EXCLUSIVE: London and LA-based production and management firm 42 is on a roll. Latest movie Ironbark, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, was yesterday snapped up by Lionsgate at Sundance in a mid-seven figure deal, while feel-good comedy pic Military Wives was one of the sparkier U.S. acquisitions at Toronto.
Today, we can reveal that Netflix has re-upped its first-look movie deal with the company for another two years. After features including In Darkness and In The Shadow Of The Moon, 42 is now making Anthony Mackie sci-fi Outside The Wire and Adam Randall’s Night Teeth for the streamer. Company co-founder Ben Pugh is currently in pre-production in New Orleans on the latter.
It’s a busy time for 42, which is expanding on both sides of the pond. Head-count has grown to 50. New LA hires include former Imperative Entertainment and Paramount Pictures staffer Kari Hatfield who has joined as Director Of Development, Film; former Paramount Television and TWC exec Claudia Shin, who has joined as Director Of Development, TV; and former CAA books and motion pictures employee Alexandra Kordas, who has joined as a Literary Manager. Most recently added to the London team was former PFD agent Marilia Savvides, also aboard as a Literary Manager.
Late last year the company inked a multi-year TV deal with MGM Television to co-develop scripted series for the U.S. market (their previous deal was with ITV Studios) and the firm is currently in post-production on Julian Fellowes’ soccer drama The English Game for Netflix. 42 partner Rory Aitken is steering that one. Previous TV series include starry animation Watership Down and spy drama Traitors.
Today, we can reveal new film and TV projects in development including movie Lara, based on the well-received book of the same by Anna Pasternak, writer and member of the famous Pasternak family. Multi-BAFTA winner Guy Hibbert (Eye In The Sky) is attached to write the sweeping story, which is set in Stalinist Russia and follows the fortunes of celebrated scribe Boris Pasternak and his muse Olga Ivinskaya who would inspire his epic romance Doctor Zhivago.
Also on the slate is Flatshare, a TV series in development with the BBC, based on the feel-good rom-com novel by Beth O’Leary. Rose Lewenstein (On The Edge) is adapting the story about cash-strapped twenty-somethings who agree to share a room.
It’s an impressive journey for the upstart company which became the UK’s first dedicated management and production outfit when it launched in 2013. The founding partners at the dynamic firm – producers Pugh and Aitken and agents-turned-managers Josh Varney and Kate Buckley (who have been subsequently joined by lit manager Cathy King) – were initially inspired by the late Steve Golin’s production and management powerhouse Anonymous Content.
From the get-go, 42 was considered something of an enfant terrible in the traditionally grounded London business. The aim was to create a “contemporary and pastoral culture” which cross-pollinated talent and embraced the U.S. industry, the partners tell me.
“Seven years ago we were disruptive,” says Varney, whose clients include Lynne Ramsay, Tom Harper, Noel Clarke and Claire Denis. “We now see colleagues who have worked here go off and set up their own management and production companies. That’s gratifying. I don’t know if we’re still the enfant terrible of the UK business but we’re still thinking about positive disruption. It’s about staying fleet of foot and having the knowledge to empower clients. If you’re not thinking globally, you’re going to be in trouble. Our team is regularly traveling in Europe and America looking at talent.
“We feel well-positioned to be able to take advantage of how quickly the market is changing and the appetite for talent. We’re still relatively small, but we feel as well-positioned as any. You’ve got to be entrepreneurial today. The business requires it and talent expects it more than ever. That includes understanding data and how the global market works.”
“The global nature of our production business is key to our plans,” explains LA-based Pugh and London-based Aitken. “Talent and IP have never travelled as far. Having solid bases in North America and in the UK means we can pivot to provide a range of content. We started out producing material with a genre edge because we love those movies, and it was a point of difference in the UK market as we grew there. We wanted to earn the right to make movies like Ironbark and Military Wives and we’re very pleased we can now blend the slate with a greater variety of genres.”
The company’s trajectory has led to interest from overseas.
“There have been people knocking on our doors, which is flattering, but we feel like we’re just getting started,” confirms Varney, who will be upping his time in LA. “We’d rather work closely with our suitors rather than be owned by them.”
That interest comes just as U.S. management firms and agencies are hungrily looking into Europe to grow their content footprints and talent rosters.
“It feels like the most exciting time to be in the business,” says London-based King, whose clients include Succession creator Jesse Armstrong and Downton Abbey creator Fellowes. “It would be odd if American industry didn’t see the undeniable opportunities here with the amount of great talent there is. But there’s a lot of work to go around and we see collaborative opportunities.”
In a post-Weinstein business, and in a sector known for the occasional outsized ego, King responded early to the “refreshing” culture at 42. “There is a continual analysis of how we all work. We’re tough with each other in a positive way and that has been inspiring.”
Buckley, manager to Michael Caine and Nicholas Hoult, adds, “We think there’s a way to be competitive and nurturing without being overly aggressive. We’re thinking a lot about how to bring diversity into the business and how to leave the sector better than we found it. You don’t need A-levels to become an agent or manager. It’s about access. We strongly believe in the paid internship schemes, mentoring programs and speaker sessions we’re involved in.”