Wilfred format in negotiations for US remake

WilfredRenegade Films’ directors Joe and Ken Connor are currently in negotiations to sell the format of the comedy series Wilfred for an American version.

“Independent producers have not fully exploited their format options, and Australia is better known for importing formats than for exporting them,” Joe Connor told Encore.

The producer said that the company’s first priority is to sell the original program, but most markets are looking to adapt products for their respective territories. That is currently the case with Wilfred, whose second series is currently screening on SBS.

“The market is going to dictate how it is versioned, and in the end, selling anything overseas is a reflection of how good your project is, said Joe.

“Australian formats such as Thank God You’re Here or Kath & Kim have been sold with various degrees of success, but a great idea can work on a number of levels, and people might be interested in your program elsewhere,” added Ken.

The producers are in the middle of a live tour of RockWiz, based on their hit SBS program – currently screening on pay-TV as well. The Connors believe that exploitation of intellectual property on different formats – such as the RockWiz show – and platforms is essential as part of any new project.

“The TV show is about keeping the brand alive and having a connection with the audience, but it’s easier to make a profit with the live show, with merchandise and DVD also being sold on the road,” said Ken.

“But you have make sure of your support with the public before you embark on a new venture,” added Joe.

In 2009, Renegade produced 30 hours of programming, including a number of documentaries for the ABC and SBS (some through the broadcaster’s Secrets & Lives series of 3×30’ programs) through their Factual programming division. At a time when financing is challenging, the directors of the company believe their work volume is what has kept Renegade afloat.

“The secret is re-investment. We started as a TVC production house, but the objective was to have a broader range of output. It’s about volume and commissions and mortgages,” explained Ken.

In addition to a company’s own strategies, the Connor brothers agree that the support of Screen Australia is still “very important”.

“Small independent producers need as much support as they can get,” said Joe.

“The grant system – any funding of $200,000 or less will now be considered a grant instead of recoupable investment – will make it fair and reasonable, and the entire budget is going to the screen instead of being used on compliance,” added Ken.

Renegade is currently working on a documentary about the Burke and Wills expedition. In terms of drama, the Connors said a third series of Wilfred is possible, but it might a while before that happens, considering the five years of development between the TropFest-winning short and the first series, and the three years it took to bring the rebellious dog back to the screen.

The producers added that, while they would like to produce a feature, they are comfortable with their work on television, because it is sustainable.

“What has kept Renegade alive is its ability to work across platforms. With features, because of their larger gestation period, it becomes harder to sustain a company,” explained Ken.


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