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UK producer Paul Trijbits launches joint venture with French outfit Magical Society

Source: Screen File

Paul Trijbits

Former UK Film Council executive and producer of Saving Mr Banks, Sing Street and TV series The Casual Vacancy Paul Trijbits has revealed details of his new venture with French production company Magical Society.

The former head UK Film Council’s New Cinema Fund has also spoken about the demise of his former company FilmWave, saying “we had all our eggs in the Netflix basket”.

Dutch-born, UK-based Trijbits and former FilmWave colleague JJ Lousberg have partnered with Paris-based Magical Society to set up Magical Society UK (MSUK). The UK outfit is behind six-part BBC One thriller Vidree, which was announced late last month as part of BBC One’s drama slate.

Magical Society was launched in 2020 by comic-book artist and filmmaker Joann Sfar, whose credits include Le Chat Du Rabin, Monster’s Shrink, and Mr Crocodile, and French animation producer Aton Soumache, whose credits include Le Petit Prince, and the popular Netflix animated film Miraculous: Ladybug.

Soumache also founded European family group ON Entertainment in 2014, and is the honorary chairman and a shareholder of Mediawan Kids & Family.

Magical Society plans to draw on Sfar’s wide comics slate, that includes Klezmer, The Rabbi’s Cat, Aspirin, Little Vampire, and The Little Prince, as well as developing original works.

Trijbits explained Lousberg had worked with Sfar on a feature film about Serge Gainsbourg many years before, and the two parties’ relationship blossomed during lockdown.

“Magical Society had an ambition to expand outside of France, in English language, and were looking for a partnership in the UK,” said Trijbits. ”JJ and I are both Dutch, we’ve always had a very healthy working relationship with Europe. We’re really excited to be working with Magical Society – it’s a truly creative partner with great experience of developing IP. Joann is like a god in the world of French graphic novels.”

Virdee and MSUK’s emerging slate

Magical Society UK’s first greenlight is Virdee, based on AA Dhand’s best-selling crime novels about a British Sikh detective in Bradford who is disowned by his family for marrying a Muslim woman. Dhand has adapted the book himself. It stars Sacha Dhawan in the title role, investigating a killer targeting the Asian community.

The show draws on several titles from the Virdee novels is being made by the Magical North imprint, in association with Screen Yorkshire and with Cineflix Rights handling global distribution.

Trijbits said he had been developing the project with Dhand and the BBC for six years, and that the series was dramatic and entertaining while exploring racial tensions in a very interesting setting.

“In the nineteenth century Bradford was one of the richest cities in England, all the cotton came through there, and its got amazing architecture – but also now there’s huge deprivation and poverty. Virdee loves his city and wants to save it – for him Bradford is like Gotham.”

Other projects on the Magical North development slate include The Botanist, a series adaptation of Sunday Times best-selling author MW Craven’s novel by Dhand. The book is part of the Washington Poe’s series of detective novels.

In advanced development is Monsters’ Shrink, a returnable eight-part grounded genre series based on Sfar’s work, written and adapted by Jeremy Dyson. Other Joann Sfar-led projects are expected to follow.

MSUK will also be producing feature films, although none are ready to be announced. 

Future plans

Trijbits’ former production company Filmwave, went into administration earlier this year and was a victim of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Trijbits.

FilmWave’s biggest project was 2020 Netflix series The Letter For The King, which was ordered in 2018 and released in 2020.

The company’s administrator noted that it won five Emmy awards and generated “significant income”. But it was not recommissioned by the streamer and that decision led to significant costs for FilmWave, which had already fully developed a second series.

“We delivered Latter For The King pretty much on the first day of lockdown – we just got it over the line. But Netflix was going to risk another major commission [with all the uncertainty over production during the pandemic] and that was a huge blow.

“We effectively had all our eggs in the Netflix basket and though we were developing in 2021 we didn’t have a must-have project or a season three of an established series.

“FilmWave took government support like many companies, but it become clear it wasn’t breaking through and the best thing to do was start afresh.”

FilmWave employed seven staff when it went into administration, though several of them have joined MSUK, including Lousberg, and the new company’s head of development Callum Dodgson and director of finance and production finance Laura Douras.

Lousberg recently produced Day & Night, the top-rated medical series for Dutch broadcaster NPO and was previously Focus Features/Universal’s SVP international productions and acquisitions working across the slate on films like Ex Machina, Mama, and Theory Of Everything.

Dodgson, who worked closely with Dhand on Virdee, has previously script edited BBC series Silent Witness and worked as a development executive at The Ink Factory from its inception. Douras has previously worked at Avalon Entertainment and Fremantle.

Trijbits other producing credits include Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank and Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre.

A version of this story originally appeared on Screen’s sister site, Broadcast.

Additional reporting by Mona Tabbara 

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