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Lagardère Studios Distribution

Programming Profile

Lagardère: Diversifying content through strong relationships

16-11-2020

Lagardère Studios Distribution’s Emmanuelle Bouilhaguet reveals the company’s Content London playlist, which showcases its original and diverse slate, and discusses partnering with producers across Europe and beyond to ensure its content stands out.

 

With increased competition in the drama space, Lagardère Studios Distribution, the global sales arm of French production powerhouse Lagardère Studios Group, is strengthening its position by developing strong relationships with scripted producers from all over Europe.

 

The drive to focus on its central drama business is spearheaded by MD Emmanuelle Bouilhaguet, who has been with the company since 2011. “Fiction is more than 60% of our catalogue, so it’s really the core business,” she says.

 

Bouilhaguet
Emmanuelle Bouilhaguet,
Lagardère Studios Distribution

Lagardère is also diversifying its content. “We want to have a large panorama of fiction,” says Bouilhaguet. This has seen it move away from niche sci-fi titles to programming with broader appeal. “We’re working on more mainstream content now,” the exec continues. “In the past, there was a focus on genre series for the pay TV platforms or broadcasters. We have adapted to also work in more mainstream, high-concept series that the free TV channels are looking for.”

 

Bouilhaguet believes this move has created a more balanced catalogue, noting: “We’ve tried to diversify the clients with whom we’re working; we now have a diversity of programmes we can offer to everyone.”

 

Bouilhaguet points to her first playlist title as an example of European-partnered content with broad appeal. The Machinery (8×45’) is a Swedish thriller produced by Anagram Sweden, Film i Väst, Viaplay, Nordic Entertainment Group and Helsinki Filmi. It follows a regular family man who, after a company outing, wakes up on a ferry between Norway and Sweden with a gun, a bagful of money and no clue what’s happened. “It’s really mainstream in the way that it’s a character-driven series in a tense narration with a man on the run,” says Bouilhaguet.

 

Lagardère’s next choice can be characterised in a similar way. Commandos (10×45’) is “a little bit more action and more male-skewed,” Bouilhaguet says. “We try to have a balance so we can target different broadcasters.”

 

The Machinery
The Machinery

The complex thriller is from the Netherlands and combines the suspense and action of a whodunit with an existential character drama. Produced by NL Films, Avrotros and NPO3, it follows a commando who is adjusting to civilian life after a failed covert mission in Nigeria when two members of his old platoon die in suspicious circumstances.

 

Lagardère is becoming more than a distributor for producers. The company is developing strong financial and editorial partnerships at a very early stage, allowing it input and the ability to partner like a coproducer.

 

For Bouilhaguet, this is how the industry has evolved. “We receive bibles and/or scripts and then we interact with the producers, giving comments. It’s really something that’s changed in the last 10 years, from simply receiving finished programmes just to sell.”

 

Commandos
Commandos

The exec believes this partnership is beneficial for both parties: “Producers like to interact because they appreciate the view we have from the international market, which could help the series travel more.”

 

Another show on Lagardère’s Content London playlist, which also showcases its strong European relationships, is the second season of Beau Sejour (10×52’). “Season one was very strong because of its original concept and emotional characters. For season two, the difficulty was how to still make it unique. That’s why the authors decided to create totally different characters and story, but using the same concept,” says Bouilhaguet.

 

Produced by Belgium’s De Mensen in coproduction with VRT, Gardner & Domm and Column Film, the series sees the dead solving the mystery of their own demise. In season two, a former naval officer sees his own lifeless body dangling from the mast of his boat. He soon realises he’s dead, apparently via suicide. He can’t remember anything, but he knows he didn’t kill himself. “There are new twists that make this story just as gripping entertaining as season one,” says Bouilhaguet.

 

Blackout
Blackout

Next is another project with VRT, Blackout (10×45’). Produced by Jonnydepony, the thriller unfolds when a nuclear power plant is hijacked, leaving 11 million people in Belgium without electricity. The prime minister receives a video of her kidnapped daughter with a message: turn the lights back on and your daughter dies. The politician must choose between her country and saving her daughter’s life. “We were very happy working with VRT for Beau Sejour and we were looking for another project to collaborate on. We were very keen to work with Helen Perquy and the pitch was again very powerful strong,” says Bouilhaguet.

 

Forming relationships with admired producers is key for Bouilhaguet. “Being a distributor is really a job for passionate people. It’s important to work with talented producers we like, and it drives us everyday,” she says, citing her next playlist title as an example. “Bad Apples is a collaboration we wanted to have with Fire Monkey and producers Roope Lehtinen and Mikko Pöllä, who we know are very talented.”

 

Iskander
Iskander

Due in Q1 2021, Bad Apples (8×45’) is a suspense drama from Finland that follows a young, driven activist who sees herself as an idealist fighting for justice but is painted as an aggressive troublemaker by the authorities. Against her will, she is sent to a sanatorium, where she starts investigating covert treatments. “It’s totally different from the other series we have, and that’s exactly what we want from our acquisition slate: projects that don’t compete with each other,” says Bouilhaguet.

 

The next playlist title is also a returning series, French detective drama Iskander (6×45’), produced by Frenchkiss Pictures. The show follows a rookie cop who gets news that her police officer mother has committed suicide. She reluctantly returns to the home she fled 20 years ago to put her mother’s affairs in order and take care of her disabled younger brother. But when a local criminal turns up dead and her brother is named a suspect, she’s dragged into a troubled world of drugs, violence and guilt.

 

“We’re big fans of the director Olivier Abbou, who created incredible work and pace in season one, and this new season is even more spectacular with a very different atmosphere,” says Bouilhaguet.

 

Troubled Waters
Troubled Waters

We move to Canada for the next playlist titles. “I’m also a big fan of Canadian series, they have amazing producers and great pace,” says Bouilhaguet, pointing to Troubled Waters (4×45’). The police drama is produced by Blik TV and KOTV for the CBC, and follows a detective forced to move back home after a mistake that destroyed her career. She seeks redemption by throwing herself into the homicide investigation of an unidentified Indigenous woman. “Troubled Waters is a classic investigation series, where you get hooked from the start,” says Bouilhaguet.

 

Le Monstre, meanwhile, is a different kind of story because it’s based on true facts, which is a popular trend at the moment,” Bouilhaguet says of her next playlist choice. The 6×45’ psychological drama from Pixcom, ICI TOU.TV and Radio Canada is inspired by the bestselling autobiographical book Le Monstre, which tells a heartrending story of blind love and domestic abuse. “The pace, content and quality of Canadian productions make them very appealing for the market,” says Bouilhaguet.

 

Inès del Alma Mía
Inès del Alma Mía

Another book adaptation takes the next playlist spot. Inès del Alma Mía (8×55’), a Spanish period drama, is produced by Boomerang TV and RTVE with the participation of Amazon Prime Video, Corfo and CNTV. Based on Isabel Allende’s bestselling historical novel, the epic series follows Inés Suárez, the first woman conquistador, who took part in the conquest of Chile in the 16th century. Courageous and ahead of her time, the young woman embarks on a journey from Spain to the New World to look for her lost husband. “It’s a very high-budget series for the Spanish market with very high production values for this female lead saga series,” says Bouilhaguet.

 

Lagardère’s next playlist choice is Merlí: Sapere Aude (8×50’). “We liked that it chimed with the current trend of young-adult programming that we see a lot in the market,” says Bouilhaguet. Produced by Veranda TV and Movistar+, the Spanish drama follows a young man who, overwhelmed by the death of his old teacher and mentor, sets off to college to study philosophy. “You have two layers – an older storyline about two young adults who are going to university, featuring friendship and sexuality, and a second layer, which is their family around them and the teachers,” says Bouilhaguet.

 

Tandem
Tandem

Lagardère’s final playlist title is a light French procedural produced by DEMD Productions. Tandem (60×52’) sees two ex-lovers with a stormy past forced to work together in a twist on the buddy cop format. When the divorced and single parents of two teenagers are assigned to the same case, their work, family and love lives are all rolled up into one wild ride. “The market is currently requesting a lot of long-running light procedural shows,” Bouilhaguet notes.

 

Despite the difficulties of 2020, the exec believes Lagardère has made the most of a testing situation. “It’s good to reinvent and face challenges, so that’s what we’re doing. In this crazy period of confinement, we’ve been reinventing our marketing, including filming pitches with the main actors from the series rather than ourselves,” she says.

 

Bouilhaguet believes marketing is now more important than ever: “Today you need good marketing to sell a series, as competition has never been tougher. We need to be very careful about the selection we’re making and who we’re collaborating with, but we are in a very exciting moment because TV programming and fiction series in particular are on a very high level: content is still king.”