The most interesting thing about Ken Follett's THE PILLARS OF EARTH mini-series isn't the international cast (Ian McShane, Donald Sutherland, Rufus Sewell etc) or it's location shoot in Hungary and Austria — it's the complex financing that had to be put together to get the German/Canadian coproduction made. As the press release notes:
TANDEM COMMUNICATIONS and Muse Entertainment's broadcast and home video partners on The Pillars of the Earth are ProSiebenSat1's German FreeTV Group, Canada's Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, The Movie Network and Movie Central, Spain's Socable, Austria's ORF, Germany's Universum Film Home Entertainment, Hungary's TV2 and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment – to name a few. In addition, the financial entities involved were gap financier FIDEC, Germany's DZ Bank and The National Bank of Canada. Legal counsel for the project was Mathias Schwarz in Germany, Cari Davine in Canada, Randolph M. Paul in the USA and Monika Horvath in Hungary.
Did you notice that it says that those are just a few of the financial partners? And did you see that the deal-making itself is such a big part of the production, that the producers feel obligated to thank their lawyers in the press release? Incredible.
The folks at Tandem obviously had to go, hat in hand, all over the world to get the money for this. Even more surprising is that the mini-series doesn't even have a U.S. or U.K. broadcast yet. This illustrates just how difficult it is to raise financing for TV productions these days…and how global the business has become. Tandem's managing director Rola Bauer says in the press release:
"The fact that we have been able to raise the production financing in these economically challenging times is testimony to the enduring strength of fictional television Event programming […] and could not have been achieved without our international networks as well as our financial and production partners."
Scott Free TV president David Zucker told the Hollywood Reporter that putting together such a complex deal and going into production without a U.S. broadcaster is "the new world order."
"Yes, there is more risk at the top, but there's more latitude on the creative side. It's not dissimilar to the indie film biz in this respect. Given how difficult the economy became here, we decided to plow ahead and get funding and casting done before trying to do a licensing deal in the States."
Zucker said there was "a lot of interest" among yank broadcasters, cablers and pay cablers but did not specify how close to a deal the producers were.
For what it's worth, the last big mini-series that Munich-based Tandem put together, LOST CITY RAIDERS, ended up on SciFi.