Production profile: The future of Frantic

Winnipeg-based prodco ramps up its development team, and announces plans to spin off its popular 'Til Debt Do Us Part series and bolster its branded content output.
February 24, 2010

Around five years ago Winnipeg-based Frantic Films, a company with its roots in animation and fiction properties, announced it would be focusing more on unscripted television. It’s a plan that seems to be working.

Frantic currently has series on Canadian networks such as HGTV, Food Network and SLICE, is shooting a pilot for Discovery Canada and is in the midst of shooting a new program for Corus Entertainment’s female-oriented W Network. Jamie Brown, Frantic Films’ CEO, is thankful his company is as busy as it is, but the swelling tide of business did require a ramping up of his creative staff. This led to the addition of development execs Anne-Marie Varner, Alberta Nokes and Melissa Kajpust.

‘Hiring the kind of caliber of people that we’ve gone out to get really reflects our investments and commitment to be ready to bring our broadcasters a new crop of great shows,’ explains Brown. ‘We were looking ahead and even though we are in some challenging times, we believe that in six to 18 months the broadcasters who have been holding back and carefully looking at their pennies and amortizing their shows to meet their Canadian content spend requirements are going to have to start ordering again.’

But Frantic isn’t only looking to broaden its horizons in Canada. The company is also aiming to partner with more UK and U.S. channels. On the U.S. front, one of Frantic’s most successful non-fiction programs, ‘Til Debt Do Us Part, was picked up by CNBC at the end of 2009. The business news channel started out with 39 episodes and recently asked for more, says Brown.

Frantic is about to spin off ‘Til Debt – which has had eight seasons to date and still airs on multiple Canwest stations on a daily basis – into a new series for host and financial expert Gail Vaz-Oxlade. Princess, a one-hour series for SLICE, will still see Vaz-Oxlade helping people in debt, but instead of the financially-challenged couples of ‘Til Debt, she will be helping single women (and some men, says Brown) who don’t know the meaning of living on a budget. ‘When we started ‘Til Debt the idea of doing a money show seemed like it would be very challenging and it wouldn’t last very long because how many stories can you tell?’ remembers Brown. ‘And over 100 episodes later, we [found we] could still keep going. It was really just Gail and the producers who thought, ‘Hey, let’s try something else.”

Frantic has already implemented a number of other changes this year to move the company forward. In January, it rebranded Red Apple Entertainment, a Toronto-based prodco it acquired at the end of 2008, as an office of Frantic Films. The company also partnered with distrib Cineflix International in an effort to get all of its factual content out to the world through one streamlined and dedicated source.

Another area Frantic is looking to develop is its branded content business. The company’s branded content division, headed up by Jeff Peeler, is beginning to focus on more long-form content, such as a recent one-hour documentary Frantic created for Cadbury which they’re hoping to eventually bring to broadcasters. ‘From the TV side we’re learning a lot and we’re developing relationships with the people who write the checks in the business, the advertisers,’ says Brown. ‘It’s really opened up a lot of opportunities for us.’

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.