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Go Back To Where You Came From has been remade in Denmark, The Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland. And it's been optioned in a dozen other territories too.

Format activity in a nutshell

Go Back To Where You Came From has been remade in Denmark, The Netherlands and as one show for Germany, Austria and Switzerland. It has also been optioned in at least a dozen other territories often by more than one production company at different times.

Back to the beginning

“The idea for Go Back was pitched by Karina Holden and Tim Toni, then part of Oxford Scientific, to Peter Newman and myself when we were executives at SBS. We loved it and started working with them on it. At the time Oxford Scientific was part of Southern Star, which was owned by Fairfax Media. After Oxford Scientific went belly up I had to negotiate with Fairfax for 12 months to get the rights. It was a great show and we wanted it. Once I had secured them I went to CJZ because I wanted Michael Cordell to produce it. He did an outstanding job. Now I’m CEO of CJZ, so it’s come full circle.

<h6>Matt Campbell</h6><p>CEO, Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder
Matt Campbell

CEO, Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder

“We were pitched it as a forward journey, in other words, the show would start with refugees coming to Australia from their country. To give credit where credit’s due, I’m pretty sure it was Peter who came up with the idea of starting with Australians and taking them back to where the refugees had come from.”

Format sales drivers

“Success here is always important when selling formats. Go Back was the highest-rating local show on SBS ever, until Struggle Street this year, and on the night of its premiere it was the number one trending topic on Twitter worldwide – in part because of time zone differences. But winning the Golden Rose at the Rose d’Or Festival in Switzerland – it was voted the best show of 2012 across all platforms and categories – and winning an Emmy (for non-scripted entertainment) were the big drivers. It has now been produced locally: by Studio Hamburg Doclights for Germany, Austria and Switzerland; for TV 2 in Denmark; and by Tuvalu Media for The Netherlands, where Channel NP03 has just commissioned a second series.

“SBS International has sales rights to the original and to any foreign-produced shows. There have been very few sales of the original. CJZ Distribution controls the format but when Paul Heaney set up TCB Media Rights about three years ago we subcontracted a lot of tape (finished programs) and format sales to him. Some deals still come straight to us because we’ve had relationships with the production companies for a long time but TCB still does the contracting. Selling formats is a lot of work for the producer even if you have a distributor as the company that’s doing the optioning wants to talk with you not the distributor.”

“In some cases you are far better to walk away from the table than be screwed. Go over every line of the contract ten times.”

Go Back To Where You Came From series 3

Option and format fees paid

“Deals start with an option fee. On Go Back they ranged from US$3K to US$12K. Then there’s the format fee, which on reality shows and documentary is always a percentage of the budget once a show is commissioned. On Go Back the format fees have been from five to eight percent of the total production budget. The option and format fees go to Screen Australia, SBS and CJZ and are divided in the same way as backend revenue from tape sales.

“The important part to us was getting consulting days including flights plus accommodation and per diems. We’ve sold Gruen, Shitsville Express, Reality Check and Dumb Drunk and Racist in various territories. We didn’t consult on Gruen and the BBC completely stuffed it up. Consultation fees are on top and go to CJZ. That’s why they’re more valuable. But we work for them.

“You have to be tough, particularly with the US. In some cases you are far better to walk away from the table than be screwed. Go over every line of the contract ten times. Watch (the American/British sitcom) Episodes, starring Matt Le Blanc. Seriously, this is so close to the truth that sometimes I can’t even laugh.”

Others step up when deals lapse

Go Back has been optioned in at least 15 territories and is still in play in Belgium (Tuvalu Media), Canada (eOne), France (FremantleMedia France), Israel (Keshet), Italy (Discovery Channel Italy), Norway (Metronome Film & Television), Spain (Boomerang TV), Sweden (Snowman Productions), the UK (ITN) and the US (A Very Good Production, the production company owned by Ellen DeGeneres). When an option has lapsed often other production companies are waiting to leap in. It’s a great show because watching humans transform their ideas when they are in the thick of hardship is compelling. Even the most hardened human beings are affected by what they see. Unfortunately being on SBS was preaching to the converted. It would have been more effective on Nine.”

Title Go Back To Where You Came From
Production Company Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder
Format  4 x 60 mins  
Genre Documentary
Premiere 8.30pm, June 21, 2011, SBS
Distributor SBS International, CJZ Distribution
Synopsis Six ordinary Australians challenge their preconceived notions about refugees and asylum seekers by embarking on a long, confronting journey.
Links cjz.com.au, sbs.com.au


Making Australia Happy has been remade in France under a title that in English means I Decided To Be Happy according to producer Jennifer Cummins of Heiress Films. “We’ve just gone to air on the ABC with Making Families Happy and all3media is very excited because a third series is when sales and longevity starts to kick in.” Making Australia Happy was the first series and Making Couples Happy was the second. Options to the factual entertainment show have been sold in about a dozen territories under the title 8 Weeks to Happiness, with France being the first to go into production. “The French show was beautifully made by Bonne Pioche, the company that made March of the Penguins. Unfortunately it didn’t rate brilliantly on commercial broadcaster M6 but two of the four 90-minute episodes ran back-to-back on two consecutive nights: so 120 minutes of television starting at 9.30pm at night.” Cummins went to France for a week to consult on the new series. “They were very faithful, cast so precisely to the way we cast and it was very satisfying to see copies of our bible all over the place, translated into French.” (The bible is a set of instructions on how to make the show.) She says she found it fascinating when changes had to be made because of cultural differences. In the original series, for example, one of the exercises was to write a eulogy as a way of identifying personal values and goals. The French preferred the exercise to have a more celebratory flavour and set it within the context of an 85th birthday party. “I love the idea of coming up with original ideas but it’s hard to crack and the competition is stiff – other companies have whole floors of people churning out original ideas.”