Hello and welcome to another week that was in international entertainment. Jesse Whittock here, back to guide you through the big stories and scoops. Also, a warm welcome to another new face in our London office, Zac Ntim, who’s joined us as International Film Reporter. Drop him a note and say hello.
Festival Fever Returns
Very nice, Venice: Venice and Toronto fired the opening shots of the 2022/23 awards season as they unveiled their line-ups this week. Opening the Venice Film Festival on August 31 will be Noah Baumbach’s Netflix picture White Noise, starring Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig. Venice chief Alberto Barbera said the film was “worth waiting for,” using a ton of adjectives to display his excitement – spanning ‘ambitious,’ ‘compelling,’ ‘dramatic,’ ‘ironic’ and ‘satirical.’ We’re sold. Also gaining plenty of social traction was Netflix’s much-discussed Andrew Dominik-directed Marilyn Monroe biopic Blonde, which released new images and a trailer. Barbera intriguingly says it is “not a film that tries to please everyone.” After Venice’s full lineup — including films from Darren Aronofsky, Alejandro G Iñárritu, Todd Field, Luca Guadagnino, Alice Diop, Joanna Hogg — was announced on Tuesday, Andreas virtually sat down and quizzed him on all manner of topics: the lack of a big blockbuster a la Dune or Joker, potential Oscar winners, the inclusion of a film from late Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-Duk, who has been accused of multiple assaults on women, and why he turned down the one submission from Russia. Conversely, there will be three films from Ukraine, and Barbera revealed discussions will take place next week how to “honor” Ukrainian and Iranian filmmakers.
Toronto time: It’s almost like life as we used to know, Anthony D’Alessandro noted in his detailed rundown of the Toronto International Film Festival. Gone are the masks and vaccination certificates and back is the closing of King Street and orange shirt volunteers. Among the 260 films at the fest, there will be a host of world premieres (including Netflix’s The Swimmers on the opening night, Amazon Prime’s Harry Styles starrer My Policeman and Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery) and works from Martin McDonagh (The Banshees of Inisherin), Sam Mendes (Empire of Light), Tyler Perry (A Jazzman’s Blues), Catherine Hardwicke (Prisoner’s Daughter) and Darren Aronofsky, whose feature The Whale features an almost unrecognizable Brendan Fraser. Interestingly, pop star and emerging acting star Styles could have had two films on show this year, but the Olivia Wilde-directed Don’t Worry Darling is M.I.A. TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey wryly answered Anthony’s question about the absence as “one for Warner Bros.” The fest runs September 8-15. More here.
A look at Locarno: Zac took no time in getting his feet under the table with this great Q&A with Locarno Film Festival Artistic Director Giona A. Nazzaro. He revealed he had bagged the buzzy Brad Pitt starrer Bullet Train by being “a very passionate cinephile” who “looks in all directions.” Nazzaro also addressed how Locarno, which falls in between Cannes and Venice, can act as another launchpad for awards season films, and addressed the festival’s diversity record. “This is really the key question that we are facing as an industry because this industry is obviously the mirror of everything that’s working or not working in the larger society,” he said.
France In Focus
Oscars overhaul: As awards season entered the starting blocks with the raft of fall festival line-up announcements this week, the country started limbering up for the impending Oscar race with an overhaul of the committee that selects the country’s submission to the best international film category. The Ministry of Culture has tweaked the composition of the committee to remove the heads of the Cannes Film Festival, export agency Unifrance and the César Academy, who have historically been at the heart of the process. The decision will now lie with film professionals, divided between two producers, two directors, two international sales agents and one other “qualified person on the cinema domain.” This year, they will comprise Hengameh Panahi, Grégoire Melin, producers Philippe Rousselet, Didar Domehri and directors Jacques Audiard and Michel Gondry and veteran Gaumont executive Ariane Toscan du Plantier. The changes follow heated debate last year around the choice of Julia Ducournau’s provocative Cannes Palme d’Or winner Titane, which, in spite of U.S. box office success for Neon, failed to be nominated. Many French professionals felt Audrey Diwan’s Golden Lion-winning, abortion drama Happening would have chimed more with AMPAS members. France’s last Oscar in the international film category was Régis Wargnier’s Indochine in 1993. This lack of success has been a source of miscomprehension for the country that considers itself the birthplace of cinema. It remains to be seen if the new-look committee can buck the trend. Mel’s full report is here.
License fee lacerated: It was a tumultuous week for French TV in both the public and commercial sectors after French MPs voted to abolish the 76-year-old TV license fee, and then news broke that the country’s antitrust authority had raised concerns over a planned merger between TF1 and M6. The TV license fee has traditionally provided the lion’s share of funding for France Télévision, Radio France, Franco-German broadcaster Arte and international TV channels France 24 and RFI, and raised $3.1B in 2020. The French government has suggested it will allocate some of the revenue raised by VAT to fill the funding gap, but details on how this will work are sketchy. There are fears the move will impact both budgets and editorial independence. Expect a turbulent autumn as the country returns to work after the summer vacation season — French workers aren’t known for taking political decisions on the chin.
Merger ‘dream’ under threat: The commercial sector was also left reeling after France’s antitrust authority said it was not happy with the planned merger between commercial broadcasting giants TF1 and M6, citing particular concerns about what it could mean for the TV advertising market. Both partners say the fusion is essential if they are to hold their own in the face of competition from the global platforms, but have made it clear they will not push it through at any cost. “Before the dream becomes a nightmare, there also needs to be a reality check, around the fact this dream may not happen,” TF1 Studios CEO Gilles Pélisson told reporters on the fringes of the broadcasters first-half 2022 results conference.
Bullying And Hypocrisy Exposed
BBC and Chatterbox Media in firing line: Hypocrisy within a large organization and toxic behaviour and bullying within a small one were exposed by a Deadline investigation this week. Our reporting found that the BBC had continued commissioning Meet the Khans producer Chatterbox Media despite discovering its owners had at least a dozen complaints lodged against them including for bullying over a 12-month period. The BBC has placed resolving bullying and wellbeing issues at the heart of its approach to TV production over the past year, since high-profile cases such as Noel Clarke, so the decision to commission Chatterbox for reality series Charlotte in Sunderland shortly after receiving a letter from union Bectu detailing the allegations was met with shock by former employees, some of who were emboldened to contact Deadline. Max’s full investigation, which features alarming testimony from many former Chatterbox employees, can be read here. Chatterbox has detailed how it is reforming its practices and the BBC said it “does not tolerate any form of bullying or harassment.”
Reasonable Results For ITV
Mixed half-year: ITV half-year results day this week, painting a mixed picture of goings-on at the commercial broadcaster. While revenues grew and the network’s production arm achieved its aim of making more drama and working with more streamers, profits slipped by 3%, a disappointing showing as ITV continues to emerge from a tricky pandemic. CEO Carolyn McCall was bullish, however, stating the network is “very much on track” to meet targets and talking up the launch of ITVX, the brand-spanking new streaming service that will roll out in a few months. The profits blip was put down to ITVX, as ITV spends more on content for the SVoD and invests in data and technology. Elsewhere, content boss Kevin Lygo said Love Island will be reviewed — as per usual — when this season’s ratings hit ends Monday. He lavished praise on the eighth season for being “the best we’ve had in many years” and wouldn’t be drawn on the 5,000 or so complaints regulator Ofcom has received about the show. McCall also spoke about the acquisition of Hostile Planet producer Plimsoll Productions and the ITV Studios talent label set up by former Bad Robot Head of TV Ben Stephenson, stating they “tick the boxes on genre and geography.”
Settled in Paradise City
Take me down to the…: Diana’s latest International Disruptors feature puts Memento Films International founder Emilie Georges and producer Naima Abed in the spotlight. They talk about how developing 2017’s Call Me By Your Name into a global hit led them to quietly re-launch co-financer and co-producer Paradise City as a London and Paris-based film, TV drama and branded content production management company. Expect a wide variety of cool international projects from the operation — the type Georges and Abed are known for finding — and much more. Read on.
🔥 Hot one: STX is shuttering its UK office. Not only that, but its also in talks with Lionsgate over a strategic tie-up, as Andreas and Anthony revealed.
🔥 Another one: Applause Entertainment’s ultra-ambitious Mahatma Gandhi streaming drama is taking shape with Hansal Mehta attached to direct. I had the scoop.
🔥 Literally on fire: Another Baz banger: our International Editor-At-Large revealed Sam Mendes, Jack Thorne and the National Theatre are working up a play about Richard Burton and John Gielgud’s 1964 version of Hamlet.
🇦🇺 Goodbye, good Neighbours: The long-running Aussie soap left Ramsay Street for the last time. Caroline had the details as Kylie returned.
👩👩 New jobs: Salome Peillon and Adi Ezroni joined Candle Media-owned Faraway Road Productions as Chief Operating Officer and EVP of Content, respectively. Andreas bagged this one.
🗣️ Big interview: Max sat down with This Country co-creator Daisy May Cooper for a candid interview.
🎥 Casting: The Vampire Diaries star Daniel Gillies will star in the second season of buzzy Australian TV drama The Newsreader, as I reported Monday.
🤝 Done deal: Banijay struck a deal to acquire Sony Pictures Television Germany.
🤝 Another deal: That came after Max revealed Newen had taken a majority stake in British producer Rise Films.
🤝 Honestly, another one: Calm down, Max! My partner in international TV crime also broke the news Two Rivers Media had bought out initial backer Noble Grossart.
Melanie Goodfellow and Max Goldbart contributed to this week’s Insider