Wednesday Workshop: Co-Pro Clinic

Posted on: Wednesday 03 July 2013 9:02pm by Jan Leventhall


Blogger: Jan Leventhall

Horns, Speed Dating, Love, Sex and Food at Co-Pro Workshop!

“The session explored unexpected depths in such an ever changing market of new players, new  models, and new partnerships.” – Sarah Baynes (Creative Garden)

“Clarity is the biggest thing in co-production. Partnership is important –  like the people and know what everyone’s remit is.” Mickey Rogers (Rogers Media)

 “Co-Production is a three dimensional noughts and crosses” – Nigel Pickard (Zodiac)

“Take every opportunity now, but we are heading for a period of consolidation” – Sarah Muller (CBBC)

“Understand what’s underneath the hood.  Especially if you are the person that owns the IP.” – Nikki Collier (Industry Media)

Top 10 take aways;

  1. Andrew Beecham of Sprout declares co-production is a marriage.  It needs courtship, a pre-nup and a wedding before the fun part – the kids.
  2. Genevieve Dexter of Serious Lunch likens funding to lunch on a plate, with some high calorie good foods and other less healthy foods that are essential to sustain your co-production.
  3. Nikki Collier gets down to the nuts and bolts outlining the top five contractual issues of media production  – including the importance of planning for termination (the divorce!)
  4. Delegates swap business cards in speed dating event with prizes for the most achieved, allied of course with serious networking conversations. Networking  (the courtship) is key.  Like your partners before you get into bed with them!
  5. Keep up to date with technological developments and industry trends, from initial concept or rights acquisition to programme on screen may take up to 5 years.  Check and re-check budgets and adjust as necessary.
  6. The importance of pitching age appropriate projects with ancillary and commercial potential is revealed in a group pitching exercise to an international Green Light panel of expert broadcasters, producers, distributors and financiers.
  7. Nigel Pickard of Zodiac outlines 5 different funding models in the fragmented world; Fully funded, Toy Funded, Co-Production and Multi pre-sale, and Ad Funded,  explaining that as TV viewing hours  and advertising revenue are continuing to rise Content is still King, but ….
  8. Some panellists warn about the role of new players in the field such as You Tube, Amazon and Netflix and their approach to content rights.  Check the deal and make sure you know what you are giving away!
  9. Overwhelming agreement from panellists and delegates that contemporary co-production is a complex activity that requires multi international deals which producers require professional support to negotiate.
  10.  In summary Mickey Rogers outlines the co-production Rules of Engagement.  Strategy is key –  understand who you are selling to and work on a project by project basis to be central to their priorities.

With fifteen speakers and panellists from 5 different countries with more nationalities represented in the hall this was a truly international session.  Delegates from diverse backgrounds such as marketing, media law, talent agencies, writers, producers, distributors, digital media developers, funders and broadcasters all came looking for one thing, to learn more about the complex issues of co-production and funding.  Or as two delegates exclaimed, wishfully, to find a massive deal and a suitcase of cash!

The session took the form of expert panel discussions, a speed dating (networking event) and a pitching session all controlled by Mickey’s horn (which occasionally went off at unprompted moments.)  Fun prizes were awarded to delegates who successfully pitched their group idea and won the most networking introductions.  The serious message was that co-production deals today are never simple affairs.  They can often involve more than 27 production funding partners with even more involved in the ancillary deals.  International partnerships are often essential and the importance of choosing the right partners and ensuring that contracts are watertight are key.

Different opinions were expressed on the role of new media and the role of new players such as Amazon and You Tube.  Katharina Pietzsch of ZDF has had some successful partnerships with them, whilst Ann Brogan of Kindle Entertainment warned of the need to check the deal as they may require full editorial control. Opening speaker, Andrew Beecham of Sprout, using marriage as an analogy explained the importance of the courtship period and how he looks for ideas that will not only work beautifully on screen, but offer revenue possibilities for the commercial division.  A recurring theme was the importance of choosing the right partners with whom you can develop a mutually profitable relationship.  As in marriage, disagreements are inevitable, but it is important to be aware at the outset of engaging with suitable partners that you may have to work with over a period of years.

This was a theme taken up by Genevieve Dexter who stressed how long co-productions can take to come to fruition, up to five years, and the need to re-budget as technology develops.  She described opportunities for funding available through tax breaks,  European Investment funds and private investors, but warned that the days of 100% funding without giving away any equity have long gone. With regard to contractual issues Nikki Collier reminded delegates of five key issues that can arise – the Co-Development Agreement, Copyright ownership, Work Splits and Editorial Control, Net Profit sharing and Termination stressing the importance of ensuring all these are tied up at the outset of the project. Some discussions in the workshop pitching section revolved around moving from the broadcast world into the digital world.

However the final speaker Nigel Pickard of Zodiac showed statistics that indicated television is still the largest market platform.  He stressed how fragmented funding is complex suggesting that producers should seek professional support to negotiate watertight deals.

Finally after an intellectually demanding 4 hours, when asked to summarise the session in a word, delegates came up with the following: informative, complex, international, relationships, enlightening, a lot of information to take in,  and from the winner of the pink tiara, embarrassing!   But those are the pitfalls of co-production!

Know your partner well and the marriage will be happy.

Mickey Rogers (MickeyRogers Media)

Executive Producer:
Sarah Baynes (Creative Garden)

Experts were:
Andrew Beecham (Senior VP, Sprout)
Anne Brogan (Co-Director, Kindle Entertainment)
Massimo Bruno (Head of TV Channels, Italy)
Nikki Collier (TV Business Affairs, Industry Media)
Carla De Jong (Executive i/c Production & Development , CBC, Canada)
Genevieve Dexter (Founder & CEO, Serious Lunch)
Simon Flamank (Executive Director, Bob & Co)
Eric Huang (Director of Development, Mind Candy)
Tony Humphreys (MD. Talent TV)
Sarah Muller (Head Acquisitions/Drama Development, CBBC)
Nigel Pickard (CEO, Zodiac Kids)
Katharina Pietzsch (Director, ZDF Junior Enterprises, Germany)
Vicky Schroderus (Acquisition Executive, VLE, Finland)                                                           
Sander Schwartz (President, Children’s & Family Ent, Freemantle)
Alison Stewart (Head of CBeebies Prod/Animation & Acquisition, BBC)

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Jan Leventhall

About the author

Jan Leventhall

Formerly Development Executive for Children’s and Young People’s Programmes at Central/Carlton Television, Jan was involved in the development of a range of children’s programmes including ‘Press Gang’ and ‘Harry’s Mad’.  She was the originator and associate producer of seven series of the multi-award winning C4 series ‘Wise Up.’  More recently… Read more