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C21 DIGITAL SCREENINGS

Federation Studios

Programming Profile

Around the world with Federation

30-09-2020

Monica Levy, co-head of international drama, documentaries and kids, and Jean-Michel Ciszewski, co-head of international drama and documentaries, reveal Federation Entertainment’s C21 Digital Screenings playlist and discuss how staying relevant is the key to cutting through in a crowded global market.

 

Focused on the creation, production, financing and distribution of high-quality original productions for the international market, France-based Federation Entertainment has no fewer than three series shortlisted for Canneseries 2020 on its C21 Digital Screenings playlist.

 

This comes at a time when producers are navigating a year of cancelled markets and events, including Mipcom, which runs parallel to Canneseries. “We miss our clients,” says Levy.

 

But the cancellation of so many markets has allowed Federation to be creative when it comes to labelling its new slate. “Since we don’t have the markets putting the timing on the shows, we’re launching like a fashion collection,” says Ciszewski. With its playlist showcasing the independent studio’s new slate of premium dramas, it features what Ciszewski describes as the company’s “Fall Collection,” while a “Winter Collection” will be announced later this year.

 

Levy
Monica Levy,
Federation Entertainment

Levy and Ciszewski jointly lead the sales team at Federation. As two key figures in international distribution, their extensive expertise has helped bolster a company that was set up to federate international talent, and build exclusive partnerships with highly experienced executives, producers and showrunners in the global entertainment industry.

 

Levy believes the international relationships that Federation has nurtured is one of its key strengths. “We are open to great drama from anywhere,” she says. “We try to build relationships with producers that we work with, so they will want to work with us on their next production,” says Levy, pointing to Federation’s first playlist choice and Canneseries 2020 nominee Red Light (10×48’).

 

A Flemish psychological thriller, written by Esther Gerritsen, Frank Ketelaar, Christophe Dirickx and Halina Reijn, starring Carice van Houten, it follows three women as they get caught up in a world of human trafficking, prostitution and organised crime when one of their husbands disappears. “It’s kind of Desperate Housewives or Big Little Lies in a way that we can all identify with one or more of the personalities,” says Levy.

 

Produced by Belgium’s Eyeworks Film & TV Drama and Netherland-based Warner Bros International Television Production (WBITVP), the show taps into a current trend that Federation is keen to explore: female empowerment. “It’s a very feminist series about the life of three women and three destinies,” says Levy. “We’ve been talking to the US majors and these are the kind of shows that touch people in their lives today,” she adds.

 

The next title on the playlist and second Canneseries 2020 hopeful also has strong women at the core. “It’s like a modern take on Thelma & Louise,” says Levy.

 

Red Light
Red Light

Cheyenne & Lola (8×60’) is Orange Studios’ first original, and is coproduced with Lincoln TV and Scope Pictures. It is a French-language crime dramedy, created by Virginie Brac and directed by Eshref Reybrouck. It follows Cheyenne, recently released from prison, and Lola, who has just arrived in northern France to move in with her lover. The past catches up with Cheyenne when she witnesses Lola killing her lover’s wife. “It’s a suspenseful thriller with dry comedy that makes it just audacious,” says Levy.

 

The series arrives as comedy-drama continues to do big business globally, fuelled by audiences looking for light relief at this difficult time. But for Ciszewski, it’s important to not just tap into a topical genre but to also make original content that stands out against the huge wave of drama titles. “Too many shows look like one another; what is crucial for us is to always reinvent the model,” he says. “Our goal is always to try to do something new and different – that’s the challenge.”

 

Another Canneseries 2020 nominee, and Federation’s third playlist choice, is Partisan (5×60’), an intense Swedish crime thriller produced by Warner Bros Sweden. Recently premiering on Viaplay, it became the streamer’s top launch to date.

 

Cheyenne & Lola
Cheyenne & Lola

Directed by Amir Chamdin, Partisan takes place in the idyllic surroundings of Jordnära, a gated community that runs a successful organic farm. The story follows policeman Johnny, played by Fares Fares, who enters Jordnära undercover as a truck driver. Johnny gets to know Nicole and Maria, who are being fostered during the summer, and soon starts to suspect trafficking. Cleverly, the soundtrack features Leonard Cohen’s Partisan.

 

For Ciszewski, Partisan is another title that chimes with a global moment: Black Lives Matter. “It’s a very timely subject; we want to be a part of the debate that’s happening today,” he says. The project “already has interest from several broadcasters in Europe,” says Ciszewski, adding that the fact it is a relatively short series of five episodes is part of its appeal. “Lots of broadcasters are happy to have something easier to schedule,” he explains.

 

Black Space (8×45’), Federation’s next playlist choice, is another topical drama. Centring on the rising violence in Western society, the Israeli psychological thriller, created by Anat Gafni and Sahar Shavit, follows the investigation of a high-school shooting, providing a glimpse into the lives of teens. You think you know what your kids are doing… but what if you don’t? Named after the app that the students use to communicate, it explores how the teenagers cope in the aftermath of a crime potentially committed by their fellow classmates.

 

Partisan
Partisan

Produced by Drama Team and Federation Entertainment for Reshet 13 and directed by Ofir Lobel, Black Space is described by Ciszewski as “mind-blowing’’ and structured in a way that keeps the audience in suspense by the setting up of various suspects. “It’s very intense, with huge cliff-hangers,” he says.

 

Federation is at the forefront of non-English-language drama’s global success. For Levy, even the notoriously difficult US market is now catching up. “Netflix was the only one that would buy foreign programmes,” she says. Other US SVoD platforms were reticent to invest in local-language programming, which they have traditionally seen as too niche. “We’re really starting to see that change. Even the major SVoD players besides Netflix are looking towards foreign-language shows,” says Levy.

 

Levy believes the shift is not just down to Covid-related delays. “There has been an undeniable shortage from the production side and drama that was expected to be delivered has been delayed. We believe, however, that the main reason is because the value and quality of foreign-language programmes is becoming better known worldwide and, therefore, also in the US,” she says.

 

Black Space
Black Space

Levy points to Federation’s next playlist choice, season five of The Bureau (10×52’ bringing the total number to 50×52′), commissioned by Canal+, as a gamechanger for non-English-language content. “That show has been sold everywhere in the world; it is truly the best French drama,” she says. A recent winner of a Fiction Export Award for best French export drama of the year, the series has amassed 50 episodes and been sold into more than 115 territories.

 

For Ciszewski, the key to Federation’s longevity is that it continues to build on other returnable series. “That’s really the name of the game,” he says, pointing to the next playlist titles as further examples.

 

Undercover (S2: 10×52’ bringing the total number to 20×52′) is another big one. It’s a Netflix show that will launch very soon worldwide,” says Ciszewski. The Belgium crime thriller, commissioned for VRT, is now in its second season.

 

For Ciszewski, all of Federation’s titles have a common thread. “If you don’t have a good story and good characters, you’re worth nothing,” he says. The company also boasts lighter and more traditional crime investigation, such as its next playlist choice, season two of Deadly Tropics (8×52’, bringing the total to 16×52′). The French procedural dramedy is set on the island of Martinique and is produced for France Télévisions. Ciszewski explains it’s important for Federation to work with both the big streamers and traditional broadcasters. “It’s essential to be present at every single level,” he says.

 

Federation’s final playlist choice, Mytho S2 (6×52’ bringing the total to 12×52′), is a French dramedy produced by Unité de Production for Arte, directed by Fabrice Gobert. “It’s a very simple but very high-concept show. It can travel and be very universal,” says Ciszewski.

 

Federation’s goal is “to be present all over the world,” by establishing itself throughout key European territories, says Ciszewski. Through launching companies and partnerships in countries including Spain, Italy, Israel and Scandinavia, it has created authentic local content with global appeal. “That has been our philosophy from the beginning, to have something that is very locally integrated but that can resonate worldwide,” says Ciszewski. “The more real it is for the territory, the better chance it has to travel internationally,” he adds.

 

Federation has various areas of growth in its sights, from expanding its kids’ business to a move into documentaries and TV movies. Federation’s advancement has also allowed it to realise bigger drama ambitions, such as Around the World in 80 Days, staring David Tennant. “It’s in the £3m [US$3.9m]-per-episode range, and this is the new budget we’re also aiming at,” says Ciszewski.

 

Production on the English-language adaptation of the Jules Verne classic begins again in October after a Covid-induced hiatus. “We know we live in a challenging world. We are not going to say it’s easy but we try to make each show as exceptional and unique as possible,” says Ciszewski.

 

And despite successfully adapting to a new normal, Ciszewski, like many, is keen to get back to some social interaction. “We would love to be back at the markets and see the real world again, because I’m starting to get tired of Zoom!” he says.



More programming profiles

  • 11-10-2022

    Monica Levy and Guillaume Pommier of France’s Federation Studios talk through the company’s new distribution strategy and their view on market trends, and offer a glimpse of their Mipcom slate, being showcased via C21’s Digital Screenings this week.

     

    Paris-based Federation Studios has pursued an ambitious expansion path in recent years. As well as opening offices in major markets including the US and the UK, it has acquired controlling stakes in leading indie producers such as Bonne Pioche and Robin&Co in France, Vertigo Films in the UK and Germany’s Glisk.

     

    At the same time, it has reorganised its distribution division, says Monica Levy, co-head of distribution. “In part, the changes are about managing growth, with Pascal Breton, the founder of Federation Studios, projecting a doubling in the volume of business from year to year,” she notes.
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