Embracing scripted adaptations

LOCALISED CONTENT SHIFT: Keshet International’s Paula Cohen McHarg

Sometimes it can be difficult to understand exactly how a scripted adaptation comes to be; from dissecting a script to production. I’ve been asked several times about how closely a scripted adaptation needs to stay to the original and in Africa this is a particularly salient question. Audiences are eager to see their own lifestyle and worldview reflected back at them from the content they consume and producers may be afraid that international formats won’t be able to achieve this. This is simply not the case.

My recent trip to DISCOP really elucidated the opportunities and potential Africa has to offer in this space. When attending any major market there are always observations to be made about the territory and any differences or similarities that exist, but there is a notable absence of scripted adaptations within the region. I am excited to see that this is starting to change.

First and foremost, Africa is not a homogenous region. It comprises more than 50 countries and several different regions all with their own unique sensibilities. Overall, format adaptations are not as prevalent in Africa as they are in the rest of the world. While there are pan-African format adaptations, we’re seeing a shift towards more localised content that speaks to particular audiences. During my last trip to the region I ran a workshop on scripted adaptations, using Prisoners Of War/Homeland as a case study. I was pleasantly surprised by the interest we received. This is a positive signal that the appetite for scripted adaptations is growing quickly in the region. This change in attitude will inevitably offer ample opportunities for production companies and local broadcasters.

Prisoners of War acting as the basis for Homeland is perhaps one of the most notable examples of a Keshet International (KI) scripted format being adapted for resounding success. That is not to say that some adaptations’ success in other markets cannot outweigh their US counterparts. An example of this is the US adaptation of our buddy comedy Traffic Light, which despite only having one season in the US, has been commissioned for ten seasons in Russia, totalling 200 episodes to date! Other international versions are in the pipeline for China and Lithuania, which serves to highlight the adaptability and flexibility of the format, which still remains cohesive in all of its iterations.

The Greek version of Your Family or Mine has also surpassed its Israeli counterpart in number of episodes and continues to be a smash hit in the region. In the series, a married couple from two very different backgrounds take turns visiting each other’s weekly family gatherings. Part of what works so well and what resonates with such diverse audiences is the universality of the concept of family togetherness in spite of individual differences. The comedic element of the culture clash is balanced with the poignancy of diverse groups of people making an earnest attempt to get along. I think that this is a theme that would work especially well for African audiences. Africa is a region that values family togetherness and wholesome gatherings, where people come together, laugh and have a great time.

This is such an exciting time for us as we look to nurture more partnerships within the region. Africa has so much to offer and we pride ourselves on discovering new stories and collaborating with fresh talent. We are well-versed in working with local producers and broadcasters from all over the world, to localise stories. A key part of our success in distributing scripted formats is the universality of the stories told on Israeli screens and our inherently keen eye for quality content globally. The narratives transcend cultural and geographical boundaries, enabling local producers to add their own aesthetics and details, which resonate with their audiences.

As scripted adaptation becomes employed more often throughout the region, there will be a greater flexibility and openness to the types of adaptations. This does not mean that a knowledge and understanding of the diversity of the region should ever be overlooked.

By Paula Cohen McHarg, senior sales manager CEE & CIS, Africa, Middle East, Greece and Turkey, Keshet International


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