There are several key strategies in GoQuest Media’s core mission that set the company apart: its determination to discover overlooked titles with promise, homing in on a boutique portfolio and providing due attention to the titles and their creators, and its Southeast Asia-focused network. “To discover hidden gems from parts of the world that may have been previously looked over by some of the more major global players, I think that’s one of the major advantages to being an indie company,” says Paula McHarg, head of Europe and North America at GoQuest. “It is working with producers who are very eager to have their series handled delicately and really given a lot of attention, rather than just thrown into a large catalog.”
Of the company’s business structure and network, McHarg says, “We are the only independent India-based distributor of global content. That puts us at an interesting advantage locally in Southeast Asia in terms of having accessibility to new global content.” She adds: “We have a very strong distribution network in Southeast Asia as well as the larger Asia area, Africa and the Middle East, which are all traditionally areas that are hard to crack for some distributors, but are our main areas traditionally.”
Among the gems currently sitting prominently in GoQuest’s crown is Rats, a series from the Czech Republic broadcaster Czech TV, Czech production companies Heaven’s Gate and Barletta and Poland’s MD4 that has been garnering attention both locally and in the greater European market. GoQuest, the main global distributor of the series, with Warner Bros. Germany repping the title in Germany, became involved in the series at the end of last summer after it had already been accepted in the Zurich Film Festival in competition for best international series. It also premiered at the Czech film festival Serial Killer, which, as McHarg points out, has been valuable in shining a light on the quality content coming out of Eastern Europe as it heads into its third year. Rats director Viktor Taus received the Progressive Killer award at the festival. Further, Rats screened at Berlinale and also won the Czech Lion Award for best TV series and the best series at the Czech Film Critics’ Awards.
“The awards and critical acceptance and accolades of this series have demonstrated its potential, but the subject matter is also something really interesting to audiences globally,” says McHarg. “It highlights the meth trade in Europe—think European Breaking Bad, shattering the myth that meth is just an American phenomenon from the perspective of three different families.” It centers on the family of the drug dealer, that of the police inspector on the beat and that of the Vietnamese meth syndicate that’s running the operation.
In spite of—or perhaps because of—its heavy subject matter, McHarg believes that Rats fits snugly into the hybrid/co-viewing genre that’s risen in popularity and demand amid the pandemic-induced lockdowns and consequent boost in family TV time. “When I’m pitching the show, I always say that it’s a crime thriller wrapped in a family drama,” says McHarg. “On paper, it’s a crime thriller because one character dies in the beginning and you find out who kills him at the end. But really, it’s a story about families and familial relationships, and it appeals to older audiences with a female lead being this older police investigator back from maternity leave, trying to prove herself. Also, the kind of sexy world of the drug trade and young guys who are selling drugs that have tons of money driving hot Teslas around.”
Among the titles joining Rats in GoQuest’s catalog is the Serbian series Civil Servant, which originally aired on Telekom Srbija with a second window on Serbia’s Pink TV. “It’s a thrilling departure from the typical CIA, MI6, Mossad spy-games stories,” says McHarg. “There is already such a strong appetite for spy thrillers out there. But this one is really interesting because it explores the very enigmatic Serbian secret service for the first time. The lead actor is also very, very handsome and attractive, which always helps. He’s a big heartthrob in the region. It makes for very watchable, good television.” Another Serbian title, Debt to the Sea, aired on Telekom Srbija with a second window on RTS. “It’s quite different; it’s more of a moody, dark mystery,” explains McHarg. “It’s a morality tale shot against gorgeous Montenegro. A deep, dark, unforgiving, mystical tale from a beautiful region—which can be total escapism for those of us who are travel-hungry in the international arena.”
McHarg also makes note of two premium Indian series that GoQuest represents from MX Player: Queen and Ek Thi Begum. “India is a very inward-facing market, but these are series that can compete on the same level that any European series can,” says McHarg. Queen is a biopic series based on a Bollywood megastar who eventually became the chief minister of the Tamil state, while Ek Thi Begum is based on a true-crime story. “It’s sort of like Indian Kill Bill set in Bombay and Dubai in the 1980s,” says McHarg. “Think big afros and shiny gold sunglasses. Also, a very cool, fun piece to watch. A lot of female empowerment in both series.”
McHarg is optimistic that no matter how the next several months play out in terms of how Covid-19 may continue to affect travel and in-person dealmaking, GoQuest will find a way to carry on with the business of taking titles around the world. “It looks like in-person markets will hopefully be back in the second half of the year, but who knows,” admits McHarg. “Thank goodness for Zoom. I wish I had bought stock in that a year ago. [Laughs] Who knew? It’s good that we in the business and we at GoQuest have learned to stay connected with our clients virtually. So even if things don’t go back to ‘normal,’ or the new normal, by the end of 2021, at least we know how to keep going.”
McHarg adds, “For us, specifically, our ambition is to keep building the GoQuest Media brand internationally, especially in key markets in Europe, North America and Latin America. We’re going to continue with our acquisitions strategy to find those hidden gems, those bold, edgy standout series from unexpected markets, and get involved with shows and with content at earlier stages—even in the development process—and specifically, capitalization on the fabulous portfolio that we’ve built locally in Southeast Asia.”