Amazon Prime Video is continuing its mission of commissioning “local for local” shows as its European operation becomes more entrenched.
Georgia Brown, head of Amazon Studios for Europe, told a packed Series Mania session in Lille on Thursday that her regional staff across the continent aren’t looking for international ideas, but rather location-specific conceits.
“If we’re commissioning a big show in Spain, I need it to be a hit in Spain,” said Brown. “Lots of people come to us saying, ‘We have a great international show,’ and that doesn’t really work for us. What we need is a regional focus, a specific place.”
One such example is six-part series “Jungle” out of the U.K., which Brown described as a “hybrid rap musical set in the world of grime [music],” which began life as a 10-minute music video that was sent to former Amazon executive Lydia Hampson.
During the session, Amazon world premiered a slick trailer for the beautifully shot drama, which tells the story of two separate but interconnected strangers facing various personal struggles in inner-city London. Creators Chas Appeti and Junior Okoli, who come from the world of directing music videos, were recently featured as part of Variety’s Europeans to Watch in TV.
“We couldn’t make ‘Jungle’ in France,” Brown told the crowd. “And that’s so important to us.”
It has been four years since Amazon Studios first revealed the company’s plans for original programming out of Europe. While a seven-title slate was unveiled at the time at Series Mania, Brown joked that 50 originals had launched on the platform by the end of 2021 alone.
“We haven’t changed at all,” said Brown, who has overseen the European originals operation from the very beginning.
“We have grown in our teams, and now we have local teams on the ground. But the vision from four to five years ago hasn’t changed: We wanted to put the spotlight on local production and elevate new voices. The idea was that producers could walk into local offices and speak their local language instead of American or English.”
Asked about the streamer’s specific talent deals in its various markets and how Amazon “convinces” talent to join forces, Brown said that it’s less “a case of convincing” and more an “organic and collaborative process.”
“It’s sparked from relationships and a shared vision,” said Brown. “In France, we do only 12 shows a year. Elsewhere, it’s less. So when we do work with talent, we have to make sure those shows succeed. It’s less about convincing people to come with us; it’s about, ‘Do we have a shared vision from the start?’”
A recent example of a French original heralded by Brown is a new docuseries made with Manchester United football Paul Pogba (pictured) and dubbed “The Pogmentary.” The project was helmed by Amazon France executive Thomas Dubois, who joined the streamer in 2019.
“This reperesents what we’re trying to do and how we’re working with talent,” said Brown. “Thomas Dubois when he joined had such a clear vision of what he wanted to do and the stories he wanted to tell. The first thing was our docuseries on [French rapper Orelsan] … working with Paul is the next step. We want to be diverse and give talent total creative freedom.”
Brown said diversity is a “key pillar” in the commissioning strategy that is “baked in from the beginning.” While the streamer’s key European commissioning team — which was presented to the Series Mania audience — does not yet have any senior executives of color, Brown said the streamer’s “slates are very diverse.”
Amazon recently hired BBC diversity lead Miranda Wayland to oversee diversity, equity and inclusion for Amazon Studios and Prime Video. Her remit will include both off-screen and on-screen representation, and Brown revealed that Wayland will also be looking to set up a “playbook for diversity across Europe” that’s similar to the playbook employed by Amazon Stateside.
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