Hello and welcome to International Insider. Tom Grater here bringing you our latest rundown of international news, including some exciting TIFF deal-making action, a key hire in the German TV market, and the winners from the first major film festival to take place in the pandemic era.
NETFLIX IGNITES TORONTO
Pre-market nerves: “How will this year’s market play out? Who knows?” Wrote Deadline’s Mike Fleming on the eve of this year’s Toronto Film Festival. You can read our full preview piece here, but the main message of those we spoke to was one of uncertainty towards the business prospects of this year’s virtual event, despite the relative success of Venice’s recent pandemic era edition.
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Deal flurry: Step forward Netflix, which got things off to a flyer when it swooped on Bruised, the mixed martial arts drama that marks the directorial debut of Halle Berry, in a pact that our sources say could reach $20M. The next day, the streamer was back with a world rights deal for Kornél Mundruczó’s Pieces Of A Woman, which is screening at TIFF after its Venice premiere. One day after, Netflix set a new high watermark for this year’s market with a $30M deal for Malcolm & Marie, a Sam Levinson-directed romantic drama that stars Zendaya and John David Washington. Those three deals eclipse last year’s TIFF, where only HBO’s $20M pact for Bad Education made splashy headlines before buyers left the fest.
Prospects: Several more deals were wrapped in the early days of the market, and even more hot packages were announced this week. You can follow our full coverage of this unique TIFF edition, including reviews, here.
SCOOP: KEY MOVE IN GERMAN TV BIZ
Expanding ranks: Euro studio Leonine continues to surge. One week after we brought you news of its splashy pre-buy of Jason Statham action movie Five Eyes, we broke the news this morning that its successful TV subsidiary W&B has hired away long-time Bavaria Fiction exec Oliver Vogel who will join the ranks as MD. The Das Boot exec joins the producers of Netflix hit Dark [pictured above] in the latest sign of the company’s ambitions. We hear there are other senior hires within the Leonine group on the horizon.
NOMADLAND ENTERS THE AWARDS RACE
Lido Lions: Venice drew to a close at the weekend, with Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland, starring Frances McDormand, scooping the coveted Golden Lion. The film could now be poised for an awards run at next year’s (delayed) Oscars, with the Lion becoming a portent of major awards success after crowning films that would go onto be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar in each of the last three years (The Shape Of Water, Roma, Joker).
More winners: Elsewhere in the Venice awards, Vanessa Kirby took Best Actress for Kornél Mundruczó’s Pieces Of A Woman, Michel Franco won the Silver Lion Grand Jury Prize for his Mexico-France feature New Order, and Kiyoshi Kurosawa took the Silver Lion, Best Director for Japanese drama Wife Of A Spy. Read about all the fest’s awards here.
Critical eye: The general word on this year’s Venice selection, which was notably a less American and more indie fare, has been positive. Here you can read a rundown of the best movies from the Lido according to the critics.
UK BROADCASTERS WEATHER THE STORM
Emerging from lockdown: Like all content producers, it’s been a tumultuous time for the UK’s major broadcasters. Things are now looking up at ITV, which this week confirmed that 80% of its productions shut down by the virus have now returned to filming or have been delivered. The company also unveiled its fall slate. The network shut down 230 in-house shows, taking a large financial hit, but its MD Julian Bellamy told us this week that the company is “very confident about our pipeline going forward”. Crucially for many viewers, he also said that Love Island will “come back strong” after being disrupted this summer.
Over at the BBC: It’s been an equally challenging time for the public broadcaster, which recently announced it will cut 450 staff in the latest round of job cuts. Its annual results, published this week, revealed that its bill for on-air talent had grown in the last 12 months. A government response called the figures “concerning”, but new BBC DG Tim Davie said reform was happening “at an urgent pace”. The report also disclosed diversity stats and the org’s gender pay gap, which has not shrunk enough to meet targets. Separately, BBC Studios posted healthy earnings this week, while acknowledging that the situation is set to get a lot more challenging after the disruption.
PSBs’ streaming challenge: The future of the UK’s public broadcasters is facing increased scrutiny in the country right now, with the government holding a committee to analyse how they are being impacted by factors including the rise of streaming services. This week, Netflix’s Anne Mensah and Benjamin King were virtually grilled by the committee on how the streamer views the BBC, with both execs insisting the BBC is a crucial part of the UK’s overall TV ecosystem. Speaking in the same hearing, Sky’s Zai Bennett and Ali Law affirmed similar points about the healthy competition in the market right now.
BEST OF THE REST
John Boyega found himself in the spotlight again this week after a campaign he fronted for cosmetics brand Jo Malone generated outrage when it reshot and replaced the actor for its run in China. The company apologized but Boyega decided enough was enough and dropped the brand from his portfolio. A similar controversy erupted around the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, when Boyega was reduced in prominence in the film’s China poster.
Judd Apatow didn’t mince his words in a sit-down with MSNBC’s Ari Melber this week, slamming Hollywood for its courting of the China and Saudi Arabia markets. “China has bought our silence with their money,” said the filmmaker. Read more here.
Tim Roth’s latest role will see him getting into the boxing ring in New Zealand drama Punch, which we had the scoop on this week. Roth is playing a trainer in the film, coaching a seventeen-year-old boxer who is preparing for his first professional fight while battling personal issues.
Studiocanal UK Chief Creative Officer Nicola Shindler is leaving the company to set up her own shingle at ITV Studios. Based in Manchester, the label will develop and produce premium drama and will be launched officially in 2021.
During the pandemic, Wales-based production co Good Gate Media has been carving out a niche for itself in the interactive market. Good Gate’s The Complex was a lockdown hit, recording the best first week sales of any interactive film. This week we revealed the company’s next two projects.
The Cuties controversy continues to unfold. Today, French cinema org Unifrance condemned the “violent reaction” to the film.
It was a sad week in the East Asian entertainment business, with three actors dying at the age of 36. Read our obituaries of Sei Ashina, Oh In-hye and Alien Huang.