EXCLUSIVE: In one of the most intriguing developments to hit the UK industry in quite a while, I can reveal that US management and production powerhouse Anonymous Content has teamed up with leading UK talent agencies Casarotto Ramsay and United Agents to form a film and TV production house in Blighty called Chapter One.
The ambitious power play sees the trio launch the London-based company with Playground Television Head Of Drama Sophie Gardiner (Howards End) as Managing Director. She will join in June and according to the trio the venture will be run on a day to day basis independently of the three founders.
This is a bold statement from all three companies, one which is already sending ripples through the local agency, management and production community, not least because between them the three companies rep hundreds of A-List clients. Boutique outfit Casarotto is UK rep to writers, directors and below-the-line talent including Steve McQueen, Stephen Frears, Neil Gaiman, Lenny Abrahamson, Lone Scherfig, Emily Watson, David Hare and Sebastian Lelio. United Agents clients span film, TV, books, theatre and comedy. Big names on their roster include Tom Hardy, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Eddie Redmayne, Julianne Moore, James Corden and Ricky Gervais. Anonymous Content is manager to the likes of Alfonso Cuaron, Emma Stone, Edgar Wright, Steven Soderbergh, James Franco and Samuel L. Jackson.
Steve Golin’s Anonymous Content has been looking to grow its international footprint after 2016 investment from Emerson Collective, the organization led by Laurene Powell Jobs, wife of the late Apple giant Steve Jobs. The UK was the obvious destination. The True Detective and Spotlight super-producer is rumoured to have kicked the tyres on buying Casarotto outright and some speculated that the company might want to acquire successful UK management and production firm 42.
In many ways the move is indicative of the way the industry is shaping, with those close to talent looking to build their production capabilities. But it will also make some nervous about potential conflicts of interest and monopolisation. The news drops on the same day that a new WGA report says 90% of US shows are packaged by agencies. While Curtis Brown pioneered this model to an extent in the UK with Cuba Pictures, UK agencies have traditionally been happier to preserve barriers between agenting and production. This is another step closer to those barriers coming down.
A potentially complex operation such as this certainly needed a strong first hire and they have it in Gardiner who was executive producer for Colin Callender’s Playground on Howards End, adapted by Oscar-winner Kenneth Lonergan for the BBC and Starz, and Heidi Thomas’s Little Women for the BBC and Masterpiece. She is currently exec on Lucy Kirkwood’s Chimerica for Channel 4 and All3 Media. She was previously Commissioning Editor at Channel 4 where she ordered hit dramas such as Southcliffe, My Mad Fat Diary, Run, The Mill and Dates.
Anonymous Content’s upcoming TV slate includes Maniac for Netflix and Catch-22 starring George Clooney for Hulu. It scored the rights to the bestselling novel Shantaram for development and Margaret Atwood’s bestselling MaddAddam trilogy, also for series development.
Anonymous Content told us, “We are proud to partner with Sophie Gardiner, Casarotto Ramsay and United Agents to launch this new endeavor that will enable us to expand our development and production of exceptional global stories. Chapter One gives us the unique opportunity to more easily identify and collaborate with both established and emerging international talent and to deliver quality entertainment to international audiences.”
Casarotto added, “We are delighted to be part of this very special opportunity: three unique companies with a common purpose to make the best quality content for a UK and international audience, drawing on a fantastic range of creative talent from across the world. We couldn’t be in a better pair of hands than with Sophie at the helm.”
United commented, “This is a wonderful opportunity for our clients to engage with the wealth of talent and production experience that Sophie Gardiner and these three companies represent. We couldn’t be more excited.”
Gardiner said, “Working with Colin and the team at Playground has been a fantastic experience and I look forward to transitioning to this new phase in my career in June. Chapter One is going to be a wonderfully exciting and creative new presence in the television and film landscape and working with the three partners and their top level talent, amongst others, is an exciting new opportunity to produce outstanding premium drama.”