“Delhi Crime” creator Richie Mehta’s Prime Video series “Poacher” is the first time Los Angeles-based QC Entertainment has ventured into India.
Led by partners Sean McKittrick, Raymond Mansfield and Edward H. Hamm Jr., QC – which stands for Quality Control – backed Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning “Get Out” and “Us” and Spike Lee’s Oscar, BAFTA and Cannes-winning “BlacKkKlansman,” among many other successful ventures. Set up as a one-stop shop, QC develops, physically produces, finances productions and handles sales and distribution.
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Based on true events, Amazon original “Poacher” unearths the largest ivory poaching ring in Indian history. It bowed at Sundance 2023. The process began with Mehta’s agents at Gersh trying to introduce him to producers who had funding and had a reputation for being hands-on and who were transparent and collaborative. Netflix show “Delhi Crime,” which went on to win the International Emmy for drama series, was brought to QC’s attention in 2019. The principals binged the series in a day.
“It was the perfect mixture for us of a fast-paced, entertaining crime drama, but also with really substantial importance and themes that you could latch on to. And we immediately just wanted to meet him,” McKittrick told Variety. Mehta discussed the “Poacher” idea with QC and the company, which usually boards projects at the concept stage, was in.
Based on court documents and testimonials, “Poacher” is a fictional dramatization of events that unfolded in the dense forests of Kerala and the urban jungle that is India’s capital Delhi. It is primarily in the Malayalam, Hindi and English languages. Rather than making the show solely in Hindi or English as was the norm then, the team decided to keep it in the original languages.
“We all collectively came to the decision of, we should honor the true story. And whatever would have happened in real life, that should be our guiding rule. And I think that was mind-blowing to Richie, I don’t think he ever expected to hear his finance partners say something like that. And he, I think, at that point, particularly, was sure he had picked the right partners for his intentions. Because if he took it through the traditional system, at that time, I think he would have heard he needed to skew it one way or another,” Mansfield told Variety.
In keeping with their hands-on approach, McKittrick and Mansfield were present in India for the shoot, where they worked with seasoned producer Alan McAlex (“A Suitable Boy”) of Suitable Pictures, who they describe as “A1, top of the class.” The bulk of the action in the series takes place in the southern Indian state of Kerala, which is vastly different from Mumbai and Delhi in that it has a communist government, one of the highest literacy rates in the world and is one of the pioneers of women’s rights.
“One of the really big decisions we made early on with Richie was, we are not ever going to be the people who come into a place and assert our will over that place,” Mansfield said. “There’s this steamrolling mentality that I think can often come with power. And what we wanted to do was empower, any place we go. It’s about creating employment, creating opportunities, truly bringing the authenticity of a place to life through the people that are helping us accomplish that. Instead of us projecting what we think it should be on to the situation, we allow the situation to come to us. And if we can be wallpaper, that’s the best-case scenario.”
On QC’s company philosophy, McKittrick said, “Making original content from original voices, doing it with one foot in the system, but most of it out of the system and so we’re looking for authentic stories that yes, that have mass appeal. But our shows or films that have never been seen before, come from an original voice, which more often than not comes from an underserved filmmaker, community or society and tell unique stories that have mass appeal – like ‘Poacher,’ this isn’t just a show for India and Asia, this is a show for the whole world. So, our philosophy is to develop interesting original stories from the ground up and protect that story all the way through.”
“Our intention is to have a Season 2,” McKittrick and Mansfield said, adding that it is being developed actively. But they declined to name which endangered species will be the subject.
Meanwhile, QC has a documentary about the rise and fall of Vice Media directed by Eddie Huang currently in production. The company has optioned J.D. Barker’s upcoming erotic thriller novel “Behind a Closed Door” and is looking for a filmmaker for it. QC’s foray into television will continue with a series adaptation of Chuck Wendig novel “Wanderers,” which is also seeking a director.
Interspersing TV shows with the film slate is a big part of the QC agenda for 2024 and beyond, McKittrick and Mansfield said, adding that the idea is to treat the series like independent films with a filmmaker-focused approach.
“Poacher” will bow worldwide on Prime Video on Feb. 23.
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