Frances UGC Series Develops Thriving Drama Strategy With Stakes in Headline Pictures, Itineraire & More Outfits (EXCLUSIVE)
UGC, the long-running French film studio whose biggest hits include “Amelie Poulain,” has successful branched into TV series by acquiring stakes in a flurry of talent-driven production companies such as Itineraire Productions (“HPI”) and Headline Pictures (“Call My Agent!’s” British remake) in the U.K.
Opting for a different approach to Gaumont’s or large media groups like Mediawan, the company has been building its label UGC Series as a coalition of independently-ran production companies under the leadership of Laurence Lenica, a veteran UGC executive, and Franck Calderon, a well-known writer, producer and former boss of TF1 Productions.
So far, UGC Series comprises six banners. Along with Headline Pictures and Itineraire Productions, these include Henri Debeurne’s Next Episode whose credits take in “Christmas Flow” for Netflix and “J’ai tué mon mari” for NBCU and TF1; UGC Fiction, which Calderon is leading with Karine Evrard and Sophie Exbrayat, and which has delivered the ratings hit ”Jacqueline Sauvage, It was Him or Me”, and most recently “La Traque” for TF1. The other banners are Aura Productions, newly-launched by Sarah Aknine and Aurélien Molas, and Nabi Productions which is led by Clément Birnbaum and Joachim Nahum. Through this strategy, UGC has diversified its activities while avoiding the costs of launching companies from scratch.
“All these companies are driven by passionate creatives and producers, and they have forged their own identity and complementary editorial lines,” said Lenica, who has worked closely with UGC’s managing director Brigitte Maccioni for over two decades. She said UGC Series’ role is “essentially to provide them with equity financing, some cash flow to allow them to have a competitive edge in a highly competitive environment.” Since UGC doesn’t have an international sales division, producers can also work with third-party sales forces.
Lenica pointed out the TV business has traditionally relied less on equity financing than the film industry but “things are changing and TV producers increasingly need some cash flow to bankroll their development before getting TV channels or streamers involved.”
Calderon pointed out the market has become so consolidated that it’s become key for independent producers to band together and benefit from some financial backing. He added that UGC Series also provided producers with legal backing to help them navigate the complexity of deals.
Headline Pictures is the London-based production company behind the Emmy-winning drama series “The Man in the High Castle” for Amazon Prime, as well as the Irish crime thriller “Kin,” produced with Bron Studios for RTE and AMC, and “Ten Percent”, the remake of the French TV hit series “Call My Agent!” which is set to premiere on Amazon Prime and AMC Plus next month.
Headline Pictures’ executive producer Christian Baute said UGC Series has given the company “more flexibility, the financial ressources to sign talents, options, commission scripts and some stability.” He said “at a time when everyone is chasing IPs,” having an ally like UGC Series which can bring in some cash flow was a necessity.
“In a sense, we have remained independent because we’re not tied to a TV network and we don’t have to feed a sales pipeline as is the case when you’re tied to companies like Fremantle or All3Media,” said Baute, who sometimes works out of UGC Series’ headquarters in Neuilly, just outside of Paris.
Itinéraire Productions, led by Anthony Lancret and Pierre Laugier, is behind HPI,” the hugely popular cop TV series starring Audrey Fleurot (“Intouchables”), and Disney Star Plus’ first French original scripted mini-series, “Oussekine” which will debut on the streamer later this year. “Ousseking” is inspired by the true story of Malik Oussekine, a victim of police brutality in France.
“HPI,” meanwhile, has been sold by Newen Content to more than 50 markets and broke record ratings on TF1. The second season of the series just premiered at Series Mania on Saturday.
Laugier said it made sense for his outfit to partner with UGC because it has “strong and long-standing film culture” bringing together “entrepreneurs and creatives,” and has become “a brand associated with quality.” Another aspect that proved crucial for Laugier is the freedom that UGC Series gives them while providing with “a structure.”
Some synergies will also soon emerge out of UGC Series as some producers have started collaborated on common projects. Itinéraire Productions and Headline Pictures have initiated development on a series that will shoot between London and Paris.
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