MIP blog. Welcome to Argonon Connect!

by James Burstall CEO Argonon

MIP was sunny this year, in all senses of the word.  The sun shone and the Mediterranean glittered.  The mahogany ladies in Chanel were out in force on the Croisette, followed closely by their tripping primped pooches.  The festival itself was not as busy as some years, but that was a plus because it meant there was more time to spend quality time with good people.

We started on the Friday, which was a change, with MipCube. This was its first outing, designed as a forum for people who are embracing new media, interactivity and transmedia story-telling. It could have been a nerds’ talking shop, but actually it was a series of powwows and debates about the opportunities of the multi-screen world.  I spotted an innovative new interactive drama called Treasures from Shaftesbury, which I am looking forward to hearing more about.  We’ve had Kate Modern on Bebo and now it’s time for an interactive drama that crosses both TV and online.  MipCube was a fruitful event for British TV as Maverick was awarded Best International Emmy for their series Live from the Clinic, firmly placing Channel 4 at the forefront of interactive factual programming.

On Sunday, MIP proper kicked off and we launched into a round of meetings.  I’m glad to say that Argonon International had their best slate ever.  Leopard UK have been cooking with gas in recent months and won twelve commissions.   Their best formats were the highlight of Argonon’s catalogue.  Robbed Raided Reunited, a follow up to Cash in the Attic, puts the cops into collectibles.   It created a lot of international interest and has been optioned for France.  Cash is being made there for M6 by an excellent prodco called MediaFisher and is up to its 75th episode, rating well above slot average.  The show is a natural for a country that has an incredible history.  But then I am a Francophile.

AI had a lot of interest in Leopard UK’s new user generated formats.  We can’t announce them yet, but they tap into a rich seam of documentary footage created by real people on their mobile phones.  As the Arab Spring demonstrated, the mobile phone is the new democracy and I’m passionate about the way people can record events as they happen, and even change them, change their future. It’s very empowering.

Another trend that I noticed was a real appetite in the market for high end documentary.  There are plenty of good entertainment formats out there (although they are getting expensive to license internationally, which means we must originate more!) but not very many high end docs.  AI have John Bridcut’s 90 minute Rostropovich film, for example, which sold well.  It’s encouraging that although budgets are tight all over the world, there is still very definitely a hunger for thoughtful quality films from top talented film-makers.

MIP is always good at throwing up a few unexpected gems.  I met a talented new outfit from Singapore called Hurrah Productions.  They are positioning themselves as a gateway into Asia and are being offered grants by the Singaporean government to get projects off the ground, in co-pro.  I also had a great meeting with Jamie Kastner, Canada’s answer to Louis Theroux.  He’s a very witty author documentarian who was writing a feature story for the Toronto Star and also showcasing some of his new projects.  He had a funny set of sizzle reels on his ubiquitous iPad.  Everyone has their hot new project to sell at MIP, and that’s the point.

I went to various parties, of course, the best this year being the DRG party on the Carlton Beach.  It was a big crowd of commissioners from the UK and US, a lot of producers and various distributors.  I met up with Rob and John from Force Four in Vancouver.  They have an excellent new format called Million Dollar Neighbourhood, which has been commissioned for a second season in Canada and optioned by OWN, Oprah’s US channel.  It does not have a home in the UK yet and we are considering whether we can place it.  It’s a clever idea as a whole crowd of people are challenged to raise a million dollars in one month by working together.  A timely idea in these cash-challenged times.

Apart from that, I had a breakfast meeting with Leopard US agent Rob Miller, who is doing a great job pushing our US development into new territories, and ICM’s Pippa Lambert to talk about various co-productions we have on the slate.  We sat by the pool at the Majestic hotel, surrounded by the industry’s great and the good.  It was a fun atmosphere.

On my last afternoon, there was a giant strike by French air traffic control (yeurch) so I managed a quick swim in the sea.   It was a brisk 14 degrees Centigrade and crystal clear.  It felt like the start of the new season.  Bring it on!