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<h6>Maartje Horchner</h6><p>Executive Vice President Content, all3media International</p>
Maartje Horchner

Executive Vice President Content, all3media International

"All3media International is the distribution arm of the all3media group, which grew out of the acquisition and rebranding of the Chrysalis Group’s television division in 2003. The early years of all3media International saw the company double in size on an annual basis to where it is now: one of the leading distributors of drama, factual and factual entertainment formats. It represents about 8,000 active hours of programming – a good proportion of which is primetime, top quality drama.

Midsomer Murders, Skins and The Missing are our three biggest drama sellers. Midsomer Murders has been sold in more than 225 territories across the course of its life and series 19 is going into production now. The acclaimed youth drama Skins is still active on many schedules and very popular with VOD platforms such as Netflix. The more recent hit, The Missing, a thriller written by brothers Jack and Harry Williams, shows on the BBC in the UK and on Starz in the US, and has garnered acclaim at the Golden Globes, the BAFTA Awards and the Golden Nymphs.

“Historically the company has had strong ties to Australasia, largely because of a connection to the leading New Zealand producer South Pacific Pictures. Independent of that interest, we have also represented a broad range of factual and factual entertainment programming from a range of independent producers in both countries. Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries has been our largest drama investment in the region and is one of our best sellers.”

Locations, not sets, provide authenticity

“I met the producers, Fiona Eagger and Deborah Cox, at MIP several years ago now. Once they’d sent the scripts and story outlines to us, we bought Miss Fisher on the spot. Our heritage in the detective genre allowed us the insight to know we could make the show work for them. Set in the beautifully glamorous roaring ’20s, a straightforward whodunnit with very gentle accents was exactly what we wanted.

“Definitely its glamorous style and the use of authentic locations are factors in its success. I cannot emphasize enough that you can never get the same feeling from sets, no matter how hard the set dressers and designers work. Using National Trust houses as authentic locations has definitely contributed to its appeal. Together with the everlasting attraction buyers and viewers have all over the world for procedural detective series, this was a winner from the start. Also, that it was based on books, stars Essie Davis, and had some great scripts, all helped.

“We had to keep an eye on it being soft enough to be repeatable in daytime for some of our buyers. In the first series there is a scene where Phryne and the doctor test cocaine by tasting it. It’s a simple, inoffensive scene, but for international sales we needed that scene to be removed – or at least the tasting of the cocaine removed – which is what they did for us.

“There was a lot of interest but not a huge amount of sales activity early on. However, the presale campaign created demand and the episodes largely delivered on what was promised so the sales came through. France Television and Acorn TV in the US are among the buyers.”

Essie Davis and Dan Wyllie on the set of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries series 2

Buyers will struggle with any regional accent

“A general strength of Australian drama is that it is in the English language. Also, the writing has significantly improved over the past five to 10 years, and the production values have got dramatically better. The accent will always be a weakness. It’s a shame to say, but buyers internationally will struggle with any regional accent, and the Australian accent can be quite significant.

“There is no such thing as a standard advance. We usually look at budgets and deficits and, together with our projections, come up to a decent percentage of the budget – but every show is different.

“It is very hard to secure presales, but it is easier than it was a few years ago. Competition between broadcasters is fierce and everyone wants to make sure they have secured the top series.

“I would say that the lifespan of a show is three to five years. That lifespan increases with every returning series. Over four series, we are easily talking 10 plus years.

“My advice to producers is to always investigate what genres work. For instance, there is currently a high demand for procedural crime and detective dramas. Detectives in any decade are in demand. It is hard to find the right one but when you do …

“All territories struggle with the issue that there is a limit on demand for drama from local commissioners. There are more and more production companies producing drama in the UK, for example, but there are no more broadcasters. The key here is relationships: get to know other production companies, distributors, as well as international broadcasters. Australia is far away for many co-production opportunities and the cost of facilitating a co-production can often outweigh the benefits, but with good relationships and by finding a genuine co production – rather than just finding one for the money – you can create possibilities.”