Next gen prodcos: Renowned Films founders on finding the right fit

The unscripted production industry has matured considerably over the course of the 2000s, and a new generation of prodcos is making an impact internationally and across platforms with fresh, innovative approaches to unscripted content. In this four-part series, we offer a closer look at some companies that have yet to mark their first decade in business but that are making waves and scoring greenlights, including Renowned Films. You can also read our previous profile of Blackfin and Antidote Productions.

Location: London/Los Angeles
Year established: 2013
Principals: Max Welch, Duane Jones and Tim Withers
Major credits to date: Backyard Envy (Bravo); Peng Life (Channel 4); Generation Grime (Sky Arts); NYPD: Biggest Gang In New York? (BBC); The Women Who Kill Lions (Channel 4 and Netflix); Stacey Dooley Investigates: Hate and Pride in Orlando (BBC3); Top Dad (Channel 4); So Awkward (ITV2)

When Max Welch (pictured, right), Duane Jones (left) and Tim Withers (center) decided to set up Renowned Films back in 2013, they had a clear vision of what content they wanted to create in an industry they saw as both risk averse and lacking diversity.

“We wanted to offer difficult, deep access to worlds others wouldn’t penetrate, support new talent — as we ourselves were — and we knew we always had to make shows that have a thought-provoking tone of voice,” the founders tell Realscreen via email.

Backed by U.S. prodco Critical Content, which bought a stake in 2017, Renowned Films has gone on to produce numerous projects for linear TV and SVOD, including the documentary Generation Grime for Sky Arts and Top Dad for UK pubcaster Channel 4, and is now making headway in the U.S. via Bravo’s Backyard Envy and the upcoming Copwatch America for BET.

What can you tell us about Renowned’s upcoming projects?
[They range] from a new entry point to the homes space with Backyard Envy on Bravo, to Copwatch America, a compelling and important documentary series for BET that examines the crisis of police brutality and the communities fighting back to help reform this. [They also include] a global competition series for a big OTT platform, a soon to be announced relationships format for a major UK network, a new and dynamic twist on travel for a global digital platform and an “of the moment” format for a global, youth-skewed network that examines the state of modern dating and its subsequent consequences.

In our upcoming shows this year we are continuing to always push new characters, new talent, challenge the status quo — from views on monogamy to race and LGBTQ issues — or push entertainment for young audiences forward with our understanding of youth culture and the demographic.

What has been your biggest learning curve as a production company to date?
Sometimes, it’s not just about the idea and if the production company can deliver, but also, should you really work with a particular network and will there be the creative synergies and support in execution to make the best version of an idea that you can. Sometimes, it is better to pass up on an offer or do due diligence on if you’ll get the support you need to realize a show’s potential. Quality control works both ways sometimes and we learned this the difficult way.

How has Critical Content’s partnership with Renowned impacted the company?
We feel we’ve established our partnership as something new and different in the U.S. marketplace. [It’s] a coming together of creatives which we think is genuinely fresh and has got U.S. buyers genuinely excited to try and find shows to work with us all on. We’re looking forward to the next few years working with them, with big ideas in play and bigger things to come.