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MIA 2023

Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...

Nicole Clemens talks collaboration with international producers, leaves open doors for new content


The president of Paramount TVS pointed out how the best global shows start local, and how the demand for foreign content is rising among US youth

Nicole Clemens talks collaboration with international producers, leaves open doors for new content
(l-r) Paramount TVS president Nicole Clemens and moderator Gaia Tridente

On Tuesday 10 October, Rome’s Cinema Barberini hosted a much anticipated keynote conversation seeing the participation of Nicole Clemens, President of Paramount Television Studios (PTVS) and Paramount+ Original Scripted Series. The event was part of this year’s MIA – Mercato Internazionale dell’Audiovisivo and was moderated by Gaia Tridente.

First, Clemens talked about her career, starting from the time “she showed up in Los Angeles not knowing anybody in the business and nothing about the business.” After working and experimenting with different scripted and unscripted formats, a crucial experience for her was working for John Landgraf at FX for five years, during which Clemens said she has "learned everything [she knows] about TV.” The “call out of the blue came” five years ago, when PTVS asked her to serve as the US-based giant’s President. So far, it’s her “favourite job” as one gets “to buy, sell and make” projects, working as a producer, buyer and sales agent al at once.

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Under her leadership, PTVS only witnessed “slight structural adjustments” as the arm is still split between various studios such as Showtime and CBS, which act as “pipelines that funnel content to Paramount+.”

“We’re all working closely together, there’s a lot of synergy and we’re very fluid. [...] We’re not fond of any [particular] genre. We’ve various independent creative teams, and we’ve shared back offices”, she said, adding how PTVS is also committed to co-production and handling its vast film and TV library.

Tridente later asked how one can get involved and begin working with PTVS. Clemens pointed out how departments are all interconnected: “It’s all rolling up at the same place, and we’re really supporting our international team, especially if we think we have a show that can play well on the global stage, we’d get involved early.”

"We did that on The Gold, a show that launched on the BBC during the first window and then, more recently, we’ve been working on it concurrently with the BBC and our international studio. [Instead,] Sexy Beast is a bit of an outlier, as we brought it over from Anonymous [Content] and when Paramount+ came to existence, we gave it to the international studio.”

“We’re in constant contact [with international producers]. [...] Global shows start local. You have to be specific, and [the project] has to appeal to the market it was born in and has to have some resonance, thematically. [...] Algorithms can’t predict this, you just [need to] strike a universal [thematic] core.”

Clemens also pointed out that 70% of their shows are done with third-party companies. Some of the US projects in the pipelines include the new seasons of Jack Reacher and Jack Ryan with the James Patterson adaptation Alex Cross (all set to hit Amazon Prime) along with the Billy Crystal-led thriller Before, Taika Waititi’s Time Bandits and another undisclosed project for Apple.

Clemens welcomed new projects of both local and global reach: “We’re all talking to each other. If we think [your project] isn’t the right one for us, we’ll help you find the right home. You can knock on any door.”

“For Paramount+, what we’re looking for in the US are global shows that are essentially shows that can play for the entire US, not just for New York and Los Angeles. That doesn’t mean they cannot be edgy or dark, but they must have a broader appeal. We want to do on-going, returning series. We’re not looking for limited series in the US, though this is still happening internationally.”

Finally, she highlighted how US viewers – especially the youngest ones – are well used to subtitled content and increasingly interested in international series and anything appealing that may come out, for example, “from Korea, Italy or the UK.” This growing trend can open up wide opportunities for new shows, talents and formats. 

“It’s an incredibly fertile ground. [...] My approach is that our job is to find what an author is talking about, [what they are] trying to say. The best shows come always from stories and themes the writers want to tell. We push them further, giving them the freedom to take chances. If we find ourselves writing the show, then we’re in trouble,” Clemens summed up.

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