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The art and science of co-productions

What does it really take to make a great co-productions executive? Are there actually any specialist skills involved or is this part of the business just a clamorous, expensive, rather unpredictable muddle? Perhaps the business of looking for partners to help...
March 1, 1998

What does it really take to make a great co-productions executive? Are there actually any specialist skills involved or is this part of the business just a clamorous, expensive, rather unpredictable muddle? Perhaps the business of looking for partners to help finance or create new programming is genuinely, on the whole, reasonably lean and professional? If this is so, however, how come we have all known projects that have taken many, many years to get off the ground? And why are there so many airports, not to mention lunches, dinners (breakfasts!) and then more lunches between you or I and a completed deal memo?

During the Second World Summit on Television for Children in London during the week of March 9, we are having an entire day devoted to the issues surrounding the financing of programming. There will be a whole range of seminars and master classes. At first glance, this is not-perhaps to the uninitiated-the most glamorous area of television (compared to, say, standing outside in the rain on location at 6:30 a.m. trying to catch that special light). It is, however, becoming increasingly important, with technology about to drive truly quantum changes in how we all consume, distribute and produce our media. How projects are financed (and who they are financed by) will categorically have a direct impact on program standards and on content, as well as defining who owns the valuable rights to the hit properties of tomorrow!

The new digital world will accelerate the need to have highly trained producers delivering program ideas safely through the brave, new competitive legal and financial environment. The television industry will inevitably, therefore, prize ever more highly the ability to initiate co-production relationships that lend themselves to getting great programming produced in a secure, repeatable, sustainable manner.

Mikael Shields is managing director of London-based production company EVA Entertainment. He is one of two producers of the Money Matters panel ‘The Co-production Cabaret’ on Wednesday, March 11.

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