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FremantleMedia eyes French drama push

FremantleMedia is looking at ramping up its scripted business in France, as the company’s push into high-end drama continues.

Sarah Doole1The production giant’s director of global drama Sarah Doole told TBI that France was a priority territory.

Nathalie Drouaire, a former M6 exec who partnered with FremantleMedia in 2010, is aggressively hunting for French scripts that could be adapted for the international market in the light of recent successes such as Zodiak Media-distributed supernatural thriller Les Revenants. FremantleMedia North America is remake Revenants as The Returned for A&E in the US.

“The only [key] territory where we haven’t got in-house producers is France, and we plan to be there very soon,” said Doole (pictured).

A spokeswoman said there were no plans to launch an in-house French base in the immediate future and the French focus will instead be on securing scripts. France presents an attractive proposition for companies with global coproduction scale, thanks to its mature production sector, system of tax break systems and the fact its producers are becoming more attracted to multinational projects.

FremantleMedia’s international arm is currently developing one French-born story, Ugly, with Hollywood director Roland Joffé. The project is billed as a “vividly emotional and imaginative retelling of the world famous French gothic Victor Hugo novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame”.

International drama has become a major focus for Idols and X Factor producer FremantleMedia in recent years. Its production groups such as FremantleMedia UK, UFA in Germany, Blue Circle in the Netherlands and FremantleMedia Australia have significant drama production capabilities.

In the UK, BBC’s head of drama Kate Harwood is coming into the group to revive The Sweeney producer Euston Films, while Newman Street produces Channel 5 cop drama Suspects. In Germany, FremantleMedia production groups UFA is one of the country’s best-known scripted producers, while FremantleMedia Australia successfully rebooted Prisoner (aka Prisoner Cell Block H).

Doole, a former BBC Worldwide exec who joined FremantleMedia in Jabuary last year, said writers and producers were attracted to FremantleMedia’s “bespoke” approach to drama thanks to its integrated production and distribution model.

“Where we can make a difference is, if you’re a small or medium-sized independent producer, a lot of the time you’ll be raising finance through coproduction partners and tax breaks around the world, [and] we have our own fantastic in-house drama producers around the world.

“If you want to partner in Australia to access that tax break, we’ve got the best producers down there if you want to do that. Germany has fantastic regional tax breaks, and we have producers there, too.”