Take 10 of the world’s top content creators and follow them as they each launch their own independent companies. Just picture the triumphs and tribulations, the egos and exhilaration. It sounds like the outline for a new reality TV series. I know I’d watch it. This is in fact the business plan for The Hot House, an extraordinary new kind of incubator, launched in London earlier this year by two visionary producers, Justin Bodle and Remy Blumenfeld. The seed of the idea for the Hot House came when Blumenfeld was introduced to Bodle by their mutual friend and adviser, Angus Fletcher, in Cannes in 2015 and immediately hit it off.
Remy Blumenfeld told me that for him the collaborative, non-corporate approach which Bodle embodies is essential. “From my first meeting with Justin Bodle, I knew he just got it. We both knew some very talented people who were tired of working for big organizations and wanted to go it on their own. Justin has such a unique understanding of our business and doesn’t sweat the small stuff but focuses in on what really matters. He shares my excitement for supporting talent and continuously finds ways to innovate.”
Justin Bodle is one of the leading producers of high quality drama, and recognised by broadcasters globally for creating highly commercial and critically acclaimed productions. Notably commended with an Emmy Award, together with thirty-seven other major awards, Justin has produced over fifty separate projects spanning big budget drama series, mini-series and movies including The Day of the Triffids, Flood, Colditz, Archangel, XIII: The Conspiracy, The Diplomat, The Devil’s Whore, The Summit, The Virgin Queen, Henry VIII and the 13-part network series Crusoe for NBC Network in the US, totalling over $300M of production.
The Hot House is backed by the newly formed Purecom Entertainment International, Bodle's multidisciplinary media investment group set up with award winning producer Rada Bujor and media owner Alexander Zmikhnovsky of Bonaventura Monaco who have committed £3m to create a group of leading talent to produce and distribute global programming in all genres.
One of the key differences between The Hot House model and standard backing in the independent sector is that it is creatively based and not aligned to any super-indy, broadcaster, private equity fund or distribution group. The Hot House will provide a genuine creative platform to work from and is set to attract leading content creators into establishing their own businesses. This, says Justin Bodle, is a deliberate choice: “Our whole approach is collaborative rather than corporate. We want to be light on our feet and always free to find the best partners for any given project. By capitalizing the business and operating a unique partnership model The Hot House intends to provide senior innovators with leading expertise in this arena, strong motivation and the best possible environment in which to create content.”
Blumenfeld is a producer who I’ve followed for some time – ever since his ground breaking Reality series There’s Something About Miriam made headlines around the world. He’s been associated with some of my favourite shows, from Four Weddings and The Chase to Come Dine With Me. One of his BBC2 hits was Get A New Life, where each week one family got the chance to move, lock stock and barrel to another country. He also produced one of ITV2’s most sensational series, Wudja? Cudja? where the public won money by pulling off grotesque stunts of the kind later seen in I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here (ITV1.) Most commonly associated with programming which pushes the envelope, such as the dating hit Gay Straight or Taken, Blumenfeld founded the TV production-company, Thinking Violets in 2013 and produced Who’d Be A Billionaire (SKY Living) in 2015.
Blumenfeld has served on the creative boards of Endemol BV and ITV Studios, where he was director of formats, and has advised TF1, France’s largest commercial broadcaster. The Independent newspaper has ranked him as one of the top 20 most influential gay men or women in the UK. In September 2010 he was named by his peers as one of the world's top five format creators.
The Hot House is not Blumenfeld’s first foray into supporting emerging talent. His past hires include the founders and creative directors of some of today’s most successful independent companies. In 2001, Remy Blumenfeld co-created TVYP at work, a scheme which sponsors 15 youngsters each year to find paid placements with some of the UK's most prestigious TV companies. The scheme, which continues to run successfully as part of the Edinburgh TV Festival’s talent schemes, has been directly responsible for getting approximately 200 people into their first paid jobs.
Blumenfeld says, for him, Bodle is the perfect partner: “We all have blind spots and already, a short way into working together and there have been so many instances where Justin has found brilliant solutions to thorny problems and helped us forge a way forward. When Justin shares his vision for new models of financing and distribution – it’s so inspiring.”
And it’s already gaining traction. Since announcing in April, two of Britain’s most established producers and content creators have joined Blumenfeld and Bodle to set up in the Hot House’s Soho Offices. British Factual Producer Steven D Wright has launched Kerfuffle Ltd and Specialist Factual Executive, Malcolm Clark has set up Seriously TV, with offices in Glasgow. ITV Studios’ wunderkind Fernando de Jesus has also joined the Hot House to run his own slate at Thinking Violets.
In April, legendary producer Steven D Wright launched his new independent production company Kerfuffle TV under The Hot House, to focus on factual entertainment, popular factual and entertainment programming. Steven was recently named by Variety magazine as ‘one of the top 25 names in UK entertainment.’ and has held senior creative positions across the broadcasting industry at Channel 4, Shine, Carbon, Whizz Kid and the BBC.
As C4’s first ever Commissioning Editor of Factual Entertainment, Steven was responsible for legendary documentaries like Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster, Bernard’s Bombay Dreams, The Showbiz Set and The Importance of Morrissey, award-winning formats like Make My Day, as well as Fact Ent classics like Top Ten TV, The 100 Worst Britons and Sex on TV.
In his five years as Creative Director at Shine, he conceived and delivered more than 400 hours of programming with numerous productions like The Most Annoying series (BBC3), Chavs (SKY1), The Simpsons Quiz (C4), Life and Death in Ancient Rome (SKY1), 100 Greatest Musicals (C4), The Story of Light Entertainment (BBC2), Comedy Songs (BBC4), Abi Titmuss: A Modern Day Morality Tale (C4) and The 1970s: That Was the Decade That Was (C5). Later, as Creative Director at Whizz Kid, Steven co-created the worldwide reality hit Ex on the Beach (MTV) a show that is generating multiple re-commissions and sales all over the world.
Malcolm Clark, one of the UK’s most respected producers of factual programming and The Hot House announced his new Indie, Seriously TV in June. This new production company will focus on big specialist factual shows and formats. Malcolm Clark has developed and executive produced award-winning shows for the most prestigious channels both in the UK and internationally. His most recent success was the prime time ITV1 show Deals, Wheels and Steals which Malcolm developed and executive produced in September 2015. From working on the BAFTA winning series of BBC's Horizon, to the Emmy-nominated series Evolve for the History Channel, the passion Malcolm has for the world around him comes flooding through in everything he does.
Clark was head of specialist factual at Mentorn, and Head of Development at Attaboy. He has freelance developed shows for a number of production outfits including Love and Blink, and EP’d series for Discovery US and NGI. He developed and Executive Produced, Dangerous Adventures for Boys, (C5) in which celebrity dads tackled scary adventures in the company of their sons, Classic Car Rescue (Discovery Channel/C5) and How to Build a Volcano (National Geographic). Seriously TV will be based in Glasgow, and Malcolm will travel between there and London to make the most of the creative offering that The Hot House team in London has.
Meanwhile, ITVS wunderkind Fernando De Jesus has come to Thinking Violets to deliver engaging content across multiple platforms as Creative Director of his own slate. De Jesus left ITVS after 7 years, having most recently served as Series Director on the award winning series Paul O’Grady’s For The Love Of Dogs (ITV1) which regularly attracts more than four million viewers.
De Jesus oversaw a production arm at ITV Studios dedicated to low cost, fast turnaround creation of new ideas and pilots which brought about the first branded content ever commissioned by ITV networks, Beat TV (ITV2), in conjunction with Coca-Cola for the 2012 Olympics and ITV’s first YouTube channel for original content which De Jesus also Executive Produced.
He later moved to ITVS’s factual arm, Shiver where he brought to life some of their highest rated shows including Mystery Map (ITV1), the adventure-doc series Hoard Hunters (The History Channel), the popular miniseries Harbour Lives with Ben Fogle (ITV1) and the Christmas Day special Paul O’Grady for the Love of Dogs at Christmas (ITV1). His other credits include Seven Days With... (ITVBe) and Britain’s Secret Treasures (ITV).
With so much talent under one roof, it can’t be long before the Hot House has a hit. If all else fails, they could surely just turn their cameras on themselves.