Endor Productions, a Seven.One Studios company, is behind a vibrant slate that includes three seasons of Vienna Blood and an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys. Carlo Dusi joined the outfit in May 2021 from Red Arrow Studios International and today serves as managing director. He tells TV Drama about some of the keys to identifying concepts and talent to work with.
TV DRAMA: Tell us about the creative ethos at Endor.
DUSI: Here at Endor, we run a creative development and production business first and foremost. As a result, we are highly quality-driven and very directly talent-led. We aim to bring compelling stories to the screen that stimulate conversation and provide food for thought for audiences worldwide, from the best of British and international talent. And, to do so, we specifically work across all genres and formats in the high-end drama space, excluding only children’s content and local comedy.
TV DRAMA: How is Endor scouting for new drama concepts and IP?
DUSI: Driven as we are to pursue excellence across our slate, it is essential to look for new material in our own way, without necessarily following processes that might work for other companies: the key for us is always to be proactive in identifying the types of stories we want to be telling and the talent we want to be working with. Within this context, we hunt for distinctive IP across novels, newspaper articles and real-life stories. We also run our own “ideas factory,” focusing on identifying original concepts and storylines we feel truly passionate about and can then take to those writers and filmmakers we are keen to work with.
We are always looking for new ways to identify valuable IP early and have been increasingly active on social media in identifying material with adaptation potential through audience engagement. Our focused searches in this territory have already enabled us to secure previews of unpublished novels we have tracked through digital networking with authors and publishers, as well as targeting a couple of novels that have generated wide, passionate followings on TikTok and similar platforms.
We also court new writing schemes championing the next generation of talented writers and actively monitor schemes, including the Brit List and the NFTS and C4/Rocliffe writing competitions.
We actively encourage interesting talent to bring us their own ideas and let us know what kinds of stories they are looking for. We make sure we maintain a constant dialogue with the leading talent agents in the U.K. and internationally so we can keep on top of all new and up-and-coming voices. And, inevitably, we are all avid consumers of film, TV and theater works and track promising talent across all media to identify every opportunity to bring a fresh and distinctive voice into the TV drama landscape.
TV DRAMA: What are the drama trends you see in the marketplace that are guiding some of the decision-making at Endor?
DUSI: I should preface this by mentioning that we deliberately resist the temptation to “develop to order” and avoid rushing after whatever type of project represents the latest viewing trend. The truth of the matter is that proper creative development takes extensive time and effort, and by the time you have developed an original idea or piece of IP into a market-ready proposition, those trends are likely to have changed significantly. That said, we make sure we keep constantly plugged into the drama market both at a U.K. and international level and have become very conscious over the past few years that concerted effort is necessary to break through the huge amount of competition for commissioners’ attention. The key principles we have identified as clear guiding lights in our development and packaging efforts include: ensuring we always work with strong and original voices; making every show we take out to market into a distinctive proposition with a clear identity; ensuring that in every one of our shows the creative matches the commercial; and the vision and ambition of the show can be delivered in a way that is viable within the current landscape and understanding the target audience for every one of our shows in detail so we can develop with their requirements and expectations firmly in mind.
TV DRAMA: Talk to me about the talent pool you’re tapping into for projects. Is it tough to secure the right talent for projects nowadays?
DUSI: Talent is the primary currency we are all dealing in within the world of high-end drama, and the competition for those names that carry audience recognition and tangible commissionable value is, inevitably, fierce.
What helps us in fighting this battle is Endor’s long tradition as a friendly home for ambitious talent, as reflected in the many returning relationships across multiple projects that populate our slate.
We are extremely invested in nurturing the new generation of writers and filmmakers and spend a significant amount of time and effort scouting for the new shining stars. We then support them at every step of the way as they develop and grow into the established stars of tomorrow.
We are also keen to expand representation across the stories we bring to the screen and the talent we develop with at all levels. We continue to make concerted efforts to reach talent from underrepresented sections of the community in the hope we can help them find the best way to bring their own material to screen.
TV DRAMA: What are some of the financing models Endor is engaging in to get projects made?
DUSI: Approaching the financing of our projects in a creative way and always looking at innovative solutions are key elements in the Endor ethos. We constantly look for ways to bring the stories we develop to the screen in the most creatively and commercially intelligent way and will tailor the structuring of our financing and production set-up accordingly. Also, we are in constant exchange with all other Seven.One Studios production companies, including our worldwide distribution arm Red Arrow Studios International, which often contributes to the financing.
There is no single model across our slate as we work across an incredibly diverse mix of projects in terms of size, format and budget. As an example, right now we are financing one of our shows through a traditional U.K.-based commission combined with tax credits and a distributor’s MG while closing in on a couple of streamer commissions. We also look at creative co-production structures maximizing creative value as well as soft money support for a few of our more international shows.
Our returning period crime drama Vienna Blood is another example of how we approached the financing of an English-language show set in Vienna in an innovative manner. By securing commissions for the show out of Austria and Germany first and then bringing the show back into the U.K. via BBC Two and the U.S. via PBS. We are also greenlit on a single film that we have financed as a “hybrid” with a BBC premiere in the U.K. and the potential to go theatrical in the rest of the world. We do look at every available angle when hunting for ways to lock down the budget needed in order to deliver the best results across our slate.
Ultimately, however, it’s always the creative requirements of the individual project that drive our financing strategy, as it is our job to find the most effective way to deliver the creative team’s vision and ambition to the widest possible audience.
TV DRAMA: What appealed to you about joining Endor when the opportunity presented itself?
DUSI: Being asked to take over the management of an established drama player such as Endor from a leading light of the production community like Hilary [Bevan Jones] was too good an offer to turn down. I was particularly delighted to have the opportunity to continue to expand the Endor brand—with all the brilliant work the company has delivered over the years—and get into the trenches with the fantastic team Hilary had assembled while also focusing on enabling the company to move into the next stage of its operations and widen the scope and range of its future output. We have since recruited Molly Scull from the publishing sector and Jen McConnell as head of development specifically to work alongside me and executive producer Jez Swimer in the creative development space and are now actively looking to make our slate even more diverse and compelling both for the U.K. and international market.
TV DRAMA: You have a strong track record in the international drama market. How are you tapping into the expertise from your previous roles to guide the strategy now for Endor?
DUSI: Prior to turning my focus to high-end drama, I spent 20 years working in independent film in various roles. The ability to approach the setting up of new projects creatively has proven to be an incredibly useful resource within a market like global high-end drama, where below-the-line costs continue to escalate while audience expectations push for ever more value on screen.
At Endor, we approach everything we do, from idea selection onward, in a highly strategic manner and always ensure our creative ambitions are matched against market expectations and practical realities.
Ultimately, we see ourselves as U.K.-based producers of content for the global market rather than feeling in any way limited by national boundaries. My previous roles have always had an international outlook, and—in the face of the continuing saturation of the U.K. drama market—I am very keen to ensure we continue to source the best stories and strongest talent and that we work for commissioners across the broadest international spectrum to bring our wide range of first-class projects to audiences.
Co-production and collaboration are key in this respect, and an essential part of my role is to keep us plugged into a network of like-minded partners in all key territories outside the U.K. both through membership of the European Producers Club and via direct networking at festivals and markets.
I am a great believer that it is essential to have a clear strategy and plan of action underpinning the company’s decisions at every level of development, production and global distribution. Just as much as it is crucial to keep revising, updating, and, occasionally, overhauling that plan on a regular basis in order to reflect a fast-moving, ever-changing market landscape. Endor has the creativity, energy and experience to do just that, and I am excited to see our projects come to life.