CEO James Burstall’s latest blog, SPRINGTIME



The sun was shining in New York and London last week. I was in both cities and it really feels like Spring has arrived.

I was first of all in Manchester on Monday at the BBC talking about casting a new drama. We are looking for a new young star. No mean challenge but exciting too. There are no compromises and we need an actor who can be funny and moving and roll with all the crazy punches the scripts throw at her. And also play a convincing synthetic human.

On Tuesday I was in Manhattan talking with some of our favourite clients and friends at Scripps Networks. We are pushing the boundaries of our series, must of course keep evolving. We talked a lot about talent and ideas and how important structure is when you are being creative. We had dinner at Bond 45, a New York classic on 45th St. Sara Banister, our COO in New York, was in top form and made us laugh a lot. She was being very mischievous that night.

Dave Hamilton has joined Leopard in New York as SVP and across the week we had crunchy and creative dialogue about where we are taking the business.  He has a lot of strong ideas, as I do, and it is inspiring to be working at this level. Stakes are high and there is a lot to do. We are in very good spirits and excited about our plans.

In the middle of the week we deepened conversations between Argonon and a very innovative company we are courting. I can’t reveal any details yet but we are being forensic and discussions are going well. We shall see where it leads.

On Thursday we had an execs meeting with our key American showrunners. We are pushing up our originations and we have set the bar high. They are a smart team and we viewed edits of two new shows we are making.  I feel we are fine tuning our film-making in New York with a gutsy instinct for story-telling, excellent photography and editing and panache. We know what we do well and we are ambitious to go further so we are challenging ourselves to stretch up.

On Wednesday night I went to see Alan Cumming in a one man Macbeth on Broadway. Set in a psychiatric unit with CCTV witches, drowning in a bathtub, gallons of blood and Alan performing the violent sex scene between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth on a hospital bed, all on his own, was hardly light entertainment, but it was an original take and a tour de force by him. Unsex me here, he hurled at us. Let’s not go there. I recommend it if you are in the city.

Toby from Remedy was in town after a big pitch week in Toronto. He is developing a number of talent-driven shows in Canada and bringing them into the US.  We laid plans in a big session together on Thursday and we are preparing for Real Screen West in LA in June. That’s going to be an important event for us.

And apart from that, we held our monthly Board Meeting on video conference (I love how this cuts the airmiles), closed two deals for shows in the UK, held an interactive pitch for a gameshow, Nick at BriteSpark Films came up with a brilliant new format for which he has just shot the sizzle and pitched it and Transparent Television researched an extraordinary new set of cases for Botched Up Bodies. Plenty of gore there too, and transformations. Alan Cumming/Macbeth would approve.

So all in all, it was a full on week and fruitful. It was beautiful to see the trees blossoming in Madison Square Park near our office. I have high expectations of Leopard in the US and Argonon worldwide.  New York, London and Manchester all have an important part to play.  We are poised for big things.