Nellie Andreeva

French film studio Gaumont has become the latest foreign production company to establish a U.S. outpost and tap a seasoned U.S. TV executive to run it. Gaumont today announced today the launch of Gaumont International Television, an independent studio based in Los Angeles, designed to produce drama and comedy television programming for the U.S. and international markets. Former NBC head of drama Katie O’Connell will run the company as CEO, with Sony Pictures TV business exec Richard Frankie tapped as COO. GIT also announced its first two projects that will be taken to MIPCOM next month: Hannibal, a one-hour drama series written by Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller, and Madame Tussaud, a six-hour miniseries written by The Tudors creator Michael Hirst.

Hannibal will explore the early relationship of Thomas Harris’ signature character, renowned psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lector, and his patient, a young FBI criminal profiler named Will Graham, who is haunted by his ability to empathize with serial killers. Fuller is executive producing with Martha De Laurentiis who has produced three Hannibal Lector features: Hannibal, Red Dragon and Hannibal Rising.

Madame Tussaud is based on the book by Michelle Moran and follows the turbulent life of Madame Tussaud, who was not only a great artist, a formidable business woman and entrepreneur but also survived the horrors of the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror that swept away friends, family and an entire way of life. Hirst is executive producing with Alan Gasmer and Sherry Marsh.

This marks the return to the business for O’Connell, who served as head drama programming for NBC from 2006 until December 2008 when she exited as part of NBC’s massive executive shakeup. Prior to that, O’Connell was EVP of Development and Current Programming for Imagine Entertainment. Frankie most recently held the position of EVP Business Operations at Sony Pictures TV. O’Connell and Frankie have brought on board Erik Pack, based in London, who will head International Distribution and Co-Production for GIT. Pack previously served as EVP of International Sales and Co-Productions at London-based production and distribution company Power. Financing for GIT was arranged and structured by Evolution Media Capital, an investment banking firm for the entertainment and media industries.

The creation of GIT comes on the heels of leading Canadian production company Shaftesbury Films launching a U.S. arm and tapping former Columbia TriStar Network TV president Tom Mazza to run it. Last year, Montreal-based Cineflix launched U.S.-based Cineflix Studios and tapped former top AMC scripted executive Christina Wayne to run it.

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