|Small World’s Tim and Colleen Crescenti: “It’s all about relationships”|
AMONG the loudest cheers at the C21/FRAPA Format Awards in Cannes last month were those for Tim Crescenti and his “fan-damn-tastic” wife Colleen, whose format boutique and newest FRAPA member, Small World IFT, walked off with the 2012 honours for Best Scripted Format.
Team Crescenti’s winning show — The Kitchen Musical from Singapore’s The Group Entertainment — is a musical drama set in the high-pressure environment of a busy restaurant. On the menu is a sizzling storyline, catchy songs, spicy dance sequences and great recipes. As Tim Crescenti puts it: “It has all the elements that transcend cultures: food, drink, music, family, friends, romance… If Cheers and Grease had a baby, this would be it.”
The Kitchen Musical, which is also in the running for two International Emmys, is Small World IFT’s first foray into the burgeoning scripted market, but it is by no means the California-based company’s first brush with award-winning, conversation-starting formats. In 2009, Small World IFT’s fish-out-of-water format I Survived A Japanese Game Show (aka Big In Japan) was the big winner of Switzerland’s prestigious Rose d’Or Festival. The Crescentis have long been mining the Nordic region — Finland in particular — for clever, zany formats, such as Aito Media’s Rescuing Santa, Night Patrol and The Day Before I Die. And the company’s current roster is jam-packed with the sort of shows that Crescenti hopes will “inspire, educate, entertain, break stereotypes and enable contestants and viewers to learn something about themselves”. He adds: “Our mission statement is ‘making the world a better place through the power of television’ — and that’s only half tongue-in-cheek.”
Small World IFT’s latest world-enhancing concepts include Rhyme, Rap or Reason?, a remake of ABC’s long-running Seventies celebrity game show Rhyme And Reason, which Crescenti says generated “huge interest” at MIPCOM. Also on its development slate is the radio show turned comedy format The Debaters, just ending its first season on Canada’s CBC and already sold to the US, which sees two stand-ups go head-to-head in a battle of laughs and logic.
“We also have The Fan, a long-running format from Thailand, which is now in production for TV4 Sweden and has been optioned in the US and France,” Crescenti says. “And Miss Country Girl, the first format to be exported out of Romania, begins production in Thailand in November and has also been optioned in Canada and Australia…”
Crescenti started Small World IFT in 2005, after 20 years spent on the formats front-line with Fox and Sony, developing a reputation for truffling out extraordinary formats from unusual places. One of Crescenti’s finds was a Japanese show called Mane No Tora, which he found airing on Nippon Television in 2002. FRAPA readers might know it better as Dragons’ Den.
Nippon went on to become Small World IFT’s first client. “They put us on the map with our first commission in 2006 for Master of Champions for our friends at ABC,” says Crescenti, whose decision to join the FRAPA family was driven by the need to protect his increasingly valuable IP. “Touch wood, we’ve never had a problem,” he adds. “But we want to be prepared. We want to have some muscle behind us.”
Crescenti also cites FRAPA’s networking opportunities, observing that the formats business is “all about relationships”. Small World IFT, he says, has a very personal touch, operating on the principle of constant, consistent communication with its clients and producers.
Indeed, those relationships are at the heart of Small World IFT’s latest move, announced this summer: a strategic deal with Content Media Corporation aimed at developing a joint portfolio of formats. Under the deal, Content — which recently acquired 50% of Jigsaw Productions — also has the right to take an equity stake in Small World IFT at a future date.
Content CEO John Schmidt said, on closing the deal: “We are big fans of Tim and Colleen and we really admire how they go about their business. They have terrific relationships around the world with many production companies and networks…”
Crescenti — with his five-mile smile and talent for one-liners — thinks it might also have something to do with enjoying the job. “For Colleen and I, what’s most important is to have fun every day, every minute,” he says. “And we never use stupid clichés like ‘at the end of the day’, or ‘being part of the communication… the narrative… the dialogue’…”
No wonder they applauded at the C21/FRAPA Format Awards.