How Co-Production Deals Can Turbo-Charge Your Web Series Career

(Alex Le May) #1

Co-production deals made my early career and built the foundation of what allows me, to this day, to repeatedly create original work. But first, what is a co-production deal?

A co-production, or co-pro as it’s called in the biz, is a partnership or joint venture on a single or slate of projects with the intent of jointly producing your work.

Now most people reading this, are not companies with development budgets and access to financing, so a co-production is a great means by which you can partner with an established production company in exchange for a piece of your project.

When I say a piece, I mean 50-75%. Yeah, that’s a huge number!!! But what do you get in exchange for that big give? Well, a lot actually:

  • Access to financing
  • Access to bigger talent
  • Access to established creative and production professionals
  • Production to infrastructure (budgeting, sponsorships, legal, etc.)
  • Still get to direct and produce but without all the headache of doing everything yourself
  • Design and marketing
  • Access to agents and managers
  • A dedicated sales team
  • Able to lean on your partner’s reputation and connections which inevitably rub off on you.

But what do they need to make a decision to co-produce with you? What I always bring them is a tight, buttoned up, fully realized pitch. This includes a sizzle reel, a one-sheet and pitch deck. First, they need to believe in the project so your presentation needs to be air-tight. These are people who only make money if they are selling and producing ideas, so they are always on the hunt for great projects. They want game changers, not people who are simple looking for a check. They want partners not someone they have to carry or babysit.

But before I commit to anyone, I need to do my homework. I need to make sure this is a partner that can get things done. Some questions you can ask before doing your outreach.

  • What have they sold to date?
  • Where did the main partners/producers come from before they ended up at this particular production company?
  • What is there reputation in the industry?
  • Are they easy to work with?
  • Have they been in any lawsuits and for what?
  • How well did their previous content perform?
  • Who else have they co-pro’d with? (ask those people how their experience was)

And there is some downside to co-pros as well. All is not rainbows and unicorns in co-production-land. Some things to note:

  • Just because there is a co-pro deal doesn’t mean the project is guaranteed to sell
  • You now have a partner that has meaningful say in the creative direction of the project – It ain’t all you anymore.
  • They’re working on a ton of other projects and yours may take a backseat to others that are perceived to be getting more traction.

But in the end, enough of these deals worked out. The project gets made and you now have a series in distribution which makes doing business with you that much easier. Sure, you may be giving up a bunch on the back end and even some production dollars, but that deal may not have existed without your co-production partner. It is always better to have 25%-50% of something than 100% of nothing .

(Amen J.) #2

And, if you are ever seeking media financing down the line, you can establish your eligibility as an independent by partnering with someone already in the industry. For Canadians it is also extremely helpful when applying for the big web series funds like CMF and Bell Media.

(Chris Hackett) #3

Whats the difference between pitching for funding and co production? I always assumed Im giving over more than 80% when I was pitching for funding as none of it is your money aside from development and initial idea.

(Alex Le May) #4

Great question, Chris. Co-pro’s are pre-financing. Usually best when done in conjunction with a known/reputable production company. They first develop and package the project with you before shopping it to distribs. So they literally invest time and dollars into making sure the product goes out to their buyer/distrib network in the best possible form. They may reshoot a sizzle, sweeten the deck and attach onscreen talent. Then they shop it to their existing studio contacts. Direct financing usually comes from studios and is usually given to people with all those things already in place. So if you don’t have access to onscreen talent and a distribution partner, a co-pro is a good way to leverage that. Hope that helps and thanks so much for your comment