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December 15, 2020 |

TBI Vision

TBI’s 2020 Wrap: NENT Group’s Filippa Wallestam; Fremantle’s Jens Richter; eOne’s Noel Hodges; Viu’s Sahana Kamath

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As a tumultuous year for the industry draws to a close, TBI talks to execs from all corners of the world to get their thoughts on the past 12 months and what the year ahead might hold. This is the third instalment of a five-part series, which will run every day this week.

Filippa Wallestam

Filippa Wallestam, EVP & Chief Content Officer, NENT Group

What has been your favourite show of the year (that you haven’t been involved with)?

La Unidad (Spain), because it combines languages in a seamless way and makes it a natural part of the story.

What has been the single biggest lesson you’ve learned in 2020 and why?

You can – and should – stay ambitious. We’ve shown that it’s still possible to launch Viaplay in Iceland, announce a plan for 10 additional countries and set the goal of becoming the European streaming champion even if you’re working from home.

What are you most excited to see (industry-related) in 2021?

Local services going global! Viaplay is a great example here. Up to now all we’ve seen is the globals expanding locally, and now it’s time to switch things around.

What keeps you awake at night?

The need to broaden our storytelling voice. There are many more potential creators out there with so much to say, and I’m really interested in the pitches we’re *not* getting right now.

Which country/region do you expect to flourish on the global stage next year?

The Nordic region, of course! The creative ecosystem continues to flourish and enables us to create truly unique stories. At the same time, Nordic storytelling is as much an aesthetic as a language; you can take the style and the psychology and the rest and do it in English (or other languages) very well. That’s one of the reasons why we’re investing in more international series.

Which genre is set to boom in 2021?

Frankly, we could all do with a bit of a laugh, so I am tipping lighter entertainment like our Norwegian show Suck It Up. That said, I also think documentaries and true crime stories will continue to boom and that makes me particularly excited about Viaplay’s upcoming push into high-end documentaries.

Jens Richter

Jens Richter, CEO, Fremantle International

What has been your favourite show of the year (that you haven’t been involved with)?

Unorthodox (Netflix) was a standout show for me. It was co-created by the very talented Anna Winger, who we also work with on the Deutschland series.

What has been the single biggest lesson you’ve learned in 2020 and why?

There is always room for surprise. It’s about how you adapt and learn from those surprises, and the creativity that can come from the unexpected.

What are you most excited to see (industry-related) in 2021?

I’m looking forward to being able to see people in person. Industry-related and private.

What keeps you awake at night?

Watching way too many shows. Otherwise, I sleep well.

Which country/region do you expect to flourish on the global stage next year?

The global stage will flourish.

Which genre is set to boom in 2021?

Big existing brands, great factual and drama and in general, warm-hearted comfy shows.

Noel Hodges

Noel Hodges, EVP of Acquisitions, International Distribution, Entertainment One

What has been your favourite show of the year (that you haven’t been involved with)?

It’s a toss-up between The Mandalorian and The Great. The Mandalorian was a feast to watch, on a fantastic pure Star Wars scale, but also was really effective in its simplicity, to just have a simple premise coupled with a good adventure story each week.

The Great was a breath of fresh air for period drama, totally irreverent whilst also being really interesting telling of history.

What has been the single biggest lesson you’ve learned in 2020 and why?

Don’t book a holiday or flight more than one week in advance, you WILL be cancelling it.

What are you most excited to see (industry-related) in 2021?

I’m excited to see how producers and creatives are going to deliver really impactful visual drama on lower budgets. Numbers continue to spiral upwards on drama, but some are aiming to hit a more modest price point and with the right creative team, there should be able to be real punch for an audience.

What keeps you awake at night?

What doesn’t! The rubbish cycle lanes on Chiswick High Road really stress me out but last night it was whether my parents had got an electrician in to fix the dining room light before Christmas! Seriously!

Which country/region do you expect to flourish on the global stage next year?

I think Australia will really punch through more than it is doing now even. There’s some really great content coming from there. Then I would say South Africa and I’ve got my eye on Russia, I’ve seen a few things from there that were pretty impressive.

Which genre is set to boom in 2021?

I think we will see even more warm, cross generational feelgood TV next year. Escapist, enjoyable and relaxing.

Sahana Kamath

Sahana Kamath, Head of Original Production for Viu Indonesia and Malaysia

What has been your favourite show of the year (that you haven’t been involved with)?

As a firm believer in the strength of scripted formats, it’s been great to see the success story of JTBC’s The World Of The Married this year. The adaptation was bold in pushing the envelope yet perfectly judged to resonate the right way with Asian audiences.

What has been the single biggest lesson you’ve learned in 2020 and why?

We spent a lot of time this year learning new ways to be proactive and nimble with our productions, and we’re grateful to have had some of the best producers in our corner. Ultimately, what’s clear is that, when shooting in the midst of a pandemic, nothing is certain and even your contingency plans need backups. Looking back, one surprising discovery is that some of the best scenes we shot in 2020 actually came about as a result of the shooting restrictions. Several times, we saw a heavy fight scene, for example, converted to a more intimate and contained character moment that actually served the series better. In premium drama, it can be easy to get caught up in the scope and scale or the bells and whistles. It was a nice reminder that the right words can sometimes speak much louder than action.

What are you most excited to see (industry-related) in 2021?

This year, producers have had longer than ever to focus on script development. At Viu, we used the production down-time to focus on conceptualisation, expanding our development slates across all of our markets and scouting for new emerging talent to champion. I’m excited to see how this extended period of incubation will raise the bar on premium storytelling in the region, and put Asian voices and stories front and centre on the world’s stage.

What keeps you awake at night?

Entertainment has never been more of a human necessity, and I’m sure that every producer and commissioner has felt the weight of that responsibility this year. As an industry, we came together to find the best and safest practices for resuming and re-envisioning production, and at Viu our production partners have been taking every precaution to follow rigorous standards and practices. Still, until this pandemic has passed, there will always be a certain amount of anxiety for the safety and wellbeing of our cast and crew.

Which country/region do you expect to flourish on the global stage next year?

Premium content is poised to flourish in Southeast Asia following pan-regional successes like Pretty Little Liars, The Bridge, My Bubble Tea and Keluarga Baha Don. With the immense talent in the region and a rich tradition of storytelling that organically espouses diversity, the ecosystem is sure to expand and thrive. Some markets will bounce back faster than others, but a Southeast Asian wave is surely coming.

Which genre is set to boom in 2021?

For Asia, I think we’ll see a greater focus on darker and more complex/complicated romantic drama as well as younger-skewing genre fare. The proliferation of scripted format remakes in general is also likely to continue for some time to come.

You can also catch up with our earlier instalments of TBI Wrap 2020. Part one, featuring GloboPlay’s Ana Carolina Lima, ITV Studio’s Julian Bellamy and Starz’s Superna Kalle, can be found here.

Part two, featuring BBC Studio’s Paul Dempsey, Argonon’s James Burstall and White Spark’s Briege Whitehead, can be found here.

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