It’s no secret that French producers have a very different style of filmmaking from their American counterparts. For Nicolas Goldzahl, president of Paris-based VM Group, that difference is one of the reasons why his company has joined forces with Partisan Pictures, acquiring 50% of the New York-based prodco. ‘Americans are much better in terms of preparation and writing, while the French are more creative in filming,’ Goldzahl says. ‘My best hope is to combine the American style of writing and the French way of filming.’
The other key factor is access. ‘It’s very difficult for French producers to sell directly to American broadcasters,’ Goldzahl notes. Through Partisan, however, VM has an insider’s edge. Partisan, which was founded in 1996 by award-winning producer Peter Schnall, has worked in the past with such big U.S. players as PBS, the Discovery Channel and National Geographic.
The partnership is also advantageous to Partisan. Says Schnall, ‘I think what Partisan was looking for was a way to expand its reach internationally. We have our own head of story development, but it’s hard for us as a medium-sized production company in the States to have a full-time, dedicated person who is just involved in international coproductions and acquisitions. So when we began to discuss with VM, which was looking for a reverse approach in the States, it kind of made sense.’ Schnall notes that Partisan maintains editorial autonomy on productions of its own, though he anticipates several collaborative projects with VM.
The two companies had previously worked together on a one-hour special called Schizophrenia: Stolen Minds, Stolen Lives (for France 2 and Discovery), which was co-produced and directed by VM’s Leslie Wiener and Schnall. Wiener, VM’s head of international development, was fundamental in bringing the partnership to pass.