Studiocanal Extreme Sports Thriller ‘Spinners’ Captures France’s Drive into African Premium Drama

Studiocanal will stage at the London TV Screenings the international premiere of “Spinners,” an eight-part extreme sports action drama set on the mean streets of Cape Town’s Southside, that is not just a series but a sign of an industry zeitgeist.

As the competition for talent grows, there’s a building drive into emerging production hubs beyond the traditional powerhouse territories in Europe led by some of its most powerful players, here France’s Canal+, Studiocanal and Federation Studios, and some of its biggest TV events, such as Series Mania. 

Produced by Joachim Landau and Raphaël Rocher at Federation Studios’ Empreinte Digitale, and co-created by Landau, “Spinners” is a co-production of South Africa’s Showmax, Africa’s biggest pan-continental SVOD service available in 65 countries, and Vivendi’s Canal+, rating as both a Showmax and Canal+ Original. 

“Spinners” makes its market bow just months after French powerhouse Federation Studios and its Empreinte Digitale are launching Federation MEAC, a production subsidiary devoted to the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean, headed precisely by Landau. 

Created by Landau and Benjamin Hoffman,“Spinners” will bode introduced to buyers in London just a couple of months after Studiocanal announced it had boarded – and is co-developing – epic action drama “Agoodjie,” about a fearsome 19th century female fighting force of 4,000 women warriors who fought with extraordinary fearlessness against the French army in Dahomey, West Africa

More titles will come, said Beatriz Campos, Studiocanal SVP global sales & production financing.

“Africa is a big focus for us and we are extremely pleased to present ‘Spinners’ which is a great example of the strong talent, exciting storytelling and big production values coming from the region that we would like to support and invest in further.”

She added that “Storytelling, writing and production are moving away from the stereotypical stories and focusing more on unique projects with a global appeal.”

Part of “Spinners’” charm is how it opens a window onto two little known realities: Cape Town’s hard-scrabble Southside – dirt roads, red brick tenements, wooden staircases, local drug gangs; and spinning, a South African motor sport which sees cars driven at high speed while drivers perform stunts, leaning out of windows or even standing on the roof with the car locked in auto-drive. 

Yet, playing off a rich mix of relatable genres, in many ways “Spinners” reaches out to the world. It’s part coming of age narrative as Ethan 17, drives for a local gang to support his kid brother, but, stumbling on a group of spinners, sees the sport as a way out of interminable gang violence which affronts him. 

Yet it also weighs in as part gangster movie and a sports triumph-against-the-odds narrative.

“The main key selling points we see on ‘Spinners’ and why it will be attractive internationally is a combination of gangster and crime, investigation elements; a very thrilling sport that – despite not being very universal –  is highly attractive to watch; a very moving coming-of-age story where we see the importance of love and friendship overcoming difficult situations,” Campos told Variety. “In addition, I would highlight the acting skills of our main protagonist, Cantona Jones, which are absolutely remarkable and highly relatable.”

“Spinners” also forms part of a building local talent base. It is co-produced by Ramadan Suleman, founder of Johannesburg-based Natives at Large. An established production and service company, Natives at Large produced “Zulu Love Letter,” which played Venice in Toronto, way back in 2004. 

Most key talent is newer, director Jaco Bouwer, whose “Gaia” won the Zeiss cinematography award at 2021’s SXSW, debuted directing one episode of Die Boland Moorde in 2013. Save for relative veteran Byron Abrahams, “Spinners” writers, all SAFTA Award winners, wrote their first feature or series in the last decade.

“Spinners” will be presented at the London TV Screenings alongside new Canal+ Creation Originale series “Conviction,” from Anne Landois, a showrunner snd writer over 2010-17 on Canal+ crime franchise “Spiral” (“Engrenages”), the French pay TV giant’s first premium procedural. 

Described as a “a gripping character-driven drama,” the eight-part series follows Roxane, a brilliant lawyer at a prestigious Parisian law firm to return to the project – council estate – where she grew up to become a lawyer for its thugs.  

Studiocanal will also sneak peak of its highly anticipated series “CO2” (working title).

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