EXCLUSIVE: Japan and Europe are coming together on their first ever scripted co-production with Japanese broadcaster Fuji teaming with German distributor ZDF Enterprises and British writer James Payne (Mr Selfridge) on soccer drama The Window.
The move marks the latest shift in the global co-pro market and offers a new opportunity for Asian and European partners to work together on big-budget scripted projects.
The Window is a thriller, which is centered on the multi-billion dollar business that surrounds the elite world of professional football. It focuses on the transfer window, the period of time where footballers are bought and sold at the end of the English Premier League season, where agents wheel and deal. It follows Jordan Burdett, a humble, 17-year-old kid from the North of England, a talented player who is set to score a big contract, negotiated by his agent, and brother, who teams with complex super agent Romulus Daglis, before finding an ally in Noriko Asari, a smart but anxious lawyer on secondment from Japan.
The dark drama, which is set for a ten-part run, is being written by Payne, who has worked on ITV and PBS drama Mr Selfridge and BBC series The Musketeers and Death in Paradise. A big Tottenham Hotspur fan, Payne tells Deadline that he’s always wanted to develop a football idea. “When production companies come to you with an idea, you poke it around a bit and I’ve always been interested in the world of football but to be honest, it’s always tricky when you’re working with fictional characters to root for them that much when it comes to playing football. It was about finding the right way in,” he said. Payne is set to partner with a team of writers on the project to create a U.S.-style writers’ room.
The project originated at Mip TV at a dinner between Takayuki Hayakawa, Director of Worldwide Production and Business Development at Fuji TV and ZDF Enterprises’ drama chief Robert Franke.
Franke told Deadline that the company, which is the commercial arm of public broadcaster ZDF, which is not currently on board the project, wanted to do a House of Cards for football. “Our intention was to create something for a global market and the most important football league in the world is the Premier League, we wanted something that could cross all those nations,” he said.
The companies are now looking for international broadcast partners and are in talks with the major SVOD platforms. Franke said that it is in the final phase of funding with the ambition to move into pre-production this autumn to shoot in the early part of 2019.
Hayakawa told Deadline that the increasing popularity of the English Premier League in Japan and across Asia made it an ideal place to start when it came to international co-productions. “When I was a kid everyone talked about baseball, but now it’s all about football. It’s not only in Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai and Delhi, the young generation in Asia are all football fans,” he added.