Celine Payot Lehmann isn’t afraid of setting big goals for herself, a personality trait she credits with propelling much of her success in her 12 years at French producer-distributor Zed, where she has presided over international sales and acquisitions since 2008.
Now, with a move underway to ARTE France, the industry veteran shows no signs of dimming those career ambitions. As of Oct. 10, she will assume the role of head of international distribution for the European cultural channel’s distribution arm, ARTE Sales. There, she will lead the sales and marketing team, developing pre-sales and sales of ARTE’s programming catalog around the world.
She will also work on acquisitions in collaboration with Alec Herrmann, head of acquisitions for the international department, with a focus on films in all documentary genres, including history, current affairs, gastronomy, fashion, social issues, travel and adventure, wildlife, architecture, literature and dance. Most of the films are ARTE copros, but Marie-Laure Lesage, ARTE’s head of development, said in an email, “We are always looking for a wide range of programs, whether for primetime or access, regular slots or one-off programming.”
Payot Lehmann told realscreen in an interview that developing the catalog in both documentary and drama is among her top priorities, and “of course, [to] develop the international development strategy.”
“I’ve set myself ambitious goals,” she said.
Payot Lehmann first joined Zed in 2004 and, since that time, led the creation of its distribution team “block by block.”
But, after more than a decade, “it’s time to move on,” she said, calling out ARTE’s strong global reputation for high-quality programming spanning culture and the arts for spurring the move.
“It’s an extremely strong and attractive brand that is a broadcaster first and, also, it stands for quality and uniqueness and that was really appealing to me. It’s also a big challenge. It’s a 4,000-hour catalog, with a very big documentary catalog,” she noted.
Payot Lehmann will also be working to support the channel’s fiction division, which launched in 2015.
Her move comes as cultural content continues to enjoy strong demand around the world, led, at least in part, by the emergence of VOD platforms, from global entities like Netflix, which has been beefing up its doc offerings, to non-fiction-focused CuriosityStream, which features hundreds of science, natural history, technology and history programs.
Payot Lehmann said she expects that appetite to continue — “as long as it adheres to certain criteria, such as strong production values and strong editorial. It has to be entertaining and universally appealing.”