Case Study: STORMBORN. A $1.5 Mn Wildlife Coproduction by Love Nature, Smithsonian Channel, ARTE, BBC Scotland & Screen Scotland. Maramedia is the Producer

The sharing of costs and rights on editorial partnerships is becoming increasingly important in the ‘Netflix Era.’

Our STORMBORN Case Study is an inspiring example of a successful coproduction.

It’s the story of how a medium-sized Scottish production company developed a compelling Natural History concept that attracted the multiple partners who could realize a limited series budgeted at $1.5 million.

Concept

  • On the wild northern edge of the Atlantic Ocean is a land of fire and ice. This is a place of active volcanoes, towering seas, fierce storms, and frozen rivers. To raise your family here seems With the odds stacked so heavily against you, even surviving seems a feat of endurance. But special clans of animals do survive here and survive in style. They’re otters, arctic foxes, reindeer, puffins, seals, and orca. Against this background of ice-carved rock, they must work to make homes, find mates, and raise their special youngsters – THE STORMBORN.

Trailer

https://vimeo.com/340651435/a42718827c

First Pitch

  • The idea was originally pitched by Glasgow-based Maramedia to Love Nature at MIPTV in 2018,
  • Discussions continued during Sunnyside of the Doc where Love Nature, in partnership with Smithsonian Channel, confirmed their greenlight pending financing.

About Maramedia

  • Maramedia has developed an expertise in filming in Scotland and the Nordic countries.
  • Nigel Pope is a pioneer of dramatic character-led Natural History, but his approach had never been used with these unusual animals in fabulous and iconic Northern Landscapes.

In recent years we have been fortunate to work in many remote northern landscapes with animals rarely seen in blue-chip programming. However, we had never seen a series that focused on this part of the world and on the dramatic stories of the animals that live here. So this seemed like an ideal marrying of spectacular species and locations with drama-based storylines of animal clans facing the same elemental forces of extreme weather. And of course, we’re a tough Northern lot and love a challenge like this. Nigel Pope

Intended format

  • 3-part limited series.

Blue Ant Media’s Love Nature brand

Carlyn Staudt, Blue Ant’s EVP of Programming & Development described how STORMBORN fits into Love Nature’s mission:

  • Love Nature is a modern 4k natural history content brand that is platform agnostic.
  • It is a joint venture between Blue Ant Media and Smithsonian Networks hat was formed in 2015.
  • Love Nature reaches viewers and lovers of wildlife on whatever platform they use, from linear, OTT, VOD, YouTube, and more. We go where the consumer is watching.
  • We continue to offer viewers a chance to get closer to nature through both powerful stories about the natural world and stunning 4k and HDR footage.
  • Our goal is to foster a deeper understanding of and connection to the planet we call home through our content, which is one of the largest libraries of 4K natural history programming in the world.”

How STORMBORN realizes Blue Ant’s strategy

Editorial:

  • “Love Nature’s new editorial strategy has been to focus on story-driven content celebrating the complexity of life on earth and engaging viewers at a heartfelt level while at the same time fostering deeper knowledge about the natural world.
  • The STORMBORN wildlife trilogy tells the intimate, family stories of the key species found in the northern Atlantic that form the narrative of this series.
  • The storytelling carefully intertwines each location and species to reveal in surprising ways the animal’s lives in this particular location.
  • This series also helps us realize our goal of getting viewers closer to nature through stunning 4K and HDR content that really pops on-screen.”

Business Strategy:

  • “From a business perspective, the series fits perfectly with Love Nature’s strategy to co-produce high end, Blue Chip natural history content that is story driven and has global appeal.”

 

Development

  • Nigel Pope and Jackie Savery pitched Carlyn at MIPTV 2018.
  • Then Alison Barrat, who is head of development & production for Love Nature worked with Tria Thalman, EP for Natural History at Smithsonian Channel, to develop the concept further with Maramedia.
  • Further editorial and financing discussions happened at Sunny Side of the Doc and the project was greenlit by Love Nature, in partnership with Smithsonian Channel, pending full financing.
  • Maramedia pitched ARTE at Sunnyside and ARTE confirmed their contribution a few months later.
  • Maramedia also worked to pitch BBC Scotland and Screen Scotland who confirmed their involvement late in the fall of 2018.

Partners

  • Love Nature, Smithsonian Channel, ARTE, BBC Scotland, Screen Scotland

Production Timeline

I asked Maramedia’s Nigel Pope about the timeline:

  • “We started filming in February 2019 with stormy seas of Shetland and a young otter family learning to fishing in the waves.
  • We have also completed filming trips to the remote and dramatic Hornstrandir peninsula of Iceland where we secured access in a difficult time of year to film Arctic foxes pairing up in the worst of the winter storms.
  • In Norway, our team captured some truly breathtaking and mesmerising behavior of the vast herds of reindeer in the high mountains.
  • Our filming team has also just returned from some exciting new shoots with reindeer babies and the first returns of the comical seabirds – puffins.
  • We have many more exciting filming trips scheduled for the coming months and look forward to taking the first show into the edit in the late summer.”

Field Production

  • Filming spans February to November 2019 (although it is not every day between these dates).
  • Most cinematography by Fergus Gill, Peter Barden and Asgeir Helgestad.
  • Maramedia’s team approach means that both Jackie Savery and Nigel Pope are working to write and craft the series in
  • Their key challenge? Weather! Weather! Weather!

Format

  • 4K & HDR

Post-production

  • Episode 1 starts cutting in August 2019.

Production Budget

  • Estimate: US$1.5m
  • Estimated contributions:
    • Love Nature 60%
    • ARTE 15%
    • BBC Scotland 17%
    • Screen Scotland 8%

Delivery

  • The series delivers to Love Nature in April 2020.
  • Separate versions: Love Nature, Smithsonian Channel, ARTE, BBC Scotland

Distribution

  • Blue Ant International will handle global distribution for the series outside the committed markets.

Scheduled Release

  • Premiere on Love Nature in the fall of 2020.

Key Takeaways from Love Nature

I asked Carlyn Staudt what does the project’s successful development tell us about the Wildlife genre today?

  • “Wildlife is a genre that easily has global appeal.
  • There is still an appetite with regional terrestrial partners and brands that have global reach like Love Nature.
  • Strengthening storytelling is a way that we evolve the genre past just survey films about locations.
  • By reaching viewers at a heartfelt level and showing similarities between animals and ourselves we can create emotional connections to nature in a deeper and more meaningful way.”

And about the relevance of coproductions?

  • “The success of projects like STORMBORN is all about finding ways to creatively window and share rights.
  • Therefore, co-production can work well with Blue Chip Natural History projects.
  • Coproduction is often needed in this genre in order to realize ambitious budgets. Partners can still be found in this space.”

More Reading

Trailer

https://vimeo.com/340651435/a42718827c

Thanks

  • Thanks to Susan Stafford and the Blue Ant team for helping to complete this Case study on a fast-track in time for Sunny Side of the Doc.
  • The Case Study is a collaboration between DocumentaryBusiness.com and Sunny side of the Doc.

COPRODUCTION CASE STUDIES
Six Documentary Success Stories

Contents

6 unique Case Studies:

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Contents

  • What You Need to Know about actual coproductions
  • 35+ pages
  • Detailed research and findings
  • Financial analysis
  • Compelling Takeaways with key success factors
  • Numerous links to trailers, websites and Kickstarter campaigns
  • And much more!

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