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OTF Co-Pros Brings Wild Talk and Zombie Animals to international Auidence

Off The Fence (OTF) has announced two major co-productions, one of which is fronted by field...

Off The Fence (OTF) has announced two major co-productions, one of which is fronted by field biologist, wildlife filmmaker and TV presenter Dan O’Neill. A rising star in natural-history documentary, O’Neill has also been signed to present two further new OTF series.

Wild Talk (5 x 50 mins), co-produced by OTF, its parent company ZDF Studios and ARTE, explores the rapidly evolving science of animal communication — and reveals that many species are just as talkative as human beings. In the new five-part series, leading scientists decode complex animal communication systems with the help of AI, and next-generation sensors and recording technology. The result is a fascinating insight into the world of non-human language, from the waggle dance of honeybees to the UV signals emitted by the wings of butterflies.

Wild Talk is executive produced by Debbie Hinnigan and Andrew Zikking for OTF, Petra Boden for ARTE, and Nikolas Hülbusch and Ralf Rückauer for ZDF Studios. The series producer is BAFTA-winning filmmaker Guy Gilbert.

O’Neill, whose hit series Giants, produced by OTF for Curiosity Stream, premiered in May 2023, is front and centre of a second ambitious co-production: Zombie Animals (2 x 60 mins), brought to life by OTF Studios and National Geographic International. The two-part documentary, which is set to TX on Nat Geo Wild in the run-up to Halloween, examines the gruesome world of animal hosts and their invaders — the alien parasites, viruses and freaky fungi that cause their unfortunate victims to act like zombie slaves. The two-parter combines blue-chip and UGC archive material, dynamic graphics and on-location footage with O’Neill’s signature storytelling to tell a fascinating if disturbing story. Zombie Animals is executive produced by Andrew Zikking for OTF, and Sarah Peat for NGCI. The series producer is Aaron Paul.

Two other O’Neill-fronted projects are also in OTF’s production pipeline: Snow Leopards with Dan O’Neill (2 x 50 mins) and a second series of Nature’s Ultimate Survivors (5 x 60 mins)

In the former, the first openly LGBT wildlife presenter returns to the mountains of Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia to gather new information about the elusive “Ghosts of the Mountains”. The cinematic two-part documentary, co-produced by OTF and wildlife and nature brand Love Nature, follows O’Neill — the Snow Leopard Trust’s only ‘explorer in residence’ — on an extreme conversation mission to two remote locations: Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, home to the highest density of snow leopards on the planet, and the Tost mountains of Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, where entry is forbidden unless permitted by the Snow Leopard Trust. Helped by expert local rangers and next-generation camera, tracking and drone technology, O’Neill stalks the majestic cats to reveal their hunting behaviour, social dynamics and territorial range — all to protect the future of nature’s least understood big cats.

O’Neill has also been signed up for a second season of OTF Production’s successful 2023 series Nature’s Ultimate Survivors (5 x 60 mins), which combined stunning natural-history footage with the latest science to explore the astonishing abilities that creatures have evolved in order to survive.

The first season has been picked up by broadcasters across Europe, including France’s Ushuaia, Xumo in the US, Viasat World, Sky Germany and ZDF 3sat. The new series, which will again by narrated by O’Neill, will explore yet more wild and weird skills — from power punches through toxic touch to extreme endurance and stupendous speed — that help animals survive in the wild.

Andrew Zikking, MD of OTF Productions said: “It’s fair to say that natural-history co-productions are second nature to OTF. Over the years, we’ve learned that a successful co-production is a craft in itself, not just in terms of the tricky art of creative collaboration, but also in knowing how to pick the right partner for the right project for the right client and audience. It’s deeply gratifying that such natural-history power players as ARTE, National Geographic and Love Nature have committed to work with us on these exciting new projects. And, as a company that prioritises discovering and celebrating fresh and diverse talent, it’s a real coup that the peerless — and fearless — Dan O’Neill has agreed to front three more premium OTF productions.”

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OTF to distribute 'Resident Orca'

We're super excited to share our newest title 'Resident Orca'! Come see us at Sunnyside to hear more...

We're super excited to share our newest title 'Resident Orca'! Come see us at Sunnyside to hear more or contact one of our team.

See the full detail in the latest Deadline Article

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Bo Stehmeier to be part of TV Real Festival's Superpanel

Off the Fence’s Bo Stehmeier, BossaNova’s Paul Heaney, Albatross World Sales’ Anne...

Off the Fence’s Bo Stehmeier, BossaNova’s Paul Heaney, Albatross World Sales’ Anne Olzmann and ZDF Studios’ Nikolas Hülbusch join together to discuss the big-picture issues impacting the factual landscape during the TV Real Festival, taking place from June 18 to 20. 

Read the full article on TV Real and sign up for the event!

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OTF named as a Top 10 Co-Pro Partner from the Realscreen Global 100 Listing!

Since its inception in 2006, our friends at Realscreen have been annually listing OTF in the Global...

Since its inception in 2006, our friends at Realscreen have been annually listing OTF in the Global top 100's, a compilation of the leading production firms within the non-fiction and unscripted screen content industry. This list is meticulously curated by Realscreen's editorial team, in conjunction with significant input from industry stakeholders. It's important to note that the Top 10 lists across diverse production areas are not exhaustive, but they are designed to shine a spotlight on the prodcos that are moving the needle — and the industry — in the right direction.

This year, OTF has been acknowledged in the Global 100 list and recognised as one of the Top 10 Co-Pro Partners. Thank you Realscreen and our industry nominees!

HEADQUARTERS: Amsterdam, Netherlands

NUMBER OF HOURS PRODUCED IN 2023: 32

STAFF: 84

RECENT PROJECTS: Giants, Unearthed: Ancient Murder Mysteries, Queens of Ancient Egypt (Curiosity Stream); Silverback (BBC, France Télévisions)

UPCOMING TITLES: 'Rising Phoenix Universe' projects

This Amsterdam-based producer and distributor has been active in the copro space for ages, with the past year seeing the launch of a pair of coproductions with Curiosity Studios, the production arm of streamer Curiosity Stream; the natural history series Giants; the history-crime mashup Unearthed: Ancient Murder Mysteries and the history series Queens of Ancient Egypt, the latter of which was also co-produced with Tile Films. Also released in 2023 was Silverback (pictured), about the efforts of award-winning wildlife cameraman Vianet Djenguet to help "habituate" a notoriously protective silverback gorilla, which was produced by OTF Studios in association with the BBC, France Télévisions, Featuristic Films and The WNET Group. Another recent title is the first season of the supernatural history series Cursed Histories, which OTF produced with Toronto's Go Button Media.

Coming soon from OTF is the 'Rising Phoenix Universe' series of projects focusing on the Paralympic Games, produced in association with Harder Than You Think and based on the latter's 2020 Paralympics doc Rising Phoenix. JA

The rules have changed: According to Off the Fence CEO Bo Stehmeier, the pressures currently facing the screen content industry require new approaches to collaboration.

"We consider any opportunity that presents itself that we believe in, as a Rubik's cube," he offers. "We focus on a collaborative approach to solve the puzzle rather than a strictly traditional co-production model.

"The main motivation for this collaborative approach is that we need to tap into multiple global funding models within and outside of the TV industry," he continues. "This helps alleviate the already stretched budgets of traditional broadcasters and more importantly supports the need to move quickly on projects. Supply chains for the factual business have been broken for a while and there is a real need to bring a rhythm, the heartbeat, back to the business.

"This happens through a combination of possibilities such as physical and financial coproduction, IP and access investment, executive producing, production service deferrals in exchange for rights, hot housing and giving reach through distribution and syndication," he explains. "The playing field has changed and so have all the rules. I truly believe that it is within this new network of relationships and better business thinking that we will be able to rebirth the factual industry and usher in its predicted renaissance."

For more information, the Realscreen Announcement Article provides a detailed overview of the Top 10 Co-Pro Partners. These firms have proven their ability to skillfully navigate the creative and commercial complexities of coproduction.

 

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