INTERVIEW: Alon Shtruzman, CEO, Keshet International

Keshet International (KI) chief executive, Alon Shtruzman, arrived in Singapore early in December with a little less than US$63 million in his wallet and big eyes on Asia for great stories. He left without sharing (at least not with us) whether he had seen any projects he liked enough to finance, but with plans to return to Asia early in the new year. 

Is it possible that the third project under Keshet’s content fund, launched in March this year, could come from Asia? Absolutely, Shtruzman says, talking about, among other things, his hope for a global co-production with Asian participants. 

The second of two projects already announced is a partnership with Australia’s ABC and Screen Australia on Blackfella Films’ six-part political drama, Black B*tch (working title), scheduled to air in 2019. The series, starring Rachel Griffiths (Brothers and Sisters) and Deborah Mailman (The Secret Life of Us), is a story of high-stakes ambition, betrayal and treachery played out in Australia’s capital.

Project number one is The Trial of Christine Keeler, starring Sophie Cookson as the woman at the centre of the Profumo affair. The series is an Ecosse Films and Great Meadow co-production for BBC One.

The fund catapults Keshet from producer / broadcaster / distributor to fully fledged studio, and KI is open to any idea in any language, with any mix of funding, Shtruzman says.  

“No, no, no, no, no, no, no,” he says to a question about a preference for financing any particular genres. “There is no allocation and no boxes,” he insists. 

“It used to be pretty common to say that drama is a better business than comedy in terms of the global market. But, you know what, even that’s changing now. There are so many great platforms, and there are so many players that there is a need and appetite for everything,” he says.  

And in multiple languages. “Nowadays there is an appetite not only for English [programmes] but also for other languages... a lot of this is thanks for the streamers,” he says. 

What he is fussy about is talent. “We are not genre-specific, but we are very much talent driven,” he says. “What I want to see are great local voices, fresh voices.... when we make a decision about funding, we want to see big local talent attached.” 

Shtruzman is hoping to close the fund’s project #3 this year, and is aiming to double that to six in 2019. 

Asian participation is “very doable”, he says. “We think that in the same way we see international shows being co-produced between U.K., Europe and the U.S., Asia has become a big player and we think the talent is there. The audience is there. It’s about finding the right stories it makes sense to be told in multiple languages.” 

Published on ContentAsia's eNewsletter, 11 December 2018 - 6 January 2019