Good afternoon Insider team. Max Goldbart back in the saddle for your weekly dose of news as the Russia/Ukraine invasion continues to have huge ramifications for the film and TV world and vice versa.
The Latest From Ukraine
World moves against Russia: It’s been genuinely hard to keep track of goings on over the past seven days as we enter the second week of the conflict but the film and TV world (not to mention sport) has acted. Major distributors BBC Studios, ITV Studios, All3Media International, Fremantle and Banijay have all paused trade with Russia. Film and TV markets including Mip TV, NATPE, Cannes and Series Mania have effectively barred official Russian presence. The general response from film festivals such as Venice, Toronto and the Cannes sidebars have been to ban presences but not movies, although some including Glasgow and Stockholm have pulled Russian pics. The European Film Academy urged a boycott of Russian films and said they would be excluded from the European Film Awards. Netflix planted its flag in the sand Wednesday when it paused all productions and acquisitions in Russia and the biggest U.S. studios have all halted theatrical distribution. All these decisions came as Ukrainian media organizations called for “media sanctions” to be imposed on Vladimir Putin’s state, and the film and TV world clearly answered. Russian news channels RT and Sputnik have been banned across the EU on linear while Google Europe has removed them from YouTube, and the UK regulator is probing RT for 27 impartiality breaches. This is just a small summary of what’s been taking place.
Boycotts: Spare a thought for those in the Russian media world who are not exactly cheering Putin on. A group of 40 professionals, who Deadline has chosen not to name, braved potentially dangerous consequences by calling for an end to the invasion. “Despite our differences, we humans are one and the same species, and under no circumstances do we have the biological or moral right to kill one another,” said the group, in a heartfelt statement that deserves to be read in full. The statement makes one understand the nuances of the issue. While the likes of Ukrainian producer Denis Ivanov and director Oleg Sentsov, who are currently fighting on the frontline, backed a boycott of Russian cinema, others such as Sergei Loznitsa have made the point that ordinary Russian creatives who are anti-Putin shouldn’t be pilloried and are themselves the victims of his policies. The argument will likely extend over the coming weeks. Andreas rounded up the mood with this in-depth analysis yesterday afternoon, having spoken to 15 leading distributors inside Russia and beyond. Well worth a read.
On the ground: The day-to-day realities of the conflict are so hard to conceive of although the international news media has been doing a fantastic job (even arch-BBC critic Nadine Dorries had this to say) of communicating the atrocities. Ukrainian TV went blank Tuesday when a Russian blast hit the capital’s TV tower and there have been dozens of such incidences as thousands flee the country. I spoke with local journalists Marichka Padalko and Liubomyra Remazhevska about the reality of uprooting their lives overnight and the propaganda battle they face against the Russians going forwards.
Strike At The Screenings
Bad timing: Last week I wrote about the hundreds of buyers descending on the English capital for the London Screenings and BBC Studios Showcase and, while most made it over, the events were dealt a hammer blow by a train strike that has wreaked havoc on travel. Evening events were reported to have been poorly attended as execs spent hours on buses and in taxis. There was still plenty to shout about though as more than a dozen distributors hosted daytime screenings. Of note, we revealed Banijay Rights had sold Steven Knight’s highly-anticipated BBC war thriller Rogue Heroes to major buyers in Europe, Canada and Australia, while launching sales on Stan/9Network co-pro Bali 2002. Israeli player Armoza Formats was unveiled as ITV Studios’ new production arm in Israel and BBC Studios forged deals with Sky Deutschland, India’s MX Player and Italy’s Mediaset. Until next year. Next up in the TV market world is Series Mania in Lille.
Fremantle Lures Lux Vide
Growth plan: Elsewhere at the Screenings, Fremantle unveiled the latest move in its quest for scripted domination and it’s a biggie: a 70% stake in beloved Italian producer Lux Vide. The Medici and Devils indie, which became the first in Italy to win an Emmy for Joseph from the Bible Collection, has been producing top quality content for the past 30 years and fits perfectly within Fremantle’s strategy of buying up scripted international players. Fremantle Group COO Andrea Scrosati becomes Chair while Luca Bernabei of the founding Bernabei clan remains CEO, with the Bernabeis holding on to the remaining 30%.
BBC Scripted Exodus
A24 swoops in: A devastating double blow to the BBC was revealed Wednesday as Drama Director Piers Wenger and Film Director Rose Garnett were poached by Euphoria producer A24 to head up its international film and TV slate. Based in London, the newly created roles will continue to see Garnett and Wenger working closely with the creative community in the UK and beyond. Their collaborations will be “inclusive and wide-ranging working with producers, directors and writers – new and established – to make forward-thinking, talent-focused work”. Both have tonnes of experience and have made serious impacts in their respective genres as the BBC faces up to a senior commissioning talent drain: four of its five Genre Directors have left in less than a year since the biggest commissioning restructure in its 100-year history. Not exactly a vote of confidence in said restructure.
Who replaces Piers?: BBC Drama Commissioner Ben Irving, at least temporarily. Deadline chatted to several UK drama producers after the news broke who weren’t too surprised by the exit, with Wenger’s six-year tenure deemed the natural life cycle of one of the most coveted commissioning jobs in Europe (if not the world). Irving was seen as likely frontrunner from within. If the BBC chooses to look beyond the corporation, Netflix supremo Anne Mensah was talked up as the most credible candidate although she’d be unlikely to want to leave her top streaming job. Channel 4 Drama boss Caroline Hollick has impressed the production industry since taking over in 2019, although C4 drama pales in comparison to the BBC, while former Sky drama head Cameron Roach may be tempted, although he’s only just launched a new indie. The field is wide open. Wenger and Garnett depart in May.
The next phase: Well at least they didn’t call it ITV+. Big news from the UK’s second biggest broadcaster Thursday morning as ITV moved to the second phase of its More Than TV digital strategy and unveiled ITVX, an AVoD/SVoD platform that will air key titles including Damian Lewis’s A Spy Among Friends (pictured) months before they are given a linear slot. The ad version effectively replaces free VoD player ITV Hub and the paid-for subscription version will become home to joint BBC/ITV streamer BritBox. BritBox launched with much fanfare as evidence of joint broadcaster collaboration in 2019 and has been quietly going about its business since, accruing 730,000 subs, but now the BBC has sold its minority share to ITV and it is very much an ITV thing. “Everybody wins with BritBox,” said then-BBC Director General Tony Hall of the SVoD at launch. Interesting. Elsewhere, ITV’s full-year results demonstrated a clear path to growth. Revenue and operating profit were up nearly 30% and 50% respectively and ad spend hit a record high.
Conversing with Ciarán
From Belfast to Belfast: Something nice to end on amidst the doom and gloom as Deadline’s very own awards guru Pete Hammond sat down with Ciarán Hinds, Oscar-nominated for his role in Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, to talk about his remarkable career, Justice League and working with Judi Dench. Watch here.
🌶️ Hot one of the week: Andreas came with news of Transformers duo Lorenza Di Bonaventura and Mark Vahradian’s Harry Houdini pic for Paramount.
🌶️ Another one: Netflix has greenlit a UK crime thriller adaptation of Si Spencer’s graphic novel Bodies from Moonage Pictures.
🌶️ Another one: German-Turkish director and producer Fatih Akin signed a first-look deal with WarnerMedia.
🚚 On the move: Crystal Bourbeau has exited her President of Worldwide Sales and Distribution role with Stuart Ford’s AGC Studios.
🏆 Awards: Russell T Davies drama It’s a Sin continued its awards nomination domination with six nods for next month’s Royal Television Society Awards. The BBC edged out Channel 4 with 30 over 28.
🍿 Box office: China has cleared Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore for release. Resident box office expert Nancy had the news.
🎥 Training: Amazon Prime Video will spend £10M over the next three years to help train 75 UK TV newbies as it prepares to move into Shepperton Studios.
💺 New Chair: Edinburgh TV Festival has named its 2022 Advisory Chair: Afua Hirsch, the British broadcaster, journalist and presenter on Samuel L. Jackson’s Enslaved.
🎦 Trailer: Tom had an exclusive look at ZEE5’s Mrs. & Mr. Shaheem.