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Leftfield finds partner in Plum

June 04, 2015

By Peter White

Leftfield Entertainment, the ITV-owned US indie group, is aiming to partner with other UK and international producers in a bid to realise its ambition of becoming a “super-indie”.

Leftfield-backed production company Loud TV, which was set up by former Leopard Films exec Nick Rigg in 2013, this week struck a development deal with George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces indie Plum Pictures.

Rigg and Plum Pictures founders Stuart Cabb and Will Daws will co-create formats for US broadcasters, as well as “supersizing” and remaking Plum’s existing formats, including Amazing Spaces, James May’s Man Lab and Win It, Cook It.

The two companies have already won a commission from A+E Networks’ FYI, run by former BBC director of television Jana Bennett, for He Shed, She Shed. They also have a major project in development with MTV.

“The US market is open for innovation and whether that’s from the UK or other parts of the world, we want to be the people to bring that to the US,” said Ed Simpson, Leftfield senior vice-president of business development and international.

“We’re trying to find those smart producers and either bring them in-house within the company or start a company with them. As we get larger, we’re trying to find creativity outside of the walled garden and partner with production companies that are doing something a bit different.”

Simpson, a Brit who previously produced Top Of The Pops, said there was a “golden opportunity” in the US for UK indies.

He argued that partnering reduces the cost of setting up in the US. “The demand for new products is becoming insatiable, but the networks are quite risk-averse – they want to take risks on programmes, but not necessarily on the production company,” he added.

Pawn Stars producer Leftfield, which was acquired by ITV in May 2014 for £212m, has been expanding over the past couple of years.

It bought female-skewing producer Sirens Media in March 2013; set up Loud TV with Rigg in May 2013; created LA-based Outpost Entertainment with Hoarders producer Jodi Flynn in November 2013, and launched Riot Creative with former Optomen exec Stephanie Angelides in April 2015.

Simpson said ITV’s investment had enabled it to grow quickly. “ITV was keen for us to keep on investing. When we started, we had a vision to create a bigger US super-indie that plays in all of the different genres,” he added (see box).

DRAMA PLANS

Leftfield Entertainment is planning to move into drama for the first time. The New York-based production group is known for unscripted series such as History’s Pawn Stars (pictured) and Counting Cars.

But Ed Simpson, senior vice-president of business development and international, said the group is set to dip its toe into scripted programming.

“Scripted is the hottest and most debated subject around. We are starting to become active in that space. We’re going to do something and hopefully it will be something special,” he said.
Major US factual broadcasters, including A+E Networks’ History, the Discovery Channel and Nat Geo, have all started to ramp up the number of straight drama series and docudramas they commission.

Simpson said it wanted some of this business. However, he admitted it would be a challenge. “Scripted is a difficult, different business to non-scripted, particularly in the US. It’s not something you take lightly.”

Leftfield is also developing a number of shorter-run “premium” documentary series as the market for non-scripted TV in the US evolves. “There are going to be more, shorter-run series, more two- or three-part specials that are tent-pole compared with the long-running volume series,” he added.

Leftfield Pictures (An ITV America Company)