Afternoon all! It’s been a manic week but fortunately one that can be summarized neatly in several paragraphs, as evidenced below. Read on International Insider crew.
Big Cannes Interviews & Packages
Sitting down with David and Riz: With Cannes on the horizon, The Hamden Journal has been breaking packages here, there and everywhere this week but we still found time to sit down with two of those most prominently involved. On Tuesday, Damon Wise published his interview with Eastern Promises creator Cronenberg to talk Crimes of the Future, his latest Cannes pic. David talked variety, 25 years’ worth of Cannes trips and whether his violence in movies can go too far. Not to be missed. Meanwhile, Andreas broke the news of hot Riz feature Hamlet, a modern adaptation of the Shakespeare classic, and spoke at length with the Sound of Metal star about his plans for one of his boldest projects yet. Not content with breaking one Riz pic, Andreas had the exclusive on the other, the Jessie Buckley-starring Fingernails, which landed a day before Hamlet. The Hamden Journal also revealed Sony Pictures landing rights to Tom Hanks-starring Here, Susan Sarandon wedding comedy The Fabulous Four, the movie version of Tony-winner Clybourne Park, Liam Neeson’s latest Taken-style action hit and BAFTA winner Jodie Comer’s The End We Start From with Benedict Cumberbatch’s SunnyMarch among producers. Elsewhere, nod to our International Editor-At-Large Baz Bamigboye for breaking Emerald Fennell’s new film and check out this reveal from our very own Mike Fleming Jr on Spinal Tap II, wow. Now breathe once again. Andreas, Diana Lodderhose and Baz will be at Cannes next week bringing you the latest in what is sure to be one of the busiest periods of the year. Stay tuned.
Just landed: And in the past few minutes, Andreas has revealed Amazon Prime quietly picking domestic rights to UK boxing movie Prizefighter: The Life Of Jem Belcher featuring Russell Crowe. Turns out the pic has been anything but plain sailing, however. Multiple parties contacted The Hamden Journal to tell of payments outstanding for months and there is bad blood between producing and financial partners.
Global Indie Shakeups
In their Element: It might make thoughtful, lowkey drama but Element Pictures was the star of the show in the M&A world this week and the sale of the Conversations With Friends producer to Fremantle kicked off a big week in the independent TV production world. The hot Ireland-based drama company had been on the block for several weeks, with American Gods producer-distributor Fremantle emerging as the buyer. Known for its tastefully shot, high-end productions, Element will fit nicely into a Fremantle roster including Italy’s Wildside and Lux Vide and the UK’s Dancing Ledge Productions.
Banijay goes public: On Tuesday, the news broke that Survivor owner Banijay was being taken public, with Chairman Stéphane Courbit leading the establishment of a new parent company, FL Entertainment. This followed an agreement with SPAC investment group Pegasus Entrepreneurs. So, what does this mean in practice? Well, the France-based company’s shares will be traded on Amsterdam’s Euronext and gives the combined group, which also includes online gambling firm Betclic, an enterprise value of €7.2B ($7.6B), but Banijay reps are keen to stress it’s business as usual and if anything a chance for more growth. Having acquired Italian scripted producer Grøenlandia Group in March, the company looks well set — operationally and financially — to make more noteworthy international moves.
Sparkling drama: Staying in France, Jesse had the scoop on Sparkling — the latest production business to enter the increasingly competitive European production market. Co-production guru Patrick Nebout (Cannes Confidential, Midnight Sun) is leading the Paris-based operation as President and Chief Content Officer, with his long-time production partner Henrik Jansson-Schweizer among those joining him. Notably, Sparkling is a sister company to US-French comic book publisher Humanoids, the firm behind lauded graphic novel universe The Incal. Expect Nebout to exploit the extensive Humanoids back catalogue, while also creating original stories with European partners. “All will be premium projects,” he assured The Hamden Journal.
Enter The Dragon
Conquering Japan: Also in the indie TV world, Korean media giant CJ ENM and its subsidiary Studio Dragon unveiled plans to conquer Japan through a joint venture with Line Digital Frontier, a Japanese operation affiliated with Naver Webtoon. With 30B Korean won ($23M) being jointly invested in the provisionally titled Studio Dragon Japan, the JV operation has the lofty ambition of becoming the “leading production company” in the key Asian territory. Stayed tuned for more.
It’s A Snub: It was BAFTA TV time Sunday and there were surprises galore, along with the unveiling of one of the most lucrative casting annos in British TV, the new Doctor. While dragging on a bit as ever, the ceremony itself saw It’s a Sin fail to pick up awards time after time, as all five nominees were snubbed for the likes of social realist dramas Help and Time. All the talk of the week has been how the show failed to win anything and while some have been keen to point out that the Channel 4/HBO drama won two BAFTA Craft Awards, creator Russell T Davies also lost out in that ceremony the previous week. On a politically-charged night, there were big wins for Jodie Comer, Sean Bean and Succession’s Matthew Macfadyen, while ITV hit new heights, winning several factual gongs and two more than Channel 4. I attended the event and, while there were plenty of wifi and accreditation-related teething problems, along with plenty of confusion about embargos, I can confirm that it is wonderful to be back celebrating British television in all its glory.
Doctor Ncuti: Landing in journalists’ inboxes mere hours before the ceremony started was the biggest news story of the week, Sex Education star Ncuti Gatwa, who both presented and was up for a BAFTA, is to replace Jodie Whittaker as Doctor Who’s next Time Lord. Despite minor protestations from a small number of die-hard Twitter-based Whovians, the response was a welcoming one. Ncuti is the first Black Doctor and will likely bring a new dynamic to the show: he’s unquestionably cool and draws a readymade fan base from one of Netflix’s biggest youth-skewing hits. All eyes to Russell T Davies now and how he shapes the next series. You never know, he might even land himself a BAFTA.
BBC Factual Woes
And the job goes to… nobody: The biggest job in British non-scripted programing was the talk of the BAFTAs Royal Festival Hall afterparty but the post remains dramatically unfilled. I broke the news this week that all candidates to be the BBC’s next Director of Factual, Arts and Classical Music had been unsuccessful and Chief Content Officer Charlotte Moore is now rethinking the very nature of the role, almost six months after it was advertised. The Hamden Journal spoke to several within and outside the corporation who grumbled as to why it had taken Moore so long to make this U-turn. They questioned why she couldn’t have just decided the job, which was expanded to accommodate Patrick Holland last year before he departed to Banijay, was too unwieldy, especially as she is understood to have personally reached out to several of the candidates to ask them to apply in the first place. The wait goes on, with BBC Three Controller Fiona Campbell remaining in interim charge in the meantime.
🌶️ Here’s a hot one: Alec Baldwin has launched production company Persona Entertainment with veteran actor and producer Anjul Nigam just months after the fatal Rust shooting. First project on sale at Cannes.
🌶️ Another one: Nat Geo is developing a new season of Lost Cities With Albert Lin, with The Tinder Swindler producer Raw TV taking on production.
🌶️ And another one: The Ministry of Time creator Javier Olivares is helming a series adaptation based on Spanish video game company Dinamic Software. This one from Jesse.
🚚 On the move: Another Channel 4 departure as British Towie producer Lime Pictures snaps up C4 Factual Commissioning Editor Becky Cadman.
🤝 Done deal: Warner Bros Discovery & BT Group confirmed their joint sporing venture. Watch out Sky…
⬇️ Stepping down (X2): Framestore CEO William Sargent after 26 years and WarnerMedia UK & Ireland Country Manager Polly Cochrane after 13.
🍿 Box office: Per Nancy’s latest, Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness has topped $500M global.
🖊️ Signed up: Polish writer-director Natasza Paryzmies, whose Control series turned from a student project to a global Discovery+ hit, has signed with APA for representation.
🧿 Charm offensive: Netflix delegates including EMEA Original series boss Larry Tanz headed to Israel to talk up local content amidst calls for tougher streamer regulation in the Shtisel and Fauda nation.
👀 First look: Ben Whishaw as lead in Kirill Serebrennikov’s Limonov, The Ballad of Eddie
Jesse Whittock contributed to this week’s International Insider