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OTF Unveils Environment/Conservation-Focused Slate Of Premium Documentary. String of new partnerships announced for five-title launch package

Off The Fence (OTF) has announced a slate of premium factual content focusing on climate change,...

Off The Fence (OTF) has announced a slate of premium factual content focusing on climate change, biodiversity, and the future of our planet, to be produced in partnership with some of the most respected names in natural-history programming.

Headlining the slate are two ambitious projects in collaboration with EarthxTV, the production arm of the non-profit environmental forum that seeks sustainable solutions to the most urgent environmental challenges. The first, The Future From Above (4 x 60 mins), is a co-production between OTF Studios, Sky, EarthxTV, Korean TV Channel, ENA(KT Skylife TV) and Borderless Lab, with funding from Korean Communications Agency, KCA.

The series focuses on how the world could look in 2050 — the defining year for our planet’s future — if we embrace the revolutionary technology and thinking needed to transform every aspect of our lives, from how we communicate, harness energy and travel to how we live, eat and recycle our waste.

The second OTF/EarthxTV co-production is Ocean Mysteries (8 x 30 mins), featuring Tom ‘The Blowfish’ Hird, whose recent television projects include Fishing Impossible for the BBC. In his new series the marine biologist, scuba diver and wildlife expert combines stunts and pop-science demos with stunning natural history footage and engaging analogies to unravel the mysteries behind a colourful cast of ocean creatures. Oceans cover 70% of the Earth’s surface, contain 90% of the planet’s living biomass, produce more oxygen than all the world’s forests, and absorb around 30% of global carbon dioxide though 95% of our oceans remain unexplored.

Wild Hope (8 x 30 mins), produced by the award winning, science-focused impact studio HHMI Tangled Bank Studios and Part2 Pictures in a co-production with Wild Elements, offers more optimism by profiling everyday people, conservationists and scientists who are restoring and protecting our planet. Set across the world’s most beautifully exotic—and surprisingly familiar—places, each episode will inspire audiences with stories of intrepid changemakers and surprising allies who are tackling the threats to our wild creatures and habitats.  

Another upbeat vision of the future is provided by The Endangered Generation (working title), which comes to OTF via a new producer relationship with Australia’s Sweetshop & Green. The new feature documentary, narrated by Academy Award-winning actress Laura Dern (Jurassic Park), challenges the myth that our world is fundamentally driven by selfishness and competition. Instead, scientists, artists and First Nation leaders explore the deep connections that bind us all to life, our world — and one another.

Loren Baxter, OTF’s head of acquisitions, said: “When OTF started out, our focus on natural history and the environment was considered a bit eccentric — and certainly a bit niche. Now, nearly 20 years later, the world has caught up with us and demand for the genre is fast outstripping supply. Meanwhile, we’ve spent those 20 years forging partnerships with world’s best producers of natural-history content, which means we’re in a uniquely strong position to meet that demand with balanced, accurate and informative programming and about the climate emergency and what we can do to mitigate it. These are powerful films that tackle the greatest threat to human survival, but in a way that encourages action rather than fear and despair. We’re very proud to bring them to the world.”

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OTF Announces First Sales For Weasley Twins’ Fantastic Friends

HBO, TVNZ and Bell Media acquire Dash Pictures’ magical travel series The international...

HBO, TVNZ and Bell Media acquire Dash Pictures’ magical travel series

The international distribution arm of factual content specialist Off The Fence (OTF) reports that Dash Pictures’ new travel series, Fantastic Friends, has been acquired by HBO Max EMEA, TVNZ and Bell Media. 

The six-part series, hosted by James and Oliver Phelps — aka the mischievous Weasley twins of Harry Potter fame — is scheduled to launch on Bell Media’s Crave in Canada (in English and French) on June 17, before rolling out on HBO Max EMEA in the first territories on July 2 and TVNZ on August 6.

Fantastic Friends is part adventure-travel series, part magic-infused challenge show and part a celebration of friendship. Produced and directed by Emmy Award-nominated filmmaker Daniel Sharp (Vikings: The Rise and Fall; Disasters Engineered; Top Gear America), each episode sees the Phelps twins travel to a destination to meet up with one of their famous friends, who then take on the role of tour guide. The cast includes the twin’s Harry Potter co-stars Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood), Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley) and Luke Youngblood (Lee Jordan), as well as Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams, Outlander’s Sophie Skelton and The Sixth Sense’s Haley Joel Osment. The action moves from Iceland to Ireland, from St Lucia to Dubai, as the twins expand their horizons and explore new worlds, while engaging in a series of magic-themed challenges and competitions.

Dash Pictures is now in production on a second six-part series of Fantastic Friends, produced by Daniel Sharp and Agata Pieczynska (For the Love of the Game; Prince Harry in Africa). 

Fantastic Friends is executive produced by James Phelps, Oliver Phelps, Martin Blencowe and Daniel Sharp.

Stefanie Fischer, OTF’s managing director of sales, said: “Daniel and the team at Dash Pictures have great access to some of the world’s best talent and Oliver, James and friends don’t disappoint. With their global and loyal fan base, we knew we’d be able to attract an array of broadcasters and platforms. The series is a fun, fresh and original travel series, with stunning locations to go alongside it.”

Daniel Sharp comments, “It has been great to be able to travel again and to create this fun, daring and innovate series.  It was a real pleasure to be joined by James and Oliver, who not only starred in the series but worked as hands-on execs throughout, bringing on guests as we went along.  Having Martin Blencowe, the founder of Cameo, as an EP was a huge plus as he is just brilliant at putting the right talented people together.”

OTF focuses on three content pillars — Yesterday (history), Today (natural history, travel and adventure, lifestyle, crime and impact) and Tomorrow (science) — across three business models: OTF Originals, OTF Studios and OTF Fast. With its focus on our relationship with ourselves and the planet, Fantastic Friends falls into the Today content pillar.

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Bo Stehmeier says - it's time TV woke up to social change

How the business is moving to a pre-sale and production financing system where companies have the...

How the business is moving to a pre-sale and production financing system where companies have the power to embed responsible social change.

I’ve been on a bit of a journey, as we like to say in this industry. If this were a singing competition reality show, this is the bit where we’d cut to the emotional backstory, accompanied by a moving key change. And that’s exactly where this journey is heading to – the call not only for a key change, but a rousing chorus of diverse voices to come together.

Let me explain. I’ve spent a long time struggling with the responsibility – I call it the R word – of working in the business of narrative. I’m one of the few who studied film production and finance and got an actual job in media. After I graduated, I spent the next 15 years working at the coalface for media powerhouses, which gave me plenty of time and opportunity to study the mainstream consumer narrative. What became deafeningly clear to me was that we needed a new story. We’ve outgrown the old one and we all know it.

I also spent years working in and with very efficiently run multi-genre production and distribution giants, that entailed getting up close and personal with the commercial workings of ‘big’ media – M&As, number crunching for the city, stories as units of calculation. Now, as CEO of Off The Fence [OTF] and with the weight of expectation that only a recently won Oscar can deliver, I’m looking at the thorny issue of where to go next. This comes with an overwhelming set of choices and responsibilities. Yes, there’s that R word again.

There’s an enormous shift in thinking going on, and I’m not only talking about the chatter in the shamanic and ecofeminist networks that I joyfully plug into. It seems that many of us are waking up, whether reluctantly or with vigour, to our responsibility to cultural sense-making. Sorry, that was a shameless plug. Have I mentioned I wrote a book about all this called Wake Up! Rise & Shine?

So we’re finally, if a little late, facing up to our inherent connection to our environment and the impact we have on it, and therefore ourselves. Current TV business models echo and perpetuate the old world, by which I mean production with only a ‘business case’ attached or ideas in service of company ‘growth.’ The narrative anchors itself within this, fostering a deep fear of change and helping to protect the status quo. Arguably, the M&A tsunami of the past 20 years has killed investment in narratives and voices that don’t enhance the bottom line.

What I think we need to reflect on is how the global exportation of this content, soaked as it is in old-school values, perpetuates the cycle of cultural colonialism. Positioned as it is at the heart of this cultural colonialism in TV, OTF not only has a huge responsibility to get it right but an equally huge opportunity to do right.

Increasingly, we are moving into a pre-sale and production financing system in which we have the power to embed change. I like to think of it as planting saplings for a future narrative that we would actually want to be part of. Shows, for example, like our impending film based on the Pope’s encyclical on climate, its release soon to be announced; or Future From Above, a series that takes us on a journey to discover how the world could look in 2050, the defining year for our planet’s future; or Going Circular, which looks at the whole concept of circularity and eliminating waste.

Culture diversity – let’s called it narrative diversity – is as important as biodiversity. And media is a foghorn that allows countries and people to express themselves. So here comes the key change: how good would it be if we came together as a chorus and put a stop to our zombie-like march towards money? What about experimenting with philanthropic production financing, for example, or hyper-regional acquisition? Why don’t we think about target setting with an element of heart, measuring productivity by number and atmosphere, creating room for loss leaders and engaging in certain business from a values point of view?

At OTF, we’re questioning our internal values and how they can help us to flourish. We’re focusing on super-serving our community, rather than exploiting its vulnerability for sake of our bottom line. I’m very keen to get together and hear what other TV people who have the power and privilege to pull cultural levers have in mind. Let’s make that our bottom line.

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Off the Fence Announces Key Hires

Miriam Hossbach named co-pro lead for German-speaking territories Emmanuel Grinda and Emilia Gil...

Miriam Hossbach named co-pro lead for German-speaking territories

Emmanuel Grinda and Emilia Gil Villegas join Amsterdam-based sales team

The Amsterdam-based distribution arm of factual content specialist Off The Fence (OTF) has appointed three sales and co-production executives in response to the surging global demand for its content.

Miriam Hossbach joins the distributor in the newly created position of director of co-production and sales for German-speaking territories, while Emmanuel Grinda takes on the role of sales manager for French-speaking territories, the UK, Eire, the Middle East and Africa. Emilia Gil Villegas, meanwhile, has been appointed as sales executive for Iberia, Latin America and Hispanic US.

Hossbach brings a wealth of broadcast and editorial experience to OTF, having spent six years at Sky Deutschland, where she worked her way up from junior VOD-scheduling manager to head of factual channels. At OTF, she is tasked with seeking new co-production opportunities in the German-speaking territories, building up the distributor’s network of independent producer partners and driving sales in her core markets. A native German speaker and fluent in English, Hossbach started her career in media as a trainee with A+E Networks in Munich.

In his new role at OTF, Grinda is responsible for content licensing, and developing and nurturing client relationships across the French-speaking territories, the UK, Eire, the Middle East and Africa. He comes to OTF from NENT Studios, where he handled sales of finished programmes and formats into Asia, Turkey and Iberia. As a Franco-Australian, he is a native speaker in both French and English, and is also proficient in Spanish.

With a career trajectory that has taken her from journalism, advertising through to communications with an innate passion for documentary, Emilia Gil Villegas, a native Spanish speaker who is also fluent in English and Dutch brings a wide range of influences and experiences to her new role as OTF’s sales executive for Iberia, Latin America and Hispanic US.

Stefanie Fischer, OTF’s managing director of sales, said: “OTF has always been global in its outlook — now, with Miriam, Emmanuel and Emilia on board, we have a truly international team, with the skills, experience and languages to super-serve our clients wherever they may be. Over the last few years, Germany has developed into one of our biggest and most vibrant markets. In Miriam, we’ve found the perfect person to unlock its full creative and commercial potential.” 

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