Mediawan CEO Elisabeth D’Arvieu Welcomes Brad Pitt’s Plan B To Fold & Explains Companys Inclusive Approach: All For One, And One For All Deadline Disruptors
Mediawan has been shaking the foundations of the film and TV world in France and Europe since it was launched in 2015 by producer Pierre-Antoine Capton, billionaire entrepreneur Xavier Niel and financier Matthieu Pigasse.
Raising an initial $342 million (300 million euros) by listing shares on the Euronext Paris stock exchange in 2016, the Paris-based group has since gathered some 70 film and TV production labels under its umbrella as well as secured the backing of U.S. investment firms KKR and Atwater Capitol.
High-profile acquisitions have included the television division of Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp; Lagardère Studios and its 25 labels, including Spain’s Boomerang Group; French production houses Chapter 2, Chi-Fou-Mi, Radar Films and Call My Agent creator Mon Voisin Productions as well as Italian producer Palomar.
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In 2021, it took a majority stake in the U.K.’s Drama Republic, while on the eve of Cannes, it bought Submarine, the Amsterdam and Los Angeles multi-platform behind the Emmy-award-winning documentary Bellingcat: Truth in a Post-Truth World and Richard Linklater’s animated feature Apollo 10 1⁄2: A Space Age Childhood.
“We’re a French company based in France but the idea is to create a European studio made up of the best talents in Europe, in cinema, animation, documentary, series and live studio shows, and to help them make their productions, distribute them and export them internationally,” says Mediawan Pictures CEO Elisabeth d’Arvieu in an interview at the group’s seven-floor Paris HQ, home to many of the French labels.
“We don’t go after a company because it’s specialized in a particular type of genre. We rather connect with producers because of their talent. They’re often very anchored in their local market but produce content that travels. We’re also looking for people who share the same ambitions and DNA as us. It has to be the right fit.”
The burgeoning content group made headlines beyond Europe last December when it announced it was acquiring a significant stake in Brad Pitt’s company Plan B Entertainment.
Curiosity about the $300 million deal and how the production house behind The Departed, 12 Years a Slave and Moonlight will fit into the Mediawan fold is rife on both sides of the Atlantic.
“This partnership is an important step for us,” says d’Arvieu. “We’re a European studio, our DNA is European, but our vision is international. While our producers and talent are carrying projects that are local in nature, their international ambitions are growing.”
She continues: “The American market is an important one for European works, and we understood we needed a partner in situ. Until now, we’ve been working on a case-by-case basis, but we wanted a partner who could be the image of Mediawan in the U.S.”
Nicola Serra, managing director of Rome-based film and TV The Name Of The Rose production company Palomar which joined the Mediawan fold in 2019, thinks the partnership will be a game-changer.
His company has already successfully made inroads into the U.S. market with the Dominic Cooper and Douglas Booth-starring spaghetti Western series The Dirty Black Bag, which sold AMC+ in 2021, but he believes the Plan B connection will expand opportunities.
“It’s difficult for a European company to be accepted and gain trust as a credible player in the U.S. Every time you want to pitch a project or sign a top talent, you need to prove yourself. We’ve built a network and reputation, but it’s really hard work and takes time,” says Serra.
“I think that now, for whoever within the group has good ideas for international projects with U.S. potential, this connection with Plan B will help and accelerate the process of getting them off the ground, if the projects are good, of course.”
D’Arvieu emphasizes that at the heart of Mediawan’s approach is respect for the independence of its producers and says this is a factor that helped facilitate the tie-in with Plan B. “When a producer joins Mediawan, there is one thing we pledge to uphold, and that is their total independence in terms of creativity and production. We’re never going to dictate what they make.
“They are protective of their creative independence, which fits perfectly with our DNA,” she says. “We came together in a fairly natural way. The idea is to build bridges between the United States and Europe, to bring European talents onto the international market.”
The executive points to the trajectory of Florian Zeller, the Oscar-winning director The Father, whose Paris and LA-based production company Blue Morning Pictures is backed by Mediawan, as an example of a French talent who has made it on both sides of the Atlantic.
Plan B co-presidents Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner traveled to Paris in mid-April for meetings with some of its European producers. Similar trips are also planned to Spain and Italy.
Quizzed on first projects, D’Arvieu says ideas are cooking. “We only finalized the deal in January. It’s early days, but the exchanges have started already, and the aim is really to create exchanges between all our talent like Florian, Plan B, Chapter 2, Palomar, Chi-Fou-Mi…”
Chi-Fou-Mi founder and president Hugo Sélignac says the exchanges go both ways.
“When you lunch with Jeremy Kleiner, he’s asking questions about the French market and I’m asking him questions about the U.S. market and we’re chatting about projects at the same time,” he says. “There’s a lot of scope for synergies, not just with Plan B, but also other companies in the group. I also talk a lot, for example, with Palomar.”
Evoking the new Plan B connection, Radar Films founder Clément Miserez suggests that there is a gap in the U.S. market for the type of family film his company specializes in alongside genre fare.
He points to the Netflix success of Radar’s 2021 film Vicky And Her Mystery, about a motherless girl who forms a bond with a wolf cub,
“When we embarked on international sales, U.S. buyers told us there was no longer an appetite for those White Fang, Free Willy style films. It was all Pixar, Marvel and Illumination, but then the film went up on Netflix and it was an enormous success, staying in the top 10 for weeks,” he says.
Outside of Mediawan’s Transatlantic ambitions, the focus is on its European hub, where the group is steadily growing its cinema footprint, alongside its TV production activities, particularly in France.
It successfully launched the first part of Martin Bourboulon’s ambitious $72 million two-part, French-language Alexandre Dumas adaptation The Three Musketeers: D’Artagnan in early April. Spearheaded by Dimitri Rassam at Chapter 2, in collaboration with Pathé, and starring François Civil, Vincent Cassel, Romain Duris, Pio Marmaï, Eva Green, Louis Garrel, Vicky Krieps, and Lyna Khoudri, the film has drawn more than three million spectators at home and achieved a total worldwide gross of $27 million to date.
Two other films produced by Mediawan labels have also enjoyed success in recent weeks: Denis Imbert’s On The Wandering Path (Radar Films) and Jeanne Harry’s ensemble drama All Your Faces (Chi-Fou-Mi Productions).
The 2023 release slate also includes Chapter 2’s Carmen by Benjamin Millepied and The Three Musketeers: Milady, as well as Chi-Fou-Mi titles Omar La Fraise (which world premieres as a Cannes Midnight screening) and Nathan Ambrosioni’s Camille Cottin-starrer Toni, En Famille. Also coming up are Autumn and the Black Jaguar, the latest production from Mia and the White Lion director Gilles de Maistre under his Mai-Juin Productions banner, and Jeremy Zag’s Miraculous, on which Mediawan label On Kids & Family is a producer.
“We’re across all types of cinemas from tentpoles to family films, auteur and genre works,” d’Arvieu says. “We don’t favor any one type of film. What interests us is the project, the talent, and the possibility that the film can travel.”
Chi-Fou-Mi’s Sélignac says the group’s openness to variety was just one of the reasons he decided it would be a good fit for him.
“When I first started talking to Pierre-Antoine Capton in 2018, the range of what I was making was one of the things he appreciated,” says Sélignac, who signed with Mediawan on the evening of the Cannes premiere for his production The Stronghold in 2021.
“I felt that with Pierre-Antoine and Elisabeth, I could be part of a group that liked what I did and had the same desire to live this adventure with me as I moved from films like The Stronghold to a film about depressed men in their swimming trunks (Sink or Swim), to an Algerian film that goes to Cannes (Omar La Fraise), to a film by Jeanne Herry (All Your Faces), which basically involves people sitting around the table and still manages to bring a million spectators, to a film about a giant fly by Quentin Dupieux (Mandibles),” he says.
The producer recalls that film industry colleagues warned him that he risked losing his independence by entering Mediawan.
“I can only talk about my experiences, but I’ve never felt more independent,” he says. “I signed one year into the Covid pandemic, during which time I’d seen the conditions for the producing profession get tougher and producers who had been at the height of their success get into difficulty. It’s reassuring to be part of a group and at the same time have the freedom to follow my own editorial line, which has only one criterion: quality.”
Sélignac says that until now, the group has never intervened in any of his projects and there are no constraints on who he can partner with on his projects, with Mediawan happily working across all distribution platforms and sources of finance. He does reveal, however, that he has a three-monthly meeting with d’Arvieu, her team and Mediawan CFO Guillaume Izabel to discuss his slate.
“People said that this would be the thing that would most de-stabilize me, but not all — it’s fantastic. If I manage to convince 10 people that my projects are cool, when I arrive on the market to drum up finance, it’s like I’ve gone through a rehearsal. It’s always a pleasure to talk to them about what we’re working on.”
Miserez, whose company joined Mediawan in 2019 says being part of the group allows him to focus on his favorite part of the job.
“Just because you achieved millions of entries with your last film, doesn’t make it easier to achieve the same with the next. Every film is a prototype, every time you embark on a production, it’s like you’re defending your title again,” he says.
“Being part of a larger, well-oiled system enables me to concentrate on the bits of the job I love most, working with the talent, producing films and developing scripts.”
After 15 years of producing films for theatrical release, Miserez says being part of Mediawan, which has an even bigger presence in TV, has also helped him to move into producing films for traditional broadcasters as well as the platforms.
Radar’s first TV film Comme Mon Fils recently drew 4.2 million viewers for its first broadcast on TF1, while the company is currently working on its first Original with Netflix and is also developing its first-ever series.
“It’s impossible to stay in this activity without producing for the broadcaster and platforms, and there is a savoir-faire within the Mediawan group that has enabled me to do this.”
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