Happy Friday all, and welcome to the latest edition of International Insider. Jake Kanter with you as usual, as we reflect on another week of international film and television news. I’m on firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to write, or my DMs are open on Twitter. And sign up here to get this delivered to your inbox every Friday.
Sister Earnings Revealed
A scoop to start you off: We can bring you an exclusive look at the first 18 months of trading for Elisabeth Murdoch-backed Chernobyl producer Sister. The company posted a loss of $7.7M after expanding its empire and being hit by the coronavirus production shutdown. It was expecting to deliver The Power, BBC/AMC series This Is Going To Hurt, and Sky/HBO series Landscapers last year, but the shoots were disrupted by the pandemic. All three shows are now in production and will deliver in 2021. The earnings also break down Sister’s investments, revealing the level of its holdings in company’s including LeBron James’ Springhill and Olivia Colman’s South Of The River Pictures. Go deeper.
International Insider: MipTV’s Covid-Compounded Conundrum; BAFTA Film Awards Preview; RIP Paul Ritter
Farewell Prince Philip
The Duke remembered: The world will bid farewell to Prince Philip on Saturday in what will be the TV event of the weekend. The funeral of Queen Elizabeth II’s husband begins with a short procession at 2:45PM local time in the UK, before a 50-minute service at 3PM. In line with his wishes and UK Covid-19 guidelines for funerals, the Duke of Edinburgh will receive an intimate send-off, attended by 30 members of the royal family. Expect plenty of subplots, not least Prince William and Prince Harry being kept apart in the procession amid ongoing tensions over the Duke of Sussex’s split from the royal family. You might call them brothers at arm’s length.
Bringing out the big guns: In a sign of U.S. viewer appetite to watch the funeral, the major networks are all planning special live coverage of the formalities. Gayle King, who has become synonymous with team Meghan Markle and Prince Harry following their bombshell Oprah Winfrey interview last month, will anchor CBS’s broadcast from 9:30AM ET. Fox News and NBC News are also preparing special broadcasts. Meanwhile, over in the UK, top news presenter Huw Edwards anchors the BBC’s coverage, which will be beamed around the globe on BBC World News.
All eyes on the BBC: The BBC’s coverage is notably not ubiquitous, with its live broadcast commencing at 12:30PM and running until 4:20PM, when BBC One’s advertised schedule largely resumes. It follows the broadcaster receiving a record 109,741 complaints about its blanket output on the day of Prince Philip’s death last Friday. The BBC brushed off the disquiet and pointed to its role as a “national broadcaster during moments of national significance.” The trouble for the BBC, as always, is it’s damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t. Director general Tim Davie clearly decided that he was on safer ground having a fight over too much coverage rather than too little. Saturday’s plans tread a careful middle ground.
June’s just the job: A seeming outbreak of commonsense at the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday, when Cannes Marché moved its May pre-screenings event to June 21-25. It follows our Andreas Wiseman reporting on industry plans for a splinter sales event in late June amid little appetite for the May screenings. The official and unofficial gatherings will now coalesce around June 21-25, two weeks before the main fest on July 6-15. Read more here.
But but but: With France in national lockdown, the industry is still wondering if the festival will be able to follow through with its plans to hold both the Cannes Film Festival and a Cannes Market on the Croisette in July. The fest staunchly maintains that the in-person gathering will be well attended.
MipTV’s moment: While the unofficial virtual Cannes market in 2020 and online EFM did host some impressive deals, you need only look at MipTV to see why film fest organizers are desperate to bring people together on the French Riviera. The buzz around this week’s television event has been significantly dimmed by the pandemic. In a virtual-only setting, MipTV failed to generate any giant news, and it was quite hard to establish if there were any shows that really set tongues wagging. Check out our Q&As with 10 studio sales chiefs to see their reflections on the market.
Bollywood On Lockdown
Industry on hold: Two months ago, India appeared to have its Covid outbreak largely in hand, with cases low enough for the economy to re-open and cinemas to return to full capacity. Flash forward to now and a devastating second wave has hit the country with more than 200,000 cases being recorded per day. The government has been forced to react, and in Mumbai, a de facto lockdown has been imposed, including putting a stop to all film and TV production. Read our story.
When will shoots resume? These measures will last until at least May 1. There is hope that a strict, short lockdown will cause a sharp halt in cases and, combined with the vaccination program, things could look better within a couple of weeks. That timeframe looks optimistic at present, with infection numbers still on the up, but Deadline has spoken to local industry who say they are hopeful for a return in the not too distant future. Cinemas are also closed again in Mumbai, which has led to the film slate being pushed back. The knock-on effect will no doubt continue to be felt long into 2021 and potentially beyond.
Streamers Score Soccer Series
The beautiful game: It was a good week to be a soccer player looking for TV work after Disney+ and Amazon unveiled projects with David Beckham and Paul Pogba respectively. Former England captain Beckham will front soccer mentoring show Save Our Squad for Disney+ out of Europe, while Pogba has done an overall deal with Amazon in France and will let cameras into his life for The Pogmentary. What’s more, Beckham confirmed at the virtual MipTV that he will also document his life in an access series, which is reportedly set at Netflix, though the streamer has not commented.
The end goal: Getting under the skin of English soccer is a smart thing to do if you’re a streamer. The Premier League is a truly global brand, with legions of adoring followers. Spotlighting the game’s greatest names in glossy documentaries is a good way of getting sports fans to part with their cash. And, as we’ve seen with the likes of The Last Dance, these series are capable of being a slam dunk.
And talking of Disney+, the streamer unveiled its first slate of UK scripted originals on Thursday, teaming on projects with the producers behind Killing Eve, Gentleman Jack, and The Night Manager. You can read all about them, right here.
BAFTA Film Awards: The Verdict
The big winner: Our chief film critic Pete Hammond remarked on Nomadland’s “predictable” sweep at the BAFTAs on Sunday. On another good night for Chloe Zhao, her Searchlight pic took home Best Film, Director, Actress, and Cinematography at the virtual ceremony. Looking ahead to the Oscars on April 25, Hammond notes: “A run like the Chloé Zhao movie has been having would be a very rare bird to stop in this day and age. Voters, by and large, tend to like to go with what they think is a winner, and Nomadland is clearly holding that card.” Read Pete’s take in full, while all the winners are here.
A polished show: The BAFTAs themselves were staged with some elegance in difficult circumstances at the Royal Albert Hall. As my colleague, Tom Grater, pointed out: It was a night of highs — notably supporting actress winner Yuh-Jung Youn calling the Brits “snobbish” and a pitch-perfect transatlantic duet between Leslie Odom Jr and Corinne Bailey Rae — and no real notable lows, unless you have a particular aversion to One Direction alum Liam Payne.
Having a laugh? One minor snag was complaints from baffled viewers about the apparent canned laughter laid over the BBC BAFTA broadcast. Except, it wasn’t contrived chuckles at all. It was, in fact, a virtual audience of 1,000 reacting in real-time to the events during the pre-recorded show. The tech has been used on more than 100 BBC entertainment shows to date, but away from a raucous studio show environment and in a stripped-down, largely straight-faced ceremony, the digital reactions stuck out like a saw thumb.
A TV turn-off: In keeping with other virtual awards bashes, notably the Golden Globes, television audiences failed to spark to the ceremony. Its UK rating of 1.9M viewers is likely to be among BAFTA’s lowest on record. That doesn’t bode well for ABC’s Oscar broadcast later this month.
🌶️ Hot one of the week: Hugh Laurie has signed up to write, direct, and executive produce an adaptation of Agatha Christie novel Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? for BritBox in North America. It’s hoped he will also take a role in the three-part series. We had the scoop.
🌶️ Another one: Oscar nominee Hugh Jackman and Oscar winner Laura Dern have been set to star in blue-chip feature drama The Son, writer-director Florian Zeller’s follow-up to his Oscar-nominated movie The Father. Go deeper.
🍿 International box office: Warner Bros/Legendary’s Godzilla Vs Kong continues to dominate the global and international box office, now with an estimated $288.3M offshore cume for $357.8M worldwide. Nancy Tartaglione has the details.
🆓 Film fest director freed: Tatsiana Hatsura-Yavorska, the director of the Watch Docs Film Festival in Belarus, has been released from prison and charges against her dropped after an international outcry. Read our story.
👀 First look deal: The Personal History Of David Copperfield star Dev Patel has set a first-look deal with production house ShivHans Pictures under which he will produce, develop and create features. Full story.
🇰🇷 Riding the streaming Wavve: Tom Grater went inside Korean streamer Wavve’s plans to spend $900M by 2025 on further expanding its originals strategy. Read his interview with CEO Lee Tae-hyun here.
🇮🇹 Venice Film Fest: Italian actor and director Roberto Benigni will receive the Venice Film Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He has been one of Italy’s most popular film figures since making his debut in the 1970s. Andreas had the story.
🇪🇸 Netflix’s Spanish slate: Netflix announced on Thursday a crop of upcoming projects in Spain, including three new drama series, two original films, and a pair of reality shows. Find out more.
🚚 On the move: Sky Studios has promoted Chernobyl commissioner Gabriel Silver to director of drama commissioning following the departure of Cameron Roach. More on the move here.
🎦 Trailer dash: Here’s the exclusive first trailer for under-the-radar music documentary What Drives Us, the second feature film directed by rock legend Dave Grohl. The feature is a love letter to a rock and roll rite of passage: touring in the back of a van. Watch it here.
A boat’s life for Chiwetel: Who knew that Chiwetel Ejiofor spends some of his time living aboard a humble houseboat moored on London’s River Thames? Not International Insider, who learned about the Oscar-nominated 12 Years A Slave actor’s Dutch barge abode while chatting to him about his latest venture: Narrating water shortage crisis documentary Day Zero. You see, his boating experience prepared him well for a film extolling the virtues of preserving water, and Ejiofor is keen for the world to learn more about a crisis that is not fully understood. “Everything is from a tank, so there’s a certain amount [of water to use] before it needs to be refilled. You’re always constantly engaging with how much water there is, how much is being used, especially if you’re moving the boat around,” he told us. Ejiofor will be hoping its full steam ahead for international sales after Fremantle took the film to MipTV this week. Go deeper here.
Tom Grater contributed to International Insider.