In an exclusive interview with Variety, our Global COO and CEO of Continental Europe Andrea Scrosati, shared our growing slate of films.
Content giant Fremantle is making a big push into feature films as it expands its horizons, says group COO Andrea Scrosati who is also the multi-pronged company’s continental Europe chief.
At last year’s Venice fest Fremantle, known for talent shows “X-Factor” and “American Idol” and TV series such as “The Mosquito Coast,” was flying the flag with several pics including Paolo Sorrentino’s prizewinning and Oscar-nommed “The Hand of God.” More recently at Cannes, Fremantle-produced film “The Eight Mountains” scored the jury prize. All of which, Scrosati boasts, is pretty good for just the past nine months. And, though he’s keeping mum, expect several more Fremantle films at Venice in September.
More significantly, there are currently a total of 33 movies that Fremantle’s myriad companies are expected to deliver in 2022, though some are being co-produced with other outfits. That’s quite a substantial leap, considering that in 2018, when Scrosati joined the company, Fremantle produced a mere eight films.
Fremantle’s business model is based on investing in labels and companies that they either fully own, or are majority investors in. As part of an M&A spree the media conglomerate owned by Germany’s RTL Group recently snapped up Irish production company Element Pictures, the producers of “Normal People,” “Conversations With Friends” and “The Favourite” by Yorgos Lanthimos, who is currently wrapping up his new drama, Emma Stone-starrer “Poor Things,” also under the Element — and now Fremantle — banner.
“The Element acquisition has obviously scaled up our presence in the feature film business,” says Scrosati, given that Element is a prolific producer of high-profile pics. They just wrapped Joanna Hogg’s “The Eternal Daughter” with Tilda Swinton playing a dual role, among other high-profile pics in their pipeline (see Fremantle film slate below).
But film production is now also being ramped up within Fremantle’s previously owned labels and there are several rationales behind this push.
“One is a creative talent-focused rationale” says Scrosati. Exactly the same way there are stories that need to be told through high drama — because they need multiple hours — there are stories that are better told in 90 or 100 minutes. “With the type of talent we work with, we want to be the place and the house where they know they can tell the story, regardless of the format,” he notes.
For Fremantle securing major talent deals is the name of the game. It’s what has brought Sorrentino — whose personal pic “The Hand of God” was shepherded by Fremantle’s Italian label The Apartment — into the Fremantle fold in several guises, including as an executive producer on Stefano Sollima’s upcoming “Ferrari” series for Apple. Angelina Jolie recently inked a three-year deal with Fremantle under which she is currently in Rome shooting her passion project “Without Blood” starring Salma Hayek.
Scrosati cited “Without Blood” as a good example. “We are now partners with Angelina Jolie in producing and scouting projects,” he says. “But I think the fact that we were willing to support her on this specific movie project is one of the key elements that brought us together: movies are a key component in our talent relations,” Scrosati points out.
Then there is another aspect, which is that the market request for movies has substantially increased because all the streaming platforms are looking for them.
“Ultimately platforms realize that if you want to provide a shared experience, drama is more challenging because people will be watching different episodes at different times and also the time commitment that a viewer needs to put in is more challenging,” says Scrosati.
The Fremantle Europe chief underlines that “movies are more of a shared experience and they [the streamers] are looking for that.”
Also, from a marketing standpoint, he notes, movies can involve a higher level of talent since shooting a film takes less time out the talents’ schedules. “So on that side there is market worth,” says Scrosati.
Fremantle is now working with a high-caliber roster of directors, many of whom are Oscar nominees or winners including Luca Guadagnino, Sebastian Lelio, Michael Winterbottom, Kirill Serebrennikov and Rungano Nyoni, to name a few.
Interestingly, Scrosati says more than 50% of the films in the Fremantle pipeline will bow in movie theaters and only around 15% are going to bow globally directly on a streamer.
In terms of the business model with which these pics are being financed, it’s on a title by title basis. But “the biggest commissioner of these films is Fremantle,” he says, “meaning that we will take a lot of risk on all these projects.” That risk ranges from studio financing a big chunk of the budget to not having to finance them at all because they have been pre-sold or pre-packaged.
Many the movies in the Fremantle pipeline are being done as a joint venture with Pathè — Serebrennikov’s “Limonov” and Emanuele Crialese’s ‘L’Immensità are among these. Others are with FilmNation and some, like Guadagnino’s “Bones and All,” are with MGM.
“There is a vast combination of ways you can monetize on a movie today across theatrical, TV, platforms, and transactional VOD,” Scrosati notes. “And local tax credit systems in some countries, mainly Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic, and Malta make financing movies in Europe more doable,” than in the U.S., he adds.
That said, Scrosati is quick to point out that “unscripted shows like ‘X Factor’ and ‘Idol’ are still the main component of revenue for Fremantle and will continue to be.”
“The reason we can do film and TV is because we do those type of shows,” he says.
An overview of selected films to be either delivered or produced this year by Fremantle-owned outfits:
“L’Immensità,” directed by Emanuele Crialese. Cast: Penelope Cruz
“Siccità” (“Drought”) directed by Paolo Virzì. Cast: Monica Bellucci, Silvio Orlando
“Limonov,” directed by Kirill Serebrennikov. Cast: Ben Whishaw
New Saverio Costanzo movie
The Apartment (Italy)
“Bones and All,” directed by Luca Guadagnino. Cast: Timothee Chalamet, Taylor Russell
New Paolo Sorrentino movie
“Without Blood,” directed by Angelina Jolie. Cast: Salma Hayak, Demian Bichir
New Stefano Sollima movie
“Thousand Lines,” directed by Michael “Bully” Herbig
“The Eternal Daughter,” directed by Joanna Hogg. Cast: Tilda Swinton (plays two characters — mother and daughter)
“Chevalier,” directed by Stephen Williams. Cast: Kelvin Harrison, Samara Weaving, Lucy Boynton
“The Wonder,” directed by Sebastian Lelio. Cast: Florence Pugh
“Poor Things,” directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. Cast: Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe.
“On Becoming a Guinea Fowl,” directed by Rungano Nyoni
Miso Film (Norway)
“Blasted,” directed by Martin Sofiedal
Fiction Valley (Holland)
“The Take Over,” directed by Annemarie van de Mond
The Immigrant (Mexico)
“Adolfo,” directed by Sofia Auza