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C21 DIGITAL SCREENINGS

Federation Studios

Programming Profile

Federation adapts to new market demand, talks up new slate

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.

 

Levy
Monica Levy,
Federation Studios

“But it’s also a response to the market’s shift towards pre-sales. Producers often require pre-sales to get their shows made, and simultaneously our clients need to become involved with projects much earlier to make sure they are getting the best content. A key part of our new set-up is to be organised at a project level in order to be more dedicated to our producers and clients alike.”

 

The revamped structure has included a promotion for Guillaume Pommier, also co-head of distribution. He says another aspect of the shake-up is to ensure focus on the performance of the entire catalogue.

 

“It’s easy to put all your energy into new shows, but it’s important not to forget about the catalogue. This reorganisation means each team member will have more time to focus on opportunities and building or reinforcing the relationship with both the local linear broadcaster and the streamers. This makes a lot of sense now that we are seeing new types of rights emerging in areas like AVoD and FAST.”

 

Pommier
Guillaume Pommier,
Federation Studios

Levy says Federation’s goal is to be an agile and flexible partner, but she adds that there has also been a renewed emphasis on the operational side of the distribution business: “At Federation we constantly re-evaluate our thinking and our course of action. Most importantly, we give our people a lot of autonomy to make decisions, we are very proud of the ‘confidence factor’ that has proved productive throughout the company.

 

“But as we grow, it’s also important to have key processes in place. For example, in the new structure, our head of international sales, Sarah Zarka, has responsibility for everything to do with finished programmes – revenues, reports and so on. Sarah’s role is to keep reminding us all that sales are the centre of our activities.”

 

Also significant in the shake-up is the new role handed to Jean-Michel Ciszewski, now head of special operations. “Jean-Michel’s role is a response to all of the new subsidiaries we have in the group,” says Levy. “He will help them navigate the world of coproductions and their relationship with the distribution team. He will continue to handle sales in certain territories but also has a remit to look for opportunities outside Federation.”

 

Bardot
Bardot

Coming into Mipcom 2022, Federation’s expanded studio operation is primarily active across scripted, factual and kids, though the company is also now expanding into theatrical content.

 

According to Levy: “It’s a good time to look at this area because there is a blurring of the lines between TV and cinema, especially around SVoD and theatrical windows. We are getting to know film distributors and will be hiring someone who has experience in the film world. Many of our international subsidiaries produce theatrical films and we are eager to work with them in this new area.”

 

As for existing areas of strength, Pommier picks out two scripted priorities for the upcoming Cannes market. The first is Bardot, a series for France Télévisions that charts the early life of iconic French actor Brigitte Bardot. The series has been sold to Mediaset in Italy and various broadcasters across the Nordic region, while Netflix has second-window rights in France and first-window in other territories.

 

One of Us
One of Us

“The series recounts Bardot’s life from her first appearance aged 15 until she is 25,” he says. “It is a high-quality series created and produced by a cinematographic team that explores the impact she had on social attitudes. She was far ahead of her time, expressing how she felt without caring what people thought about her.”

 

Pommier is also upbeat about Lycée Toulouse Lautrec (One of Us), a 6×52’ comedy-drama based on the true story of its producer Fanny Riedberger, about a girl sent to a school for students with disabilities – despite having no disabilities of her own. At first, she’s averse to this, but she gradually overcomes her preconceptions. Created by Riedberger, the series won the Best Series award at the Festival de la Rochelle last month. It will debut on TF1 before being sold as a readymade show and format.

 

Although based in France, Federation has built up a strong track record representing dramas from other markets, notably Belgium, the Nordics and Israel. Earlier this year, for example, it picked up distribution rights to Hebrew-language drama The Lesson, which won the Best Series at Canneseries earlier this year. Levy says the company is coming to Cannes with two new series from the Nordics.

 

66th North Precinct
66th North Precinct

“Finnish series 66th North Precinct focuses on a female police officer who is also an ex-champion boxer. She lives with her wife and child in the north of the country, where she solves crimes. It is a ‘Nordic white’ and our first project partnering with Nordisk, something we are really proud of. We also have a Norwegian young-adult drama, Kids in Crime, about a young man who is injured while pursuing a career in sports and turns to violence and selling drugs.”

 

In kids and family, Federation is riding the success it had with live-action tween series Find Me in Paris, sold almost everywhere in the world. “We have the second season of Theodosia and a new series called Spellbound, which is a sequel (but also an entirely new show) to Find Me in Paris. All of these series are co-distributed with ZDF Studios, a partnership, that has worked very well for years.”

 

Like Find Me in Paris, Spellbound is produced by Federation-owned Cottonwood Media, in partnership with Opéra de Paris. “It’s the story of a talented black ballerina who discovers she has magic in her family,” says Levy. Already signed up are Hulu, ZDF, Radio Canada and CBC, as well as other buyers, and will be able to see footage during Mipcom, says Levy.

 

Kids in Crime
Kids in Crime

While kids’ live-action is a priority, Federation also has a track record with animation. After series like Ollie & Moon and Squish, Levy says: “We are in development on three new exciting projects.”

 

In factual, Pommier says the company is best known for sports documentaries – “though we will expand into new areas now we are partners with Bonne Pioche. For Mipcom, we are also working on a compelling project that is something of an exception for us. It is a film about the English musician Peter Doherty, told with intimate footage shot by his wife for more than 10 years. Usually, we would only join a project if there were a broadcaster or platform attached. But we came on board this without any buyers involved as it was a ‘coup de coeur’ shared with our head of documentary, Myriam Weil.”

 

Many of Federation’s projects involve coproduction partnerships – a model that enables the company to hold on to distribution rights. Pommier says coproductions are in the ascendancy again because of increased competition.

 

Under Control
Under Control

“The streamers and broadcasters are all looking at pre-buys so they can get the best content, and that gives distributors like us an opportunity to optimise the financing plan of the series before the shooting and then maximise our revenues once we are in the sales process. The combination of competition for content and government regulations requiring local content gives us much more leverage.”

 

Having said this, Federation is always on the lookout for acquisitions. “We like acquisitions because they can be a nice bridge to coproductions,” says Pommier. “We distributed shows like The Twelve and Red Light from Eyeworks [in Belgium] and now we are co-developing a show with them.”

 

While there is a strong French strand to Federation’s profile, Levy says recent acquisitions are a reminder that the company is primarily an international studio. “Our goal is work with producers in different countries and look for potential collaborations such as copros, finished acquisitions and format deals. Our goal is to find smart and original projects and to secure the distribution through contributing to the finance plan.”



More programming profiles

  • 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.
    READ MORE