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‘Conversations With Friends’ Producer Element Pictures Sells Majority Stake to Fremantle

Courtesy of Hulu

In another major M&A coup, Fremantle has taken a majority stake in Irish production company Element Pictures, the producers of “Normal People,” “Conversations With Friends” and “The Favourite.”

Element Pictures has grown to become one of Europe’s top drama producers, and is managed by co-founders Ed Guiney and Andrew Lowe, with offices in Dublin, London and Belfast.

The deal was spearheaded by Fremantle group COO and continental Europe CEO Andrea Scrosati and Lorenzo De Maio, of De Maio Entertainment. The deal represents continued investment in European drama from Fremantle, which is owned by Germany’s RTL Group.

In August 2021, the German behemoth revealed plans to grow Fremantle’s full-year revenue target to €3 billion by 2025.

In addition to driving the deal, Fremantle-backed De Maio Entertainment — whose founder Lorenzo De Maio has been key in securing major talent deals with the likes of Angelina Jolie for Fremantle — will be a strategic advisor and partner across Element Pictures’ slate, using the company’s extensive experience to “optimize strategy and maximize each project’s impact and success.”

Element Pictures’ latest TV project is the BBC and Hulu’s “Conversations With Friends,” a highly anticipated adaptation of author Sally Rooney’s debut book. The 12-part series was developed and produced by Element Pictures, directed by Lenny Abrahamson and Leanne Welham, and co-written by Alice Birch. The show will premiere on BBC and Hulu on May 15. Element previously produced “Normal People,” which debuted at the start of the pandemic to great acclaim.

The company’s film credits include Lenny Abrahamson’s Oscar winner “Room”; Yorgos Lanthimos’ Oscar winner “The Favourite” as well as “The Killing Of A Sacred Deer” and “The Lobster”; and Sebastián Lelio’s “Disobedience.”

Fremantle has been on a buying spree in the last year in a bid to bulk up its arsenal of drama producers. In April the business became a majority stakeholder in Dancing Ledge Productions, the producers of Martin Freeman drama “The Responder” and “The Salisbury Poisonings.”

The company also bought scripted Italian production company Lux Vide (“Devils,” “Leonardo”), international development and production company Fabel (“Bosch”), Australian-American television production company Eureka Productions (“Parental Guidance,” “Finding Magic Mike”) and U.K. unscripted production company Label1 (“Hospital”), in addition to 12 production labels in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark from Nordic Entertainment Group (NENT Group).

Element’s Guiney and Lowe said of the deal: “Element Pictures is 21 years old this year and it is incredibly exciting for us and our wonderful colleagues to be entering a new and ambitious phase of growth in partnership with our friends at Fremantle at a truly exhilarating time for our industry. We are huge fans of the people at Fremantle, their vision for the future and the extraordinary talent they are working with across film and television.

“Collaborating closely with [Fremantle CEO Jennifer Mullin], Andrea, Lorenzo, [Fremantle global drama head Christian Vesper], [Fremantle International CEO Jens Richter], and their brilliant team will allow us to build on and grow our existing relationships with the very best creators in the world and expand our capacity to make exceptional film and television drama for international audiences.”

Fremantle’s Scrosati added: “Fremantle is proud to be investing and partnering with the very best creative minds in the business. Ed, Andrew, and the amazing Element Pictures team certainly fall into this category. They have built an astonishing company, which has become one of Europe’s most exciting and innovative creative production companies. We look forward to working closely with their immensely talented creatives, helping to build on their slate of high-quality, sophisticated, and powerful productions. Creative freedom will sit at the very heart of this partnership, and everyone at Fremantle is excited to be working with the Element Pictures team and supporting their growth internationally.”

Element Pictures’ current TV projects include “The Gallows Pole” (BBC/A24), the star-studded BBC period drama from critically acclaimed director Shane Meadows, and Nancy Harris’ eight-part comedy drama “The Dry” (BritBox/RTE/ITV Studios/Screen Ireland). Previous TV projects include the co-production of “The Dublin Murders” with the Fremantle-backed Euston Films.

Current films in post-production include Sebastián Lelio’s “The Wonder” (Netflix), with Florence Pugh; Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Poor Things” (Searchlight Pictures), starring Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo and Willem Dafoe; Stephen William’s historical biopic “Chevalier” (Searchlight Pictures), starring Kelvin Harrison Jr; and Joanna Hogg’s “The Eternal Daughter” (BBC Films/A24) starring Tilda Swinton.

Variety's Manori Ravindran contributed to this post.


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