Exclusive: Fairclough to lead Earth Touch’s U.S. expansion

Former NHNZ exec Phil Fairclough (pictured) will grow South African producer/distributor Earth Touch's presence in North America as the MD of Earth Touch USA.
October 7, 2014

Phil Fairclough (pictured) has left the NHNZ Group to head up South African wildlife and factual producer Earth Touch’s American operations.

As managing director of Earth Touch USA, the veteran producer will concentrate on growing the company’s presence in the North American market and expanding its slate beyond wildlife into all other factual genres.

“The opportunity to help Earth Touch establish their U.S. presence is exciting because it’s basically the chance to set up a production company from scratch,” he told realscreen. “Through our distribution arm we have an ability to invest in our own content.

“That is very important for me because it means we can back what we believe in, without having to wait for everything to be completely funded by broadcasters, and we also retain control of our own IP.”

Fairclough spent the past three-and-a-half years as the exec VP of production and development for NHNZ Group, where he also worked to broaden that company’s slate beyond wildlife with programs such as the vintage clothing series LA Frock Stars for Smithsonian, the treehouse-building series Redwood Kings for Animal Planet, and Gem Hunt for Travel Channel.

Earth Touch USA will continue to produce blue-chip natural history and character-led wildlife when complimentary to the output coming from South Africa, but Fairclough is focusing on projects he can coproduce in the U.S. and then distribute internationally.

“We are expanding both our production base and our distribution arm at the same time. It also makes sound business sense to own our own content as much as possible and participate in the back-end,” he said. “Having said all that, we will of course be working like every other American company, to generate high-volume, character-led, returnable series, even if they are work for hire.”

Earth Touch USA has a 12-part character-led series in the pipeline, and is developing long-running specialist factual shows as well as theatrical documentaries.

“Our name suggests a certain type of high-end documentary show, which we will of course continue to do. But the market is much bigger and stronger for factual entertainment,” he added.

Prior to working for NHNZ, Fairclough was the exec VP of production and development for Creative Differences where he produced filmmaker Werner Herzog’s theatrical docs Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Encounters at the End of the World. He also worked as the senior VP of production and acting general manager at Discovery Channel, ran Granada Wild, and led the BBC Natural History Unit’s commercial production arm Wildvision.

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