Carnival Films Gareth Nehme’s Track ‘Downton Abbey’ Tours the French Riviera and Why the UK Dramas Continue

Welcome to Deadline International unemployed, a feature in which we highlight top CEOs and companies that are rocking the overseas market. This week we are talking about carnival movies Chief Executive Officer Gareth Nehmethe producer behind the hit UK franchise Downton Abbey. The company, which Neame sold to NBC Universal in 2008, remains one of the premier producers of high-end dramas with global reach.

Nothing in Gareth Nehme’s career has been by chance. The veteran British producer is perhaps best known for the global phenomenon Downton Abbey, which he produced through his Carnival Films banner. The series, which won 15 Primetime Emmy Awards with 69 nominations (making it the most nominated non-U.S. show in Emmy history), has spawned six series and two movies, the most recent of which is, Downton Abbey: A New EraAnd the Its global rollout will begin in the UK on April 29.

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When Naomi asked him if he predicted the path this series would take, he simply replied, “Yes.”

“I always thought if we got into the genre and did it right, it would be really popular,” Naomi told Deadline.

It’s this quiet guarantee combined with a laser focus on actual work that has seen Neame build Carnival Films into one of the UK’s leading TV theater companies with a roster that includes midlife dramas. The Last Kingdomhistorical series Belgravia And the Golden ageAnd the last two are united with Nima Downtown author Julian Fellowes.

Nehme knew from an early age that he wanted to work in the world of high-end television series. He comes from a long line of show business: his grandfather, Ronald Niamh, was a director of photography while his father, Christopher, was a producer with Peter Sellers.

“It was an easy decision to enter this field,” says Nehme. “A lot of people follow in their family’s footsteps and so I always knew what I wanted to do – there was no doubt about it. »

He began his career at the BBC where he started as a stage manager and rose through the ranks to head of independent drama, a period considered a “fast track” in his career as he learned everything from development to physical output. He has worked in popular UK programs such as ghostsAnd the outlaw And the Accelerated.

Shortly after the British Communications Act of 2003 changed the terms of trade in the television landscape, allowing independent producers to retain ownership of their intellectual property, thus declaring what was considered a golden age for British drama, Neame was approached by Carnival Films founder and producer Brian Eastman. to resume his business. .

“I was looking forward to getting into the independent business, and it was a huge step that a lot of us were starting to take at the time,” Nehme recalls. “Making this step was a life choice, and I could see the indie industry was about to explode here, so it was the perfect time for me to get back into producing. »

In 2004, he took over as Carnival director and has gone from strength to strength ever since, continuing to maintain an extensive roster including shows like crime dramas. PoirotDrama Jeff Wooster and the horror Dracula. But that’s after watching Gosford Parkwhich won Fellowes the Best Original Screenplay Oscar, and stumbles upon old episodes of the darling fashion drama. Up downThe tables are really starting to turn. Nehme couldn’t shake off the idea of ​​reinventing the 1920s drama for episodic television in a “technically clever” way.

“Everything I’ve ever seen in this genre, I really couldn’t believe it was showing the right image,” he says. “I felt like everything I had seen before was not accurate. »

Nehme reached out to colleagues about the show’s concept and had “one of those meetings you’ve had in your life that you don’t know is one of the most important meetings in your life. life while you’re at it” and the rest is television history. Downton AbbeyAired on commercial broadcaster ITV in the UK, it was acquired by more than 220 countries and territories and watched by an estimated global audience of 120 million people.

. – Credit: Ben Blackall / Focus Features

Ben Blackall / Focus Features

In 2008, Neame sold Carnival to NBC Universal, becoming the first British scripted company to sell to a major American corporation, a move many of his contemporaries have since followed. The partnership between Carnival and the studio is doing well, and Neame is still in the lead 14 years later.

“I think we have all the benefits of a boutique brand and the drama of a company that’s many years old, but behind us we have the heavy power of a major global entertainment company, giving us scale. mass distribution and the ability to fund shows,” he says. “But it’s a university and I think it’s doing better than it has ever been since we joined. »

Nima says NBCUni’s support has given Downtown The power it needed to get value in the international market with NBCUni positioning the show as one of its best in the market, refusing to lower its price just because it was a “series of British filming”.

“They brought pioneering value to an international fair in terms of Downtown“, he says. “It showed that not only can you achieve global success from the UK, but you can achieve the same locally by working internationally. »

Downtown Unique in the fact that he offered to produce two feature films. The first is simply titled Downton Abbeyreleased in 2019 via Focus Features domestically and Universal Pictures globally.

“I think we’ve been very careful with the concept of big-screen TV, because it can be a bit of a bumpy road with more failures than successes,” admits Neame.

The title grossed $237.9 million at the worldwide box office and became the highest-grossing Focus Features title of all time in the United States with a domestic credit of $96.9 million.

“Very quickly we started thinking about a supplement,” he says. “And I always wanted to take Crowley to France and do everything Giving is a night somehow. Some of my favorite episodes of the show are when they went to the Scottish Highlands, Northumberland or London. »

The pandemic allowed Fellowes and the creators to work on a screenplay Downton Abbey: A New Era With shootings expected in 2021, but when the second wave of Covid-19 hit that year, the prospect of shootings in southern France, Niamey admitted, looked less and less.

“It was a very stressful time, and we were looking for ways to simulate the south of France in the UK, which is very difficult but luckily we were able to do it and get to France,” he said. added, adding that the crew had flown on two separate planes and Covid restrictions were very strict to film for 10 weeks.

“In the end, we were able to do exactly what was planned and written and I’m very happy with the result,” he says.

While Downtown It has garnered a lot of attention since Neame was at the helm of Carnival Films, and the company continues to crank out a steady slate of hit songs. She won the BAFTA Awards for her mini-series The Lost Honor of Christopher Jeffress And the what a human heart.

Meanwhile, a Saxon epic The Last KingdomBased on the beloved adaptation of Bernard Cornwall’s hit film Saxon Tales Novels, is approaching its fifth and final season with Netflix. It’s a long-awaited epilogue delayed by Covid-19 and when Neame and his team told Netflix there was one last story they’d like to tell as a feature film, the tape quickly gave it the green light. . A two-hour feature film titled Seven kings must die I can not wait to Filmed this year and will stream on Netflix.

Nehme describes the relationship with Netflix as “extremely trusting”.

“Working with them has been great,” he says of the streaming device. “Netflix was a completely different experience than what I grew up with, it was a real commitment from deeply involved broadcasters. »

Over the years, Carnival period dramas have been criticized for lacking cultural diversity, with shows such as Downtown is marked. It’s an issue facing the entire entertainment industry, but Neame insists Carnival continues to work hard to include diverse members in its upcoming shows.

. – Credit: HBO

HBO

“With shows like Downtownwhen it was first conceived in 2009, there was a completely different type of discussion than what is happening now,” he says. “At that time, what mattered most to us was the historical environment and Britain was a monocultural society at that time. period. »

He says New York wasn’t like that and that’s why the story was Golden agewho was fair Renewed by HBO for a second seasonfocuses largely on the elite class of black New Yorkers in the 19th century.

“New York was a diverse society back then with all the inequalities that we know and we worked hard on this story to have a very different experience than African Americans in New York back then. »

Golden age It was cast with a bevy of Broadway stars such as Denée Benton, John Douglas Thompson and Audra McDonald who all provided “authentic and wonderful” to the story.

He says, noting that “we’ve always picked our contemporary shows with various actors.” Lucky man for Stan LeeWhat the company did with Sky for three seasons.

Despite Carnival’s global reach, Nehme says he has no plans to move to the United States as many of his British contemporaries have. Instead, he prefers to work from his office in Covent Garden – “I don’t particularly like working from the dining table at home” – as he has direct access to the UK’s pool of talent and designers. .

“The disparity between American and British content 20 years ago was absolutely huge,” he says. “Now I think it’s definitely a more equal playing field, especially when it comes to English content. »

He adds: “I’m proud of the creative community in the UK and it’s a great place to work. There are creatives showing their work like never before. »

This week’s edition of Deadline’s International Disruptors is by Guillotine Vodka.

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Carnival Films Gareth Nehme’s Track ‘Downton Abbey’ Tours the French Riviera and Why the UK Dramas Continue