After 11 years as a founding partner and head of scripted at Essential Media and Entertainment, Ian Collie has departed to launch his own drama production company backed by FremantleMedia.
Majority-owned by the global production and distribution powerhouse, Easy Tiger Productions takes over Collie’s development slate plus the 4-part crime drama Sunshine and the series Rake, Doctor, Doctor and Jack Irish.
Essential development executives Rachael Turk and Tanya Phegan have joined Collie in the new company.
Collie’s frequent collaborators Andrew Knight, Peter Duncan, Tony McNamara, Matt Cameron and Kris Mrksa will develop projects for Easy Tiger.
“After 11 years it was time for a change,“ Collie told IF, stressing it is an amicable parting with Essential. “It was a group decision. There were a number of suitors. It’s exciting because Fremantle has made great strides in drama globally, particularly in the past few years.
“We are now part of a big global family. Fremantle will facilitate access to co-production partners and give us valuable market intel on what is working and what is not working.
“I don’t want to get any bigger than we are now but I expect 30-40 per cent of the development slate will be internationally-focused projects.”
Essential’s decision to sell the scripted division followed approaches from a number of parties, according to CEO/executive producer Chris Hilton, who co-founded the firm in 2006 with Collie and Sonja Armstrong.
“It’s the normal sort of process where you meet a bunch of people, see who you like and how much they are offering and choose the one you think will be the most suitable and is offering the best money versus the best suitability,” Hilton told IF.
“Fremantle suited Ian and the money suited everyone. I am always up for expanding and growing the company with new outposts and joint ventures with different partners around the world, which we will announce in due course.”
Essential will continue to focus on its slate of documentaries, features films, factual series and lifestyle programming. The firm also produces scripted shows and factual entertainment in Los Angeles and Toronto via joint ventures Essential Media USA, EQTV and Essential Media Canada.
As part of the restructure at Essential, head of kids Carmel Travers is departing but will continue to work with Essential on a potential second season of Bubble Bath Bay for the ABC.
“We have invested a lot of effort in kids programming but not had a lot of results. We don’t see a big future in kids,” Hilton said.
Collie’s relationship with FremantleMedia International started when FMI handled Doctor, Doctor and continued with Sunshine (retitled The Sunshine Kings overseas), a crime series co-produced with Carver Films.
Commissioned by SBS and starring Anthony LaPaglia, Melanie Lynskey, Kim Gyngell, Tiarnie Coupland, Vince Colosimo and Leah Vandenberg, the drama will be introduced to international buyers by FMI at Mipcom.
The international rights to Rake and Jack Irish will remain with DCD Rights. Series five of Rake, which starts shooting on October 30, will follow Richard Roxburgh’s Clever Greene as he moves to Canberra as an independent Senator.
FremantleMedia executives Sangeeta Desai, COO and CEO emerging markets, Sarah Doole, director of global drama, and Ian Hogg, regional CEO, Australia and Asia Pacific, will serve on the Easy Tiger board.
Doole said: “Our ambition is to work with the best scripted talent in the world to tell bold and impactful stories, and Easy Tiger ticks all of those boxes. Ian and his team have been responsible for a number of ambitious titles with global success, and their upcoming slate includes a range of storylines on the forefront of originality that will perfectly complement the series coming from FremantleMedia’s growing family of prime-time drama producers.”
Collie added: “The team at Easy Tiger is renowned for its high production values, creative rigour and talent friendliness. Joining the vastly experienced FremantleMedia group provides Easy Tiger with the opportunity to build on its reputation as a boutique yet high-end production company, from the development phase right through to distribution.”
Essential Media’s unscripted slate includes a second season of Body Hack with Todd Sampson for Network Ten, Uncharted with Sam Neill , a co-production with Frame Up Films for Foxtel’s History Channel and Prime NZ, and The Living Universe (ABC, Arte France, Curiosity Stream and UKTV).
Season 5 of Gourmet Farmer is airing on SBS, the broadcaster’s top food franchise, and the next instalment of Shane Delia’s culinary adventures Shane Delia’s Recipe for Life will premiere soon on SBS.
Essential’s Right Here: The Go-Betweens, the Kriv Stenders-directed feature doc on the rise and fall of the Aussie band, which premiered at the Sydney Film Festival, will open in Australian cinemas on September 28 via Umbrella Entertainment.