Indie behind The Night Manager to use £136m investment to expand into VR and theatre

The Night Manager indie The Ink Factory is using a £136m investment to expand into new genres with fresh talent, and diversify into VR and theatre.

Simon Cornwell, who founded the London- and Los Angeles-based producer with brother Stephen in 2010, told Broadcast that it will increasingly put “authors and creators at the heart of what we do”, as it branches out from adapting their father John le Carré’s books.

“We are thinking less about optioning a book for a TV show and more in terms of identifying interesting writers with great bodies of work. We want to team up with them and see how we can help them tell stories in whatever media is best,” said Simon.

The producer is developing its first play and is “actively interested” in locating emerging novelists, journalists, playwrights and screenwriters to expand its slate. “We would love to do a comedy or a musical,” said Stephen.

“By building a really strong core to the company, we feel we can diversify in many interesting ways.”

FINANCE

The Ink Factory recently secured £136m for international expansion and to boost its development and production capability.

The funds were raised through a second round of equity financing with its existing investors, while Hong Kong-based 127 Wall Productions has been brought in to invest specifically in its film and TV productions.

A debt facility with French TV and film financing company Natixis Coficiné will be used to finance all Ink Factory shows.

The company, one-third of which is owned by private investors, will use the investment to strengthen its central infrastructure. Simon stressed, however, that the producer will remain culturally independent.

“We have been very careful about building the company in a way that does not tie us into traditional distribution infrastructures that are trying to defend the old way of doing things against the new,” he said.

“That seems risky to us. We have tried to steer away from taking money from existing industry behemoths.”

The indie’s current projects include Le Carré TV adaptations The Spy Who Came In From The Cold and Little Drummer Girl, as well as an adaptation of Andrew Michael Hurley’s supernatural novel Devil’s Day and feature film Hotel Artemis.

Bolstered by the investment, The Ink Factory will next look to exploit its IP to “tell stories in the digital arena”.

“We are looking at virtual and augmented reality. When we were shooting Hotel Artemis, we were capturing all the digital assets we needed to create games and virtual worlds down the line,” said Simon.

“It is a perfect example of beginning to tell a story through a movie, but actually creating a world that can extend into many different media.”

The Cornwells noted that “part of the corporate gene pool” is full access to 86-year-old author Le Carré’s 26 published works.

“We think very much in terms of individual shows, but we are also thinking about the worlds that Le Carré has created,” Simon said.

BBC1/AMC co-production The Spy Who Came In From The Cold will introduce a new generation to the character of George Smiley, memorably played by Alec Guinness in two BBC series – in 1979 and 1982 – and described by Simon as “Le Carré’s single most iconic character”.

“It’s reasonable to think audiences might want to see more of Smiley, and that we might want to make those audiences happy,” Simon added.

SVOD PARTNERSHIPS

The Ink Factory’s third BBC1/AMC co-production, Little Drummer Girl, will be South Korean director Park Chan-wook’s TV debut – much like The Night Manager marked Danish film-maker Susanne Bier’s first foray into TV.

“In the broadcast space, we are looking to combine stronger directorial voices and top actors with the material to lift it up and keep the audience engaged,” said Simon.

While The Ink Factory has to date worked exclusively with BBC1 and AMC on TV projects, Simon said it is “very open” to SVoD partnerships.

Amazon, which had second-window rights to The Night Manager in the UK and many international territories, “probably ended up being as significant a partner as BBC1 and AMC”, he said.

The Ink Factory also produced Netflix original film Message From The King. However, Simon said there are “challenges” with the streaming services’ economic model that still need to be ironed out.

“It is tough to go into a world where you don’t get paid for the [international] success of your project,” he said. “It’s hard for us to contemplate and hard for the talent to accept, but my suspicion is that those deals will evolve over time.”