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Programming Profile

Incendo eyes scripted series after production restructure


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.


Graham Ludlow, Incendo

Incendo has dabbled in the TV series space in the past, most notably on the English-language international coproduction Versailles. The historical drama ran for three seasons from 2015 to 2018 on Canal+ in France while in Canada, seasons 1 and 2 were originally broadcast on TMN (Crave) and season 3 on CBC Gem.


With the appointment of Ludlow, whose credits include producing award-winning series such as CBC’s Baroness von Sketch Show (which aired on IFC in the US), The Writer’s Block and Talent Drivers, Incendo plans to delve deeper into scripted series and become a permanent player, both in Canada and internationally.


“My focus is on a fresh approach to our company’s development and production operations, as Incendo invests in and expands the type of content we produce,” Ludlow tells C21, adding that his team is looking at both half-hour comedies and one-hour dramas.


The intention is to initiate some of these projects in Canada, and work with American writers and pitch directly to buyers in the US, where its sales and coproduction team led by Gavin Reardon has forged a wide network of relationships.


Written in the Stars
Written in the Stars

Ludlow, who serves as Incendo’s production and development executive for Canada, says he’s had some “nibbles” on scripted projects he has pitched and is hopeful that one or more will receive greenlights and shoot in 2022.


Currently, in terms of series development, Ludlow says Incendo is looking at projects ranging from “multi-generational family dramas and dramedies” to horror, sci-fi and procedurals. Ludlow is also in the process of exploring a number of scripted format adaptations.


Although growth in the scripted series market is an area of priority, the company has no plans to move away from its core TV movies business, which allowed Incendo to grow to the point where it was acquired by Quebecor Media’s TVA Group for around C$19.5m (US$15m) in 2019.


The Secret Sauce
The Secret Sauce

Incendo, which has been celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, has shifted its TV movies strategy to meet market demands in recent years. After primarily producing thrillers, the Montreal prodco moved towards romantic comedies.


Over the past two years, Incendo has produced movies including Farmer Seeking Love, Written in the Stars, A Love Yarn, Love Knots, Destination Love, The Secret Sauce and Be Mine, Valentine. Some of these have been coproduced with the Banijay Group company Screentime in New Zealand, with which Incendo formed a coproduction partnership in 2020 when the pandemic made it much more challenging to get productions off the ground in Canada.


While the romcom market will still be the main area of focus for Incendo’s TV movies, Ludlow says the company is also looking to move back into thrillers, as well as branching into horror-focused films, as the market continues to be flooded with lighter, feelgood fare.


When Love Blooms
When Love Blooms

Based on preliminary budget forecasts, Ludlow says he thinks Incendo will be able to produce thrillers and horror films on similar budgets to its romcoms, without needing to completely overhaul the financing model.


The overall goal is to bring series into the mix as a consistent revenue generator for Incendo, while continuing to use its TV movie production business as the foundation. Ludlow adds that Incendo was buoyed by discussions with linear, pay TV and streaming platforms initiated at Mipcom.


“We’ve had a plethora of really interesting projects come in, including some potential coproductions with Ireland, Australia, the UK and France. We’re also discussing some of our own projects and how those might work as international coproductions,” says Ludlow. “It could be a very busy 2022 for us, and I’m excited about those prospects.”

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    “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.”


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    “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.”