MBC Group’s O3 Productions and Image Nation Abu Dhabi have formed a strategic partnership for film and television production. The first project under the new alliance is the adaptation of author Ibraheem Abbas’ best-selling sci-fi novel HWJN. The plan is to make an Arabic-language feature film, to be co-produced and co-financed by both companies, and to follow it up with a TV spinoff titled The Delusionists. The novel is a pop culture phenomenon in Saudi Arabia and across the Arab World, having topped bestseller lists with over 140,000 legal copies. The book has also been illegally downloaded over 1M times. The story follows HWJN, a friendly and devout Jinn, and his friendship with a human female Saudi medical student called Sawsan. As their connection deepens, breaking the barriers and dimensions between the human and Jinn worlds, the scene is set for an epic showdown with the evil Jinn ruler Sanam. The TV series will also have a unique take on modern Saudi and Arab society, continuing the story of HWJN as he teams up with Eyad to track down and expose the charlatans and fake peddlers of black magic and sorcery in modern day Saudi Arabia which has reached epidemic levels. There are two other TV series to be announced under the O3/Image Nation pact.
The CBC has greenlit new drama series Frankie Drake from Murdoch Mysteries producer Shaftesbury. The 11-parter is set in the 1920s and stars Lauren Lee Smith as Toronto’s only female private detective who takes on the cases the police don’t want or can’t handle. Created by Murdoch Mysteries writers Carol Hay and Michelle Ricci, Frankie Drake will begin production this summer for a fall 2017 launch on the CBC. The titular PI’s gender is her biggest advantage but her brand of justice doesn’t always follow the law. Along with her partner Trudy, Frankie and the Drake Detective Agency take on cases of all shapes and sizes: From airplanes and booze running to American G-men, Communists and union busters. Frankie’s fearless sense of adventure gets her into all kinds of trouble, but she always manages to find her way out. In a time of change and hopefulness, Frankie is a woman ahead of everyone. Shaftesbury Sales Company holds worldwide distribution rights for the series.
ITV Studios Global Entertainment has sealed a raft of deals on its period drama Victoria. The Mammoth Screen production, which is returning to ITV in the UK later this year, has been picked up by Israel’s YES, Italy’s Mediaset and Russia’s VOD service IVI with a simultaneous pay-TV launch via Tricolor Russia’s Kino Premium Channel. ITV’s Loch Ness also sold to RTL in the Netherlands, Denmark’s DR, TV4 in Sweden and Norway’s TV2. Prime Suspect: Tennison was further picked up by DR, Sweden’s SVT and BBC First in the Middle East.
Cannes Mayor David Lisnard presented the town’s plans for what he termed the “first international TV series festival” on Monday. Unveiling the official name of the event, Cannes Series, Lisnard was accompanied by former French Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin who was recently named President of the new Association Française du Festival International des Series de Cannes. Kick-off is earmarked for April 2018 with Reed Midem, organizers of the currently running MIPTV market, and Canal Plus as partners. The mayor is making good on a promise he made during his 2014 run to bring an international TV festival to the city, despite the fact that this year the French government has chosen Lille as host for a TV event which it will fund. Cannes Series will incorporate a competition, red-carpet events and public screenings. There are also plans to begin a writing residence, a training partnership with UCLA and a co-production forum. The first week-long event is slated for next April and will straddle the MIPTV market. Reed Midem chief Paul Zilk also stumped for the project, reminding that Cannes “has been home to the international TV world for 52 years.” The event’s planning has been followed closely in France given Lisnard’s insistence that he would go ahead regardless of the government’s decision to back a festival elsewhere. He said, “In Cannes, we have never waited for authorization to hold events… It’s not a question. It was in my mandate. It would have been inconceivable that it wouldn’t come together.” The next question will be whether international execs will make the early April corridor in Cannes a must-visit.
ITV Studios and Korea’s CJ E&M have agreed a co-development deal to create a new entertainment format for global exploitation. The collaboration will see the partners produce the new series in their respective territories with CJ managing distribution across Asia and ITV Studios Global Entertainment handling in all other regions.