Incendo maps its next move after Versailles

Incendo's Jean Bureau and Ian Whitehead talk moving from MOWs to TV series via Versailles, the $4 million per episode Canada/France copro set to hit screens in November.
VERSAILLES Saison 1 - Episode 1

With the intention of moving from MOWs toward TV series, Incendo four years ago decided the best route to take would be via Versailles.

The concept was initially brought to the Montreal-based prodco by France-based Zodiak Media and project originators Capa Drama, with the goal of producing a series based on the life of long-reigning monarch Louis XIV.

Incendo – a prolific producer of MOWs (having produced 61 in total) – has been adopting a walk-before-you-can-run approach while trying to break into the TV series market, participating in NBC’s series Crusoe as early as 2008.

“We want to grow at a pace where we can guarantee the quality of what we are producing and the excellent relations we have with our creative and business partners. The first step was mastering the development and production of the movie slate,” Incendo producer Ian Whitehead told Playback Daily. “The next step was to take on a coproduction of very high quality so that we could showcase our ability to produce big one-hour series’ at the very highest of levels and be a reliable partner. Versailles has done this for us.”

Versailles is a $40 million, 10 x 52-minute series, produced by Incendo, Zodiak, Canal+ and Capa Drama. The most expensive series ever shot in France, production on the series began in August of 2014 and wrapped in March 2015. Anne Thomopoulos (Rome, The Borgias, Camelot) executive produces the series alongside Simon Mirren (Without a TraceCriminal Minds) and David Wolstencroft (SpooksThe Escape Artist), who are also the series creators and showrunners.

Post-production on the series was completed earlier this month, with the France/Canada coproduction due to air in November on Super Channel for English Canada and Super Écran in Quebec.

The English-language series is likely to appeal to a broad global audience, said Whitehead, noting that its recent acquisition by BBC2 in the U.K. serves as a good indicator that the show will find a home in international markets. Versailles stars George Blagden (Vikings) as Louis XIV, Alexander Vlahos (Merlin), and Canadian actors Tygh Runyan, Steve Cumyn and Evan Williams.

With a big-budget copro now under its belt, the Incendo team believes it is finally ready to take on the production of its own series. For a little over a year the company, together with MGM, has been developing Ice, a series set against the backdrop of diamond trading. The script for the first season is complete and discussions with domestic and international broadcasters have been underway for some time. “We’re ready to go on this one,” said Jean Bureau, CEO of Incendo, and the series is set to go to camera in 2016.

With discussions ongoing about a second season of Versailles as well, this would see Incendo produce two series in 2016. A third project, currently in development with FX Canada, is pegged for a 2017 shoot and Bureau wants Incendo to be producing three different series by 2017.

However, said Bureau, none of this means the company is scaling back its movie output.

“We’re continuing with the movies, because there’s a strong appetite for them worldwide. So what we’re trying to do is bigger budget, better stars and better storytelling,” he said. Another reason for the company’s desire to keep up with its movie production schedule is because Incendo has continued to prosper, in spite of the shrinking made-for-television movie market.

“There are less and less TV movies being done and the reason we continue to do them is that the ratings are there and the clients are satisfied,” said Bureau.

Incendo is also seeking to expand its capacity as a distributor, recently announcing a number of distribution agreements with Gravitas Ventures, Banijay International, Big Media and Foothill Entertainment, in addition to its existing distribution agreements with Content Media, BetaFilm, and Entertainment Studios and IMG in Canada. Incendo also distributes Twentieth Century Fox’s titles in Canada as well.

Versailles is set to premiere in Canada on Super Channel and Super Écran on Nov. 16.