Fast Tracks, an original idea that was a collaborative effort by Barron Entertainment staff, centers around a junior high school that teaches academic students and offers a special program for athletes. Conflict and resolution follow with the interaction between these two groups.
Driven Crazy is based on a series of short stories by best-selling Australian author Paul Jennings, whose books are popular with tweens. Each self-contained episode follows the adventures of a father, his son and daughter as they roam the Australian outback.
Both shows are 13 x half-hour live-action series targeting eight- to 12-year-olds.
Partners: Barron Entertainment, Perth, Australia
Scottish Television International (STVI), Glasgow, Scotland
Additional partners include Ten Network in Australia, Nickelodeon UK, Disney Channel and Nickelodeon Australia, as well as Ravensburger Film + TV in Germany.
How the partnership began:
Barron, one of the biggest producers of kids programming in Australia, had the creative show ideas, but needed help with worldwide distribution. STVI had distribution expertise, but wanted to become more involved in the Australian market. A partnership with Barron made it easier for STVI to expand its business, says Ian Jones, director of STVI. Jones first came across Barron Entertainment when he was with a network in Wales. After working with Paul Barron, general manager of Barron Entertainment, on a project there, he thought future projects might be a possibility.
After talking earlier this year, Barron and STVI signed a five-year agreement to co-develop, co-produce and distribute shows. STVI will distribute Barron’s past and future catalogue. This marks the first time the two companies have joined forces.
‘Working with Barron made sense for us because of their successes [in the last few years] with Ship To Shore and Sweat, two tween-targeted series airing on the BBC,’ says Jones.
For all of these reasons, ‘the relationship has been a perfect fit,’ says Jones.
Additional co-production partners come on board: Ten Network in Australia and New Zealand , Ravensburger Film + TV in Germany, Disney Channel Australia, Nickelodeon UK and Nickelodeon Australia. These partners aid in the financing of the production and offer input in the early stages of the script and casting.
Production begins on the two series. Driven Crazy is filmed in Melbourne, and Fast Tracks is shot in Perth.
Each show has a budget of US$171,000 to US$184,000 per episode. Thirty percent of the financing is in the form of a presale to Ten Network, a presale for the first run on the Australian Broadcast Corporation, as well as Australian government money. STVI and Barron contribute 25% of the cost as part of the distribution guarantee between the partners, while 15% comes from Nickelodeon Australia and Ravensburger (the latter bought exclusive rights for all German-speaking territories). The balance is supplied from additional general financing out of Australia, says Jones.
One would assume that with so many fingers in the pie, the project would never get off the ground.
‘It’s made things a little slower,’ agrees Barron. ‘But we’ve also learned things from each [partner] that have made this a better international product in the long run.’
For example, Barron is careful not to use English-language signs or newspaper headlines in critical aspects of a plot. ‘That’s something we learned from Ravensburger,’ he says. ‘They then have to dub or subtitle that part, which reinforces to viewers that they are watching foreign programming.’ Simple changes can be made to avoid these problems, says Barron, such as using a road sign with an arrow denoting direction instead of a ‘this way’ sign written in English.
‘Slang is another area we carefully consider,’ adds Jones. ‘Having international partners who oversee the script in the early stages brings those things to our attention.’
Production wraps up, and the shows are readied for delivery to Ten Network. Meetings take place between Barron and STVI to evaluate the productions and to discuss further projects. At press time, neither side would clarify how many series are on the table, but production on new projects is set to start early next year.
The first episodes of Driven Crazy and Fast Tracks are delivered to Ten Network. Both programs will help fulfill broadcast quota regulations for local kids programming, and will begin airing in October.
STVI will formally launch Driven Crazy at MIPCOM. Fast Tracks will also be presented, but according to Jones, it will not be completely ready for international distribution for several more months.
‘Both programs offer humor and drama, and we think they will work well internationally,’ says Barron.
Evaluating the partnership
For Barron Entertainment and STVI, the most challenging part of their friendly co-production relationship is the distance. Despite the distance, the two partners are pleased with the way the relationship has been working out, and both say they are optimistic about future projects.