The future of Frantic

Around five years ago, Winnipeg-based Frantic Films, a company with its roots in animation and fiction, announced it would be focusing more on unscripted television. It's a plan that seems to be working.

Around five years ago, Winnipeg-based Frantic Films, a company with its roots in animation and fiction, announced it would be focusing more on unscripted television. It’s a plan that seems to be working.

Frantic currently has series on Canadian networks such as HGTV, Food Network and Slice, is shooting a pilot for Discovery Canada and is in the midst of shooting a new program for Corus Entertainment’s female-oriented W Network. Jamie Brown, Frantic’s CEO, is thankful his company is as busy as it is, but the swelling tide of business did require a ramping up of his creative staff. This led to the addition of development execs Anne-Marie Varner, Alberta Nokes and Melissa Kajpust.

‘We were looking ahead, and even though we are in some challenging times we believe that in six to 18 months the broadcasters who have been holding back and carefully looking at their pennies and amortizing their shows to meet their Canadian-content spend requirements are going to have to start ordering again,’ explains Brown.

But Frantic isn’t only looking to broaden its horizons in Canada. The company is also aiming to partner with more U.K. and U.S. channels. On the American front, one of Frantic’s most successful programs, ‘Til Debt Do Us Part, was picked up by CNBC at the end of 2009. The business news channel started out with 39 episodes and recently asked for more, says Brown.

Frantic is about to spin off ‘Til Debt – which has had eight seasons to date and still airs on multiple Canwest stations on a daily basis – into a new series for host and financial expert Gail Vaz-Oxlade. Princess, a one-hour series for Slice, will still see Vaz-Oxlade helping people in debt, but instead of the financially challenged couples of ‘Til Debt, she will be helping singles who don’t know the meaning of living on a budget.

‘When we started ‘Til Debt, the idea of doing a money show seemed like it would be very challenging and it wouldn’t last very long because how many stories can you tell?’ remembers Brown. ‘And over 100 episodes later, we could still keep going. It was really just Gail and the producers who thought, ‘Hey, let’s try something else.”

Frantic has already implemented a number of other changes this year to move the company forward. In January, it rebranded Red Apple Entertainment, a Toronto-based prodco it acquired at the end of 2008, under the Frantic Films banner. The company also partnered with distrib Cineflix International in an effort to get all of its factual content out to the world through one streamlined and dedicated source.

Frantic is also looking to develop is its branded content business. Headed up by Jeff Peeler, the company’s branded content division is beginning to focus on more long-form content, such as a recent one-hour documentary Frantic created for Cadbury which they’re hoping to eventually bring to broadcasters. ‘From the TV side we’re learning a lot and we’re developing relationships with the people who write the cheques in the business, the advertisers,’ says Brown. ‘It’s really opened up a lot of opportunities for us.’

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