Pulse Films Brings Its Signature Edge to TV

By Ravindran, Manori | Variety, April 22, 2020 | Go to article overview

Pulse Films Brings Its Signature Edge to TV


Ravindran, Manori, Variety


LONDON-BASED PULSE FILMS has built its business on a steady diet of slick rock docs by the likes of LCD Soundsystem and the Beastie Boys, music videos including Beyoncé's transcendent "Lemonade" and Andrea Arnold's feature film "American Honey." As it readies for a transformative year, the Vice Media Group-backed outfit is rolling out its first major scripted series, Sky and Cinemax's dizzyingly violent and stylish "Gangs of London."

Pulse CEO Thomas Benski is as much a rock star as the veteran musicians he's immortalized through his 16-year-old production company. The Brazil-born French executive, who works closely with creative partner and Pulse chief creative officer Lucas Ochoa, is synonymous with the edgy brand, whose early music docs have evolved into evocative non-scripted fare, including films on U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning ("XY Chelsea"), nefarious hot yoga founder Bikram Choudhury ("Bikram") and missing toddler Madeleine McCann.

"In our business, a lot of people say, 'We want to be different,' but as soon as you try to challenge what being different is, the money shrinks because people get scared," Benski tells Variety. "We've been able to see those opportunities early, and we're not afraid of being left field. Also, the market has now moved closer to us than 15 years ago, when things were a lot safer. The challenges we face as an industry have made people think, 'Actually, being able to cut through is probably the right commercial avenue.'"

Finding the parameters of Pulse's signature edge - a heady combination of emerging auteurs and counterculture fare - is a process Benski doesn't take lightly. "There's a very fine line between progressive, culturally relevant work and indulgence," says the executive.

"Gangs of London" walks the razor's edge. The drama, which was inspired by the eponymous video game, opens with "Peaky Blinders" star Joe Cole (playing protagonist Sean Wallace) suspending a screaming man over the side of a high-rise. He proceeds to drench the man in gasoline and set him on fire in an unforgettable scene.

Made alongside "Chernobyl" producer Jane Featherstone, a titan of British drama Benski brought in three years ago to guide the project, the long-gestating 10-part series centers on a prominent crime family bereft of its patriarch and struggling to control the warring gangs in its orbit.

A co-production with Comcast-backed pay-TV operator Sky and HBO sister channel Cinemax, "Gangs of London" debuts April 23 on Sky Atlantic and a few months later on the WarnerMedia-owned cable network. …

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