Two Words with Paula McHarg Head of Europe and North America GoQuest Media

Two Words with Paula McHarg Head of Europe and North America GoQuest Media
Two Words with Paula McHarg, Head of Europe and North America, GoQuest Media

 It's interesting that GoQuest Media has recently picked up several dramas from the CEE including RATS, what do you think is the international appeal of scripted series from this region? 

GoQuest has been focused on this region (CEE) for some time already, which is one of the many things which initially attracted me to them as a company. I have been working in this region for quite some time and for five or more years I’ve been tracking interesting writers and projects from the area. As I am based out of Israel—a region that’s disproportionately represented in the global drama landscape despite its small size and obscure language—I have a good deal of experience working with non-English content. One of the so-called “disadvantages” of producing content on a highly limited budget is that it forces creators to construct deep and rich characters, rather than fall back on special effects and grandiose sets. That is a characteristic that was immediately apparent with RATS—while the locations are extremely beautiful, the narrative doesn’t rely on them. Rather, the narrative is driven by a deep dive into the psychology of the characters, their motivations and—by extension—deeper analyses of society, culture, and the nature of good and evil. The need for creators from CEE to dig deep when they build their stories is what interests me and, I think, what’s causing the world to stand up and take notice. 

 Crime dramas are such a popular genre—what about RATS sets it apart from other crime drama series? 

RATS is a crime drama in the sense that a character is killed at the beginning of the series and the murderer is revealed by the end. That is about it. In reality, RATS is a character study, a treatise on ethics, an examination of the European drug trade, and a family drama all at once. In my mind, there are six main characters that make up three “couples” of a sort—where one side reveals the darkness of humanity and the other reveals the light. What is interesting is that there is no pure good or pure evil. Rather, there are real, flawed humans that seek to push their agenda to the fore all the while having some success and some failure. It’s a philosophical examination of moral ambiguity as much as it is a crime drama.

 Which recent international scripted series’ have piqued your personal interest? 

I was quite a fan of The Young Pope when it was first released and I was even more impressed with its new iteration, The New Pope. Along with the rest of the world, it’s a project that I’ve been following and admiring for a long time and the group of producers and other partners attached to it is nothing short of a dream team—some of the people and companies that have truly led the industry in the past years. One of the things that The New Pope has managed to do very well is to bring in new viewers that didn’t necessarily watch the first season, but who can still enjoy the series nevertheless. I always say that the only person whose opinion about content really matters is my mom and she’s a huge fan! 

Do you have sight of how you think the TV distribution industry may evolve post-pandemic? 

At this point, I feel that it’s pretty safe to say that the industry won’t really have this “post-pandemic” moment that we all keep waiting for and talking about. By now, most companies have figured out how to evolve and change to meet the new conditions that the pandemic has imposed upon us. At this point “Zoom” can officially be the word of 2020—it’s a verb, noun, and 3 / 3 even an adjective by now! With all of that said, I am looking forward to the time when travel resumes. This is an undoubtedly social industry and having a year without those in-person meetings, networking, and general face-to-face socializing does leave a real feeling that a big part of the process is lacking. Video calls are great, but I am waiting for the days where we end our meetings with a kiss on either cheek again. Hopefully, we will eventually get to that point because without it we really are missing the heart of the industry.

There seems to be a sales momentum for your format series What The F***?! 

Tell us a little about the show and its success. One of our formats that’s had a great deal of attention this year is WHAT THE F***?! It’s a hidden camera, wish fulfilment, factual entertainment format where participants get an opportunity to surprise their friends and family in a different and spectacular way. It originally aired in the Netherlands on NPO1 as “What the Frans” with another version in Norway on TV2. Earlier this year, Bavaria Entertainment licensed a German version, which has already been piloted and will launch in Spring 2021 on a major network. WHAT THE F***?! distinguishes itself from other hidden camera prank shows in that the participants learn an unexpected skill with the mindset of surprising a loved one in a positive and uplifting way. For example, a father learns ballet to show his daughter how he admires and supports her beloved pastime. It’s definitely a format that brings those happy tears to the audience, which is undoubtedly something we all need right now. In the wake of the announcement in Germany, we have closed a few more new deals in some very major territories, so more news coming soon!