Fremantle has today announced the acquisition of the independent production company, Passenger, to become a fully-owned label as part of Fremantle.
Passenger, which was launched by Richard Brown in May 2019 with the backing of Fremantle in an exclusive multi-year deal, will now sit within Fremantle’s Global Drama division, spearheaded by Christian Vesper. The acquisition of Passenger forms part of Fremantle’s wider growth strategy to invest in production companies and talent around the world to continue creating distinct premium content for a global audience.
Prior to joining forces with Fremantle, Brown had a decade-long overall deal at Anonymous Content where he initiated, developed and executive produced HBO’s anthology series True Detective and executive produced Hulu’s George Clooney-fronted limited series Catch-22 staring Kyle Chandler, Christopher Abbott and Hugh Laurie as well as Netflix’s action epic Outlaw King starring Chris Pine. During this period, Brown worked closely with Anonymous Content founder Steve Golin on the company’s transition into television. He has subsequently become known as a pioneer in cinematic scripted television programming, with a proven track record at developing high quality material and projects which have attracted world class talent.
In addition to heading up Passenger, Brown will now undertake a new creative role across Fremantle’s Global Drama division, where he will help drive Fremantle’s efforts in the development and production of TV and film projects, building a roster of talent relationships and collaborating with Fremantle’s rapidly expanding international network of labels.
Passenger will expand its team in New York, Los Angeles, and London; Caitlin Bruner will come onboard as VP, Development and Elise Swift has been promoted internally to the role of Creative Executive. Bruner previously ran development at Noah Hawley’s 26 Keys. Additional hires are expected to be announced soon.
Since entering the partnership with Fremantle, Passenger has developed and produced a series of premium scripted and factual projects, including Sky’s recently released drama This England. The series, written and directed by Michael Winterbottom and starring BAFTA® and Academy Award®-winner Kenneth Branagh as Boris Johnson, is Sky Atlantic’s number one original drama launch of the year and has already sold to more than 90 territories thanks to a raft of deals completed by Fremantle’s International team.
Most recently, Fremantle and Passenger have optioned Tess Gunty’s 2022 National Book Award winning debut novel, The Rabbit Hutch, which has also won the Barnes & Nobel Discover Prize, the Waterstone’s Debut Fiction Prize, and was a Must-Read book of 2022 by Time Magazine.
Fremantle and Passenger have also teamed up to produce a premium documentary series on the Basketball Africa League (BAL), a new Pan-African basketball league operated by the NBA. The series, directed by Brown along with Tebogo Malope, tells the original story of the creation, launch and inaugural season of the BAL. It follows the stories of players, coaches, and teams from across Africa, spotlighting the ambition behind the league and the individuals who have worked to transform the landscape of sports on the continent.
Richard Brown said: “Fremantle has been the ideal partner over the past three years with unwavering support and a distinct vision at a transformative time for our industry. This is the natural evolution of our relationship; working closely together we’ll be able to increase our capacity to create compelling film and TV. I’m also excited to take on a new role collaborating with Andrea Scrosati and Christian Vesper across the Global Drama group, which has grown into a formidable force under their impressive leadership.”
Andrea Scrosati, Group COO and CEO Continental Europe, Fremantle said: “Richard and his talented team have built a wonderful business, and we are delighted to welcome them even closer to the Fremantle family as they continue to grow and flourish. During the years I have personally shared great creative exchanges with Richard. He is one of the most culturally sophisticated producers I have ever worked with, so I am thrilled that we will continue to work together creating more unique content for the global stage across many genres”.
For Fremantle, it is the latest producer and talent deal after teaming up with globally renowned TV and film talents including Johan Renck, Paulo Sorrentino, Luca Guadagnino, Michael Winterbottom, Pablo Larrain, Neil Cross and Angelina Jolie. Fremantle also recently acquired a majority stake in Ireland’s Element Pictures (The Favorite, Normal People).
The deal further underlines Fremantle’s ongoing commitment to producing high-quality original drama series and feature films. With over 100 dramas to be delivered in 2022, Fremantle’s slate has now three times more drama series coming from outside the US and UK than major US studios.