VERSAILLES Series case-study: how to make an international TV blockbuster in co-production

21 August 2019, 17:51

On September 18 at KMW Gavin Reardon, head of sales and co-production department at Incendo, will share the details of producing one of the biggest co-production television projects of recent years.

VERSAILLES series (2015–2018) is a large-scale project was co-produced in Canada and France about the times of king Louis XIV of France. In order to bring the project to the widest audience across the globe, the script for the French history series was written by English-speaking authors in English, and world-famous British actors were invited to take up leading roles. George Blagden, star of VIKINGS series and LES MISERABLES, played the Sun King, and his brother Philip, Duke of Orléans, was played by actor Alexander Vlahos (MERLIN series).

VERSAILLES was commissioned by French pay-TV group Canal Plus and produced by Capa Drama, Zodiak Fiction and Canada’s Incendo. The first season of VERSAILLES was an international sales hit – it traveled to more than 135 countries around the world – and it also broke a three-year ratings record for Canal Plus Creation Originale label. In the UK, on BBC Two, VERSAILLES attracted almost 2 million viewers for each episode – one of the best rated drama acquisition in recent years, according to Zodiak Rights.

“VERSAILLES has proved a resounding success on the international stage, offering a breathtaking and ambitious primetime drama that generates a real buzz wherever it airs,” said Caroline Torrance, head of scripted at Zodiak Rights. “Its acclaimed creative team and cast have vividly brought to life this landmark moment in history, redefining period drama for today’s audiences…”

Canal Plus representatives say, that the series helped them to attract younger audience. No wander that during the last autumn broadcast in France, VERSAILLES gave Canal Plus its biggest ratings in years for a fictional series, averaging 1 million viewers for the first few episodes. It was the first French series to have a second season commissioned before the first had aired.

The project was in development for 5 years before the production started. The series was filmed in real French palaces: besides Versailles, such locations as the estate of Vaux-le-Vicomte, the castles of Pierrefonds, Vinny and Lesini, palaces Château de Maisons-Laffitte , Genvry and Château de Champs-sur-Marnewere were involved. As of 2015, VERSAILLES was the most expensive series ever made in France: according to The Guardian, the total budget of the first season was 30 million euros. And 12% of the budget went to the art department that worked on costumes and decorations to make the series as beautiful and historically accurate as possible.

There is no doubt that preparing, developing, implementing, and distributing of such a large-scale co-production project is a difficult task. Gavin Reardon, head of sales and co-production department of Incendo company, which led the project from the Canadian side will closely elaborate on the management of that task during KYIV MEDIA WEEK.

Reardon's experience in the industry is over 30 years. He began his career as a talent search agent in MGA Agency and since then has come a long way that has included such significant milestones as the post of president of companies IM Global Television, ... and Action! Distribution, GRB Entertainment, and vice-presidency in MTM International Distribution and others. Since 2009, Reardon has been responsible for co-production and sales in Incendo, TV content production company with more than 70 TV-films, series, and documentary products in its portfolio. 

For his speech at KMW, organized with the support of TV Channel Ukraine, Gavin Reardonchose the case-study format, and that means that the main focus will be drawn to the practical aspects of production of VERSAILLES. 

In addition, Reardon will consider aspects of distribution in Canada. He will also dwell separately on the topic of Ukrainian-Canadian co-production, which is especially relevant after the signing of the state agreement on joint production of audiovisual products this summer, which greatly facilitates the process of cooperation between the two countries.

Gavin Reardonspeech “Incendoco-production with Canada – VERSAILLES Series case-study” will take place on the third day of KMWSeptember 18at 16:00 in Paris conference hallThe section is supported by TV Channel Ukraine.

TV Channel Ukraine is one of Ukraine’s TV series production and broadcasting leaders. It was ranked the first among the national channels for all major audiences by the results of 2018. Ukraine TV Channel produces and broadcasts television products of different genres: serials, news and entertainment shows, social and journalistic talk shows, musicals, comedy, documentary projects, football broadcasts. Ukraine TV Channel takes the leading positions in film production as well. About 1,000 premiere hours of TV shows are scheduled for broadcasting in 2019, over 80 TV series premieres are planned to be aired in total and about 50 of them in the autumn season.

Gavin Reardon will be a participant of KMW CoProduction Meetings 2019,a  co-production event at the media forum. Read more here.

KYIV MEDIA WEEK will take place from 16 to 19 September 2019 at Hyatt Regency Kyiv (5 Alla Tarasova st.). Please register for the forum via the link.

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