Frantic spinning off Debt series

Broadcasters likely to start spending again this year or next, predicts CEO

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

The Winnipeg company currently has series on HGTV, Food Network and Slice, is shooting a pilot for Discovery Canada, and is in the midst of making a new program for W Network.

CEO Jamie Brown is thankful his company is so busy, but the swelling tide of business required a ramping up of his creative staff — leading to the addition of development execs Anne-Marie Varner, Alberta Nokes and Melissa Kajpust.

Jamie Brown

‘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.

The company is also aiming to partner with more U.K. and U.S. channels. On the U.S. front, one of its most successful nonfiction 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 also about to spin off ‘Til Debt into a new series for host and financial expert Gail Vaz-Oxlade. Princess, a one-hour series for Slice, will see Vaz-Oxlade helping financially challenged singles, rather than couples, 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 this year implemented a number of other changes. It rebranded Red Apple Entertainment, a Toronto-based prodco it acquired at the end of 2008, as an office of Frantic Films. The company also partnered with distributor Cineflix International in an effort to get its factual content out to the world through one streamlined and dedicated source.

Frantic is also looking to develop its branded content business, a division headed by Jeff Peeler, as in a recent one-hour documentary the company created for Cadbury. ‘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.’

From Realscreen Online