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Duo Productions

Programming Profile

Duo Productions eyes growth in English-language market


Hugo d’Astous, head of international development at Duo Productions, outlines the Montreal prodco’s plans to move into English-language content and its development slate it’s taking to Content London.


After a frenetic 2021 in which it produced around eight scripted and unscripted series, Montreal’s Duo Productions has been in development mode in 2022 as it looks to expand its slate of French-language properties and gears up for a push into English-language content too.


Founded in 2002 by screenwriters Anne Boyer and Michel d’Astous, the company has produced 500 hours of primetime programming. But with the global market becoming increasingly interested in Quebecois formats, Duo, like many of its fellow Quebec-based production outfits, is looking to work with a broader network of international partners as it broadens the ambition and scope of its projects.


Hugo d’Astous, Duo Productions

This has been a good year for Duo, with the company securing several important, business-building deals. Among them, Banijay-owned French production outfit Terence Films optioned the rights to the French-Canadian drama series Après (After), which Duo originally produced for CBC/Radio-Canada.


The 6×60’ series, which won Best Francophone Series at the Festival de la Fiction in La Rochelle earlier this year, stars Karine Vanasse (Pan Am, Cardinal) and explores the aftermath of a tragic event in a small rural town in Quebec. US streamer Topic also acquired the original show.


The company has also had success with Piégés (The Mouse Trap), produced for French-Canadian pay TV network AddikTV, which follows five men and women who find themselves imprisoned and facing a jailor playing with their deepest fears. Internationally, it is distributed by France’s Mediawan Rights.


Spy thriller Classified has attracted international attention too. Also produced for TVA Group-owned AddikTV, the show follows two lovers who both work for the Canadian Security Service, the equivalent of MI6 or the CIA. As they are forced to investigate each other, their work begins to take a toll on their relationship and the relationship they have with their two daughters. Duo will start work on the second season in November, ahead of production in January.



In addition to selling the finished tape, an as-yet unnamed international distributor will begin shopping the Classified remake rights soon.


While 2022 certainly hasn’t been quiet on the production front – the company still produced four series this year – growing its English-language slate has been a top priority for Duo Productions, according to Hugo d’Astous, head of international development.


“We have had success over the past few months connecting with English screenwriters. It was more natural for us to connect with the French-speaking writers – they knew about us. Now it’s about building the same relationship and trust with the English-speaking screenwriters. That’s what we have focused on for the last months,” he says.



Duo has been building relationships in LA over the past year, and d’Astous says the next phase of the strategy is to begin selling bible scripts, finished tape and formats to US-based companies. Right now, he adds, the English-language development slate is more geared towards comedies, but Duo is also looking at police dramas and true crime-focused scripted.


While growth in the English-language content space is part of the roadmap, French-language programming will continue to be Duo’s core business. Heading into Content London 2022, d’Astous says Duo will be putting a push behind two in-development series.


The first is Daughter of Mine (working title), which is focused on mental health issues. It is the third instalment in a thematically linked series of shows, and comes after Son of Mine, which was part of the Series Market Selects section of the Berlinale last year, and Mother of Mine, which will premiere on French-Canadian network TVA this month.


Mother of Mine
Mother of Mine

Details of the other in-development projects are sparse, with d’Astous divulging only that one is a comedy. “We’ve produced a lot of drama over the past few years, so we want to diversify in that regard too,” he says. “We are also developing a unique non-scripted concept following the success we have had with our docu-reality show Si on s’aimait.”


More broadly, he says Duo Productions is aiming to forge co-development deals and partnerships at Content London with a view to tapping into new financing and expertise.


“We’re confident in what we produce and develop, and also very open to other perspectives on our shows,” says d’Astous. “The goal is to explore partnerships that can elevate the stories and budgets that we have in Quebec and give a more global resonance.”