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Programming Profile

Incendo lifts the mood


Canadian producer and distributor Incendo has adopted a flexible strategy that has allowed it continue to deliver the blue-sky, escapist films sought by buyers, and is showcasing its latest via its Content London playlist this week.


In unprecedented times, it’s important to remain nimble and responsive to any new challenges both the television business and external factors — Covid-19 among them — might pose. That’s why Canadian producer and distributor Incendo is continuing to follow the ad-hoc strategy it has used to successfully navigate the industry over the past few months.


“Any planning or strategy went out the window on March 17, 2020,” admits Gavin Reardon, Incendo’s head of international sales and coproductions. “We’re in an unprecedented time and are working to be flexible, creative and to take advantage of all opportunities to license our content when they present themselves. As a producer of TV movies as well as drama series, our production team has been amazing and has produced five films during the pandemic. This feel-good, family-friendly content has been what many broadcasters around the world are looking for in these uncertain times.”


Gavin Reardon, Incendo

The films – five romantic comedies including A Love Yarn, You May Kiss the Bridesmaid, One of a Kind of Love, Together Forever Tea and Seasoned with Love – were completed against the backdrop of new film production and Covid-19 health and wellness regulations. Filming was completed on schedule by creating a safe environment that met numerous on-set health standards and thanks to a team effort from cast and crew. Twelve new features are now set to begin production early next year.


Reardon says: “Like everyone affected by Covid-19, we’ve been dealing with fear, hope and reality: fear of the virus and its impact on us physically and emotionally; hope that our loved ones and those we work with will be safe; and the reality of the lockdowns put in place by governments around the world for our safety that have curtailed our movement and ability to work. And like everyone in our industry, Incendo has been challenged to continue to create content under lockdowns and with necessary safety protocols.


“But we found a way and produced five films over the last three months, coproducing two in New Zealand. Incendo is composed of a wonderful group of individuals who have worked together as a team for years to get where we are today, and who continue to pull together to get us where we need to be. And TVA Group, which acquired Incendo last year, has been absolutely amazing and tremendously supportive throughout this difficult time.”


Since its launch in 2001, the Montreal-based firm has specialised in producing and distributing high-quality television programming created and developed for the global market. It has been particularly active in the scripted space. It’s female-led movie slate features stars such as Morenna Baccarin (Homeland), Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica) and Shiri Appleby (UnReal) and has been extensively licensed worldwide. In April last year, the company became part of Quebecor Media’s TVA Group following a C$19.5m (US$15m) buy-out.


As the impact of the pandemic began to reverberate around the world earlier this year, productions were largely forced into hiatus as producers were tasked with working out how to return to filming with the additional health and safety measures that would ensure the protection of casts and crews. For buyers, the pause in the production pipeline also led to a new focus on distributors’ vast catalogues of finished tape as they sought to fill holes in their schedules, unaware of when new content could be finished and delivered.


This shift is one recognized by Reardon, who says there has been a trend for shared viewing and feel-good, blue-sky and escapist content. “I think this will continue as long as the lockdowns continue to impact production and limit the amount of new content,” he says. “Buyers are looking for more family and young-adult content that is lighter and inclusive in tone and encourages co-viewing. Buyers are looking for safe but different content that might have been marginal before the lockdown.”


With industry events and markets also falling victim to the pandemic, Incendo has also sought to take advantage of new technology to keep in touch with contacts and ensure that deals can still be done.


“We, like everyone, have had to learn to market purely online and sell through video calls, at distance,” Reardon says. “I travelled 20 weeks last year for work. You can’t replace the impact of an in-person meeting, but we are adapting and learning from our experiences. I don’t know if the virtual markets are as valuable as we need them to be and we’re figuring out what works for us and what doesn’t.”


Meanwhile, Reardon hails the “miracle workers” involved in continuing to produce Incendo’s slate of new content, with two films set to wrap before the end of the year, in addition to the five already completed.


New projects in development include thriller series Ice, an Antarctic murder mystery with Further South Productions and written by John Forte; dramedy series Parents Anonymous, developed with Black Box, which draws comparisons to This is Us and Love Actually; and White Heat, in partnership with Modern Story and Todd Berger, which tells the story of a First Nations tracker who uncovers a murder mystery.


Incendo is also working with Storyworld on a North American version of Russian dramedy A Comprehensive Guide to Getting Married and has partnered with Screentime New Zealand on The High Life, written by John Banas, about two Canadian sisters who inherit a sheep station in New Zealand.


A further project, Taylor Camp, tells the true story of a counterculture paradise created on the Hawaiian island of Kauai in the 1970s, written by Ron Gustin Parker.


As many of these projects suggest, Incendo isn’t just developing and financing projects itself but is positioning itself to work with partners around the world – a practice built on the success of lavish period drama Versailles, a France-Canada coproduction produced with Capa Drama and Zodiak Fiction for France’s Canal+.


“Incendo’s success with Versailles re-established us as a great North American partner for UK- and European-based coproductions,” explains Reardon. “We’ve grown our relationships with strong companies there to either co-develop IP or look to work together on existing IP. From this position, Incendo will do what it does best: bring extensive series production expertise, unparalleled strength in the Canadian market, complete understanding and access to the local, provincial and federal tax credits, and the ability to finance series production and to advance against distribution to bring projects to fruition.”


The growth of both local and global SVoD platforms and their insatiable appetite for content, even before the pandemic, also means Incendo is keen to take advantage of new opportunities.


“The SVoD platforms have meant more – more competition for talent, more money in productions, more content being developed,” Reardon admits. “But we still do what we have always done well: produce quality content and distribute quality content. We see growing opportunities for more unique and varied content, but our core business remains the same.”


That core business is best exemplified by Versailles, which ran for three seasons and is set during the reign of Louis XIV and the construction of the titular palace, as well as films such as new thrillers The Lead (starring Perry Reeves), Rule of 3 (Kelly Rutherford), Glass Houses (Bree Turner), No Good Deed (Michelle Borth) and Within These Walls (Jennifer Landon).


Although the future still remains uncertain – not least due to Covid-19 and the fall-out from the US presidential election – Incendo has a catalogue of new and library content that can offer buyers and viewers from around the world an optimistic escape from the real world, with more coming down the pipeline.


Reardon says: “Although we can’t present these projects in person as we hoped and expected, Incendo and our partners have worked together to develop projects we feel will work for the global market.”

More programming profiles

  • 16-11-2022

    Graham Ludlow of Montreal-based Incendo says the company is expanding into drama and comedy series while at the same time maintaining its core business in TV movies.


    Montreal-based producer-distributor Incendo is heading to Content London on the back of a fruitful year in which it has expanded its scripted television strategy and advanced several development projects.


    While TV movies have been the company’s bread and butter for two decades, it has made a deliberate move towards scripted series over the past 18 months.


    In Canada, the scripted charge has been led by veteran producer Graham Ludlow, who was appointed as production and development executive for Canada around 14 months ago.

  • 11-11-2021

    TVA Group-owned producer-distributor Incendo is expanding into scripted series, having focused mainly on movies for TV since launching in 2001.


    Montreal’s Incendo has built a solid TV movies business over the past two decades, with the company producing between six and 10 annually.


    But while TV movies have formed the bedrock of its production operation, the producer-distributor is targeting an expansion into scripted TV series in 2022, following a restructure of its production division and the appointment of veteran executive Graham Ludlow to oversee its development slate.

  • 07-05-2021

    Over the past two decades, Canada’s Incendo has made the unlikely jump from producing thrillers to romcoms. Execs from the company discuss their playlist for C21’s Content LA On Demand and how they created romance on screen despite coronavirus restrictions.


    Canadian producer and distributor Incendo is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Since its launch two decades ago, the Montreal-based company has specialised in producing and distributing high-quality television programming created and developed for the global market.


    “Television movies have been the backbone of the company,” explains Gavin Reardon, head of international sales and coproductions at Incendo, which became part of Quebecor Media’s TVA Group following a C$19.5m (US$15m) buy-out in 2019. “For a long time, we produced female-led thrillers that, domestically, had a great audience and were successful. But over the past 20 years, interest in thrillers started to wane and we took this as an opportunity to expand our product line.”


    Part of the strategy to diversify the firm’s content offerings includes a growing slate of romantic comedy movies. Indeed, the seven films on the company’s Content LA On Demand playlist are all romcoms and, furthermore, were all produced amid the coronavirus pandemic.