Nelvana Seeks to Find Co-Production Opportunities in LatAm

Leyla Formoso, exclusive Sales and Business Development Representative at Nelvana for Latin America, spoke to ttvnews about how the company has adapted its business during these unprecedented times and revealed a key goal: to promote local and regional production in LatAm.

These months of pandemic and confinement have been a time where what’s important is to reinvent yourself and connect with others. This is how Leyla Formoso summarizes what the keys to Nelvana’s business have been during this unprecedented time, a period dedicated to establishing and maintaining relationships with the industry.

In an interview with ttvnews, Nelvana’s exclusive Sales and Business Development representative for Latin America spoke about the company’s extensive catalog and its most recent agreements, and shared details about her personal quest to “push local and regional production, and to be able to give strength to Latin American producers”.

How has the international pandemic affected the company’s production business?

The truth is that the pandemic, at the organizational level, in regard to animation production has not been as affected as much as fiction. It was just about all the animators having their computers and all the software technology they needed to be able to work from home. Nelvana took the time to put all the techs, entertainers and animators comfortable with everything necessary to avoid delays, as far as possible, in terms of deliveries. Once that was done, the rhythm was back and there really was no delay at the delivery or development levels.

So at the animation level we were lucky, as an animation producer, that it was not affected. Even Nelvana has a fiction series that is a mix between fiction and puppets, all in real image, and they themselves built a studio in their homes to finish the series.

In other words, production had to be reinvented since we couldn’t go out. Recording studios were built in the home so that they could record the voices, the animators had all the necessary material in their homes, and that’s why production was not as affected as it was feared at first. Fortunately, being animation, we have not suffered as much as perhaps fiction has.

How was your experience of participating in the digital edition of Mipcom Online+?

Mipcom Online+ has been a good surprise. The platform was not as easy to use as we expected, being difficult to access and reach buyers. It was somewhat cumbersome at first. And in the end, finding alternate ways to find solutions, I had good surprises of meeting people in Latin America that I had not met before. Being that I have more than 22 years in the industry, it was a good surprise, meeting new people.

On the other hand, I had interesting meetings and my only regret is that the platform to be able to make appointments, the agenda, many things that maybe were done at the last minute and being the first time, have to change. Being rushed and in the whole situation that I imagine it was not easy at all, for me and for the company it was a good experience.

What recent deals would you highlight for the Nelvana catalog in Latin America?

In recent months we have closed the first Nelvana content agreements for two series in the US. We premiered Mr Young, a live action sitcom for young people, and also Beyblade, the world renowned anime from Nelvana.

Last year the Sesame Workshop series, Esme & Roy, which we are in production for the second season, with Discovery Kids Latin America, had been made. And now its window for broadcast TV in the territory is opening.

Recently during the pandemic, the first deal we had in Europe was for Ranger Rob, one of our flagship series, the renewal of the first forty episodes and the new season with Nat Geo Kids, which is now part of Disney. We have achieved this agreement that has been a barbarian support with the series on the channel, and I am happy to have Ranger Rob in Latin America on a channel like Nat Geo Kids. It is also another one of the series that are now available for broadcast TV in the territory, in addition to the new season has a new female character, Marina, a marine biologist who brings a feminine touch to the series, with new adventures.

What’s in store for Nelvana for the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021?

We are finishing the delivery of one of our teen fiction series, for children 10 and up, The Hardy Boys. This is this year’s star production series from Nelvana, made in conjunction with Hulu. Hulu premieres it in the US in November of this year, along with YTV in Canada, and we are all waiting for how well it will do.

It is a dramatic series that takes place in the 80s, it has all that 80s mood that is lately in fashion with series like Stranger Things. It follows the lives of two brothers for whom an unexpected tragedy turns them into detectives, who to solve that personal tragedy that changes their lives. It has drama, adventure, the spirit of how to solve mysteries as a team, because a team of friends comes together to solve it. It is based on the famous Simon & Schuster books, which have been sold by millions around the world, translated into more than 25 languages. It is a world renowned property. We all have high expectations of selling it in all territories.

Is Nelvana looking for production partners in Latin America?

It has always been important to me to work with Hispanic countries and Brazil, to be able to push local and regional production, and to be able to empower producers from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Brazil… to be able to give an opportunity to small producers that could not reach Nelvana directly, because Nelvana has many orders with Canadian producers. My interest is to find those hidden gems, original stories by talented people who are in these countries today, to be able to one day say that a co-production was made with Latin America, something that has not been done before at Nelvana.

What is the DNA of Nelvana’s content?

I think Nelvana started with series with strong characters. One of the main themes is to find a strong main character the child can identify with. We can talk about the best known, which are still successful after 20 or 30 years of production, such as Babar, which continues to be very successful all over the world. Pluto TV, for example, has a channel dedicated to him. Channels in the region keep asking me for him because he is a character known by parents, recognized by children, and has family values, friends, society, discovery, acceptance.

As a result of that, I think that all the stories that have been produced have been strong characters, who have always had that same DNA. Franklin is another too, or Little Bear. In general, it is the DNA that Nelvana tries to have in all its series.

Why do you think this content works so well internationally?

Nelvana has managed to diversify at the production level, also thanks to the fact that it has two TV channels in Canada to nurture, with pre-school targets and for children 10 years of age and over. It is true that it produces a lot of diversity, we have preschool, comedy, series… the networks know that when it comes to Nelvana’s content, there is an interesting diversity. They can get what they want according to their needs, within the Nelvana catalog that today has more than 4000 hours, it is huge, plus everything that is still being produced. They are going to achieve something because you know that they are universal themes, characters that children identify with, the quality of the animation is very high because Canada is very demanding in that sense, we can deliver quickly because we are a large and solid company that is part of Corus , one of the largest media companies in Canada. So there are several factors that make it interesting for any global broadcaster, not just in Latin America.

In Latin America it is also interesting because almost the entire Nelvana catalog is dubbed into Spanish and Portuguese, so that is indeed a plus to be able to distribute it.

How do you think the industry will evolve based on virtual events and the return of traditional ones?

My personal experience is funny because the pandemic started and the reality is that my work was 90% based on human contact with people. You do business in meetings with clients, when you travel to visit them and talk about personal life, establishing a relationship. That was suddenly a very important gap, saying that you can no longer work that way and the need to reinvent yourself.

Then it felt like a human void, rather than work. The need to sell took a backseat, and the important thing was the human side of knowing how everyone is doing, how their children are, etc. There was a human relationship that settled on its own. I made videos for people I really appreciate, just to talk about personal things, cooking, or remembering anecdotes. Trying to connect from the human side, because we are all in the same situation, working with children, working in small spaces, without being able to go out, with complicated situations. So before thinking about work, we prioritize the human during those first months of the pandemic.

As the months passed, we began to organize ourselves and luckily the industry began to create these virtual events, which more than anything else are a complement to each other’s agendas and our own zoom meetings. We continue to do that. Virtual events came to complement that way of working. Whether or not they are effective, I don’t know yet. You get anxious about not being at events because you fear losing connections and news. They are complementary, but they are not the basis of our work, which continues to be personal more than anything.

We will participate in MIPCancun. Unfortunately without the cocktails and without seeing our friends, without seeing the richness of Mexico, but we will be there. It is important for Latin America because then there is nothing until Natpe. November is a good time to reconnect.

Anything else you would like to add?

My message to the industry is that you have to be positive and you have to reinvent yourself. If there is an idea that I have adopted these months, it is that you have to reinvent yourself every day, because nothing is safe and nothing can be taken for granted. Every day is a personal challenge to be able to balance personal and professional life, without losing sight of the fact that the human comes before everything else. Do not forget what is important, that this teaches us, that this whole journey teaches us to distance ourselves and know what is really important, to know how the other is and to connect with the other. Do not forget that in the end it is not a sale, it is not a deal or content, we are all human and that is the important thing.