributor’s Content London playlist, discussing its recent scripted focus and opportunities for collaboration across a diverse slate.

 

London-based Cineflix Rights, the UK’s largest independent TV content distributor, provides premium scripted and factual programming to more than 500 broadcasters and platforms globally.

 

For head of acquisitions Richard Life, Cineflix’s recent move into the scripted space is part of its ongoing evolution. “Traditionally, we’ve mainly focused on unscripted, which the business was built on. But in recent years, through our own productions with Cineflix Studios, third-party acquisition activity, and our joint venture Buccaneer Media, scripted has now become very important. James Durie, who joined us to head up scripted, is a big part of that,” he says.

 

“We obviously realised the benefits of being across both scripted and unscripted. And with a proven track record in factual, we wanted to rival that in drama. We’ve had some great successes over the last two to three years, and are really looking to build on that,” adds Durie, pointing to the company’s signature scripted project.

 

Durie
James Durie, Cineflix Rights

“Tehran is a great example of an international production, which is a key component of what we want to do,” says Durie. “Tehran has proven to be a major success and shows what is possible with fantastic writing and a really well-made production.”

 

The 8×60’ Israeli espionage thriller is produced by Donna and Shula Productions in association with Paper Plane Productions, Cineflix Rights and Cosmote TV for Kan 11. “We were all pleasantly surprised it was the kind of show that Apple TV+ wanted to acquire and to promote as heavily as they have done,” says Durie. “We’re talking to a number of producers, particularly across emerging production territories like Israel, where there are great storytellers and production companies, to hopefully repeat its success.”

 

Cineflix has seen the global market respond well to other international titles on its slate, with the next three playlist choices also travelling. “We’ve had great success in the US, where diversification of the market has been a key component to that. We recently announced a multi-series package with SVoD platform Topic, which includes our Russian series An Ordinary Woman (17×60’), Icelandic political drama The Minister (8×60’) and Happily Married (10×45’) from Quebec,” says Durie.

 

Life
Richard Life, Cineflix Rights

“These are three fantastic shows that have found a really great home at Topic, bringing them to the wider North American market. We’re seeing in a number of territories that buyers are much more open to international content as long as the story is told well, and the productions are of high quality. We don’t see the provenance of a show as a barrier to sale as it was perhaps 18 to 24 months ago.”

 

Happily Married, produced by Productions Casablanca, was a Berlinale Series 2020 official selection. “During the last couple of years, we’ve been looking to build relationships in different countries, as sometimes it’s very hard to compete in the UK and the US, where there are very big beasts circling the water,” says Life. “We’re a more boutique company that has made a deliberate move to go out into the world and seek projects further afield. Happily Married just stood out as something really original and different, and the premise was rather compelling,” says Life.

 

An Ordinary Woman
An Ordinary Woman

For Durie, being a more boutique agency is part of Cineflix’s strength. “We need to be precise in our decision-making process, picking shows we really believe in from a commercial and creative point of view. In doing that, we’re able to create a really diverse portfolio of content.”

 

Life points to the success of An Ordinary Woman, from Look Film and 1-2-3 Production, as coinciding with Russian drama’s increasing international resonance. “Local broadcasters are now willing to take more risks, simply investing more money and seeing the value for their own audiences,” he says. Life also believes Russia’s cinematic heritage is helping to fuel its international success. “There’s a fantastic filmmaking tradition. If you go back and look at the evolution of scripted television in any country, it’s evolved from what is an incredibly talented filmmaking base, and that’s true of Russia.”

 

Like the wider industry, Cineflix has had to adapt to a virtual new normal, evident when promoting Sagafilm’s The Minister. For Durie, marketing is an increasingly key component when launching new projects to the business. “We pioneered the digital premiere for The Minister, to bring new content to the market during the pandemic,” he says.

 

Happily Married
Happily Married

Cineflix’s successful partnership with Buccaneer Media, Co-run by Tony Wood and Richard Tulk-Hart, is behind two upcoming titles Cineflix Rights will be distributing, strengthening their participation in UK productions, notes Durie, repeating the success Cineflix Studios has had in Canada. “Whitstable Pearl (6×45’) is an exciting new take on the British crime procedural, harnessing the talents of iconic Norwegian filmmaker Øystein Karlsen and is currently shooting down on the south coast, and Crime [6×60’], a more stylised dark crime series, is the first TV adaptation from Irvine Welsh, with Dougray Scott in the lead role” he says. “What I hear loud and clear from buyers internationally is they want good, recognisable IP, stacked with talent in genres they know where they’ll go on their schedule. Crime is a very successful genre and will continue to be.”

 

Buccaneer’s third season of Marcella, bringing the series to a total of 24 one-hour episodes, has launched internationally on Netflix and will return to ITV in the UK. “It continues that fantastic piece of IP that has become a mainstay in the British detective genre, featuring incredible characters and storytelling, which the international market has really taken to,” says Durie. The series is currently being remade as Rebecca for TF1.

 

Cineflix’s next playlist titles come from Canada. “Canadian productions are currently enjoying great success,” says Durie, referring to Coroner (26×60’), produced by Muse Entertainment, Back Alley Film Productions and Cineflix Studios, and Wynonna Earp, (49×60’), produced by IDW Entertainment, Cineflix Studios and Seven24 Films. “The CW just announced they’re also taking season three of Coroner. And Wynonna Earp, which has just finished production on season four, has been an absolutely huge success for Syfy in the US, Sci-Fi in Canada, and now rolling out internationally” Durie adds.

 

The Minister
The Minister

Despite the shift into the scripted space, unscripted is still equally important to Cineflix. “We acquire around 350 hours of factual content a year from independent producers, which is significant. Our job is to find those shows that can break out, such as My Big Family Farm,” says Life. Produced by Renegade Pictures and Motion Content Group, the 10×60’ show, airing as Our Yorkshire Farm on Channel 5, captures what audiences are currently looking for, says Life. “We could see something in its escapist feel with strong family values as well; there was something beautiful about it. It’s an indicator of what’s popular in the market at the moment because of Covid-19, the desire for escapism, but it has a real longevity as well” he adds.

 

UK factual content has seen a resurgence, says Life, pointing to another playlist title, The World’s Most Scenic Railway Journeys (20×60’). “Recently there’s been more interest in British factual content. The UK has always produced really good-quality factual, and we’ve been enjoying a bit of a boom that’s driven partly by gaps in schedules that have opened up by productions being put on hold.” Produced by BriteSpark Films for Channel 5 in the UK, the show “is full of beautiful locations and is the perfect tonic for people at the moment.”

 

Coroner
Coroner

Another change for Cineflix is that it’s now joining projects earlier. “It’s very competitive for content among distributors. Our creative-led approach to acquisitions is proving to be successful, which means getting on board shows early, helping to fund them through pre-sales and helping producers to get to greenlight quicker, which benefits us, the broadcaster and producer,” says Life, pointing to the next playlist choice, Inside Taronga Zoo (26×60’), produced by McAvoy Media.

 

“When we came on board the Australian series, there was a significant funding gap, so we took it to More 4 in the UK and National Geographic in the US, and they came in on pre-sales, which effectively closed the gap. We work very closely with the producer to ensure the show delivers on the premise, and it absolutely does,” says Life.

 

Having an input in productions is something Life feels benefits all parties. “Our role is to be a cheerleader from the sidelines and offer our expert advice on aspects like the voiceover, while allowing the producers to be the creative leaders on a project. Our input into a show can help it to travel,” he says.

 

The World’s Most Scenic Railway Journeys
The World’s Most Scenic Railway Journeys

Despite the difficulties of 2020, Life is upbeat how the industry has handled the Covid challenge. “A big positive has been how the distribution community has been able to adapt and continue to do business,” he says. “I’ve observed the incredible ingenuity of producers getting productions back up and running. Budgets have opened up again and there’s new commissioning coming through.”

 

Durie believes the pandemic has sped up inevitable industry disruption. “Covid came at a time when our market was changing dramatically,” he says. “The move towards digitisation and subscription models was always happening, it’s just been accelerated. We have the arrival of new direct-to-consumer platforms, offering new opportunities in every market at a time when it’s really needed.”

 

Life adds: “The fact we’ve had a successful year despite the challenges has given us the confidence to increase all our investments and we’re actively looking for new content. My message is to keep bringing us projects, as we love working with producers, wherever you are!”



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    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.
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