Hello International Insider friends, Jake Kanter here. Well done on making it to the end of another frantic few days. As always, we’re in your inbox to serve up the tastiest news morsels of the week from the international film and TV biz. Got something to say or a story? I’m on firstname.lastname@example.org or my DMs are open on Twitter. And sign up here to get this delivered to your inbox every Friday.
Cannes Keeping Confident
Can Cannes? France might be under the swell of a third wave of coronavirus, but that has not dampened the bullishness of Cannes Film Festival organizers. Whether it’s blind hope or the fest knows something the rest of the world doesn’t, Cannes remains determined to hold its July 6-15 physical event in which “the film industry will meet up again in large numbers.” That’s not before a virtual ‘pre-screenings’ gathering at the end of May, which was confirmed on Thursday after Deadline first told you about it earlier this month.
How May will work: The virtual event will be comprised of four days of online screenings accompanied by virtual booths for sales, with access reserved for Marche badge holders at no extra cost to the standard accreditation. The Marche also confirmed to Deadline that titles from the 2021 Cannes program will not be screened in May, with the fest keeping those back to premiere in July. This will be a blow to distributors who had been hoping to release some of those Cannes-stamped titles into cinemas in early summer.
What delegates think: The industry remains largely pessimistic about the possibility of an in-person event in July due to ongoing Covid-19 spikes and delays to the vaccine program in Europe. Those jitters aren’t ubiquitous, however, with newly-anointed jury president Spike Lee sharing organizers’ optimism. “It’s going to be magnifique,” the BlacKkKlansman director exclaimed on Tuesday. “Book my flight now, my wife and I are coming!” Keep up with our Cannes coverage right here.
BBC’s Radical Reorg
Fleeing the capital: There’s never a dull week at the BBC, which is both reorganizing its TV team for a streaming-first future and planning a mass-exodus from London. On the latter, the British broadcaster announced plans to shift £700 million ($977M) of spending and 400 jobs outside of the capital to cities including Leeds, Birmingham, and Glasgow. The hope is that this will ensure the BBC is doing a better job of representing the entire country. Read our full story.
Why now: The BBC is pitching the reorganization as one of the most radical in its nearly 100-year history, presumably to catch the eye of watching lawmakers who often lash it for being a stronghold for out-of-touch metropolitan elites. The changes are partly motivated by political pressure, but they are also aimed at heading off existential threats. The BBC is facing unprecedented competition from big-spending streamers like Netflix, but thinks they don’t do a great job of representing the UK. The BBC wants to dominate in telling British stories and in turn ensure that audiences are prepared to continue paying for the license fee.
BBC News go go: The BBC’s news division will shoulder a lot of responsibility for the out-of-London push. Around half of the 400 jobs being moved out of the city will be those of journalists, with the BBC proposing to move entire teams, such as switching tech reporters to Glasgow. Needless to say, BBC journalists were pretty unsettled by the news, not least because it was delivered on the same day as plans to cut around 500 jobs from the unit were firmed up. “Bit of a tricky day for us,” tweeted BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones. Another glibly added: “The BBC Director General has just told hundreds of staff their jobs are being moved to different cities, but it’s OK because he then showed us a trailer for the new Line of Duty series.” It has also not gone unnoticed that BBC executive committee members are staying put in London.
BBC Studios slow slow: One part of the BBC not in a hurry to embrace change is Top Gear producer BBC Studios. UK trade Broadcast reported this week that the commercial arm is still “some way” from naming its CEO after an eight-month recruitment process is yet to bear fruit. We revealed in January that BBC Studios is considering handing the job permanently to CFO Tom Fussell, which Broadcast echoed in its reporting. As we told you, a string of high-profile executives have turned the role down, including former Endemol Shine Group CEO Sophie Turner Laing. One source told us this week that overtures to U.S.-based expats have also been rebuffed, including by Paul Lee, the former ABC president and wiip founder, and Peter Rice, Disney’s chairman of general entertainment.
Oscars So International
Diverse field: The 2021 Oscar nominations dropped on Monday and it was a positive outing for international cinema, with the Romanian documentary Collective managing to double up in the foreign-language and documentary fields, while Thomas Vinterberg also scored a director nom alongside Another Round landing on the foreign-language list. Overall, it had been an open year in the International Feature category and that was reflected by Romania landing its first nom — 14 years after the voting process was upended following the snub of Cristian Mungiu’s Cannes winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days — as did Tunisia, which will be represented for the first time by Kaouther Ben Hania’s The Man Who Sold His Skin. Completing the field is Jasmila Zbanic’s Quo Vadis, Aida?, representing Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Derek Tsang’s Better Days, which is repping Hong Kong.
Zhao Rolls On: Another foreign filmmaker fairing particularly well this awards season is Chloe Zhao, who added to her Best Director Golden Globe prize (the first such win for an Asian woman) with six Oscar noms for Nomadland, including Best Picture and Director. The widely-admired film is the bookies’ favorite to ultimately scoop the top Oscar this year, but reception to Beijing-born Zhao’s awards success has not been as positive in her home country. Nomadland is still awaiting release in China, and recently resurfaced comments made by the director in a 2013 interview, in which she criticized the Chinese state, may prove to be a hindrance, while her forthcoming Marvel pic The Eternals could also be impacted. Read Nancy Tartaglione’s deep dive on the subject here.
China’s Oscar problem: News emerged from China on Wednesday that the government was instructing local media to downplay Oscar coverage of what it considered to be controversial categories. Alongside Zhao’s success, the move was also reportedly in reaction to the nominated doc short Do Not Split, which covers the anti-Beijing demonstrations in Hong Kong in 2019 and China’s growing influence in the territory. “This alleged censoring of the Oscars due to our documentary being nominated is unfortunately not a big surprise after witnessing how freedom of speech and freedom of press is being drastically curtailed in Hong Kong,” said director Anders Hammer in reaction to the news.
Breaking records: Piers-steria rumbled into its second week, as UK media regulator Ofcom revealed that Piers Morgan’s Meghan Markle rant has now attracted 57,121 complaints. That makes it the most complained about moment in Ofcom’s two decades of existence, toppling an infamous piece of British TV history: The 2007 Celebrity Big Brother race row involving Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty. Morgan was typically non-plussed by the fuss: “Only 57,000? I’ve had more people than that come up & congratulate me in the street for what I said.” Our story is here.
Talking of TV history, there is one man who connects both the Good Morning Britain and Celebrity Big Brother debacles, and that is a certain Kevin Lygo, who now has the dubious honor of presiding over the two chart-toppers in Ofcom’s hall of shame. Lygo was Channel 4’s director of television in 2007, and, as ITV’s incumbent managing director of media and entertainment, he was the executive who did not object to Morgan’s resignation.
GB News calling: As we said last week, Morgan isn’t going anywhere fast. “There is a lot of interest in securing my services,” he told CNN on Thursday, with at least one outfit going public with its admiration for the presenter. Andrew Neil, who is chairing the launch of Discovery-backed UK channel GB News, told the BBC last week that “any network worth its salt could find a role for a broadcaster of his caliber.” GB News will need to make noise — it revealed this week that it will be 236 on the TV guide, putting it behind Russia Today and Al Jazeera in the news channel pecking order.
‘Avatar’ Back On Top
Box office battle: Avatar soared back to the top of the box office charts on Sunday after the film was reissued in China, where cinema takings are providing hope for brighter days ahead. Avatar added around $12.3M in ticket sales over the weekend, taking its total worldwide gross to an estimated $2.802B. This means it reclaimed its crown after unseating Avengers: Endgame, which grossed $2.797B in 2019. Nancy Tartaglione had the story.
Back-patting: As James Cameron’s CGI epic once again became top dog, a long-held Hollywood tradition of the previous record-holder paying homage continued. Marvel Studios and Avengers: Endgame directors Anthony and Joe Russo tweeted their congratulations. “Passing the gauntlet back to you,” the Russos’ remarked to James Cameron. Jim showed his gratitude with a blue heart.
The bottom line: Of course, the real winner here is Disney, which owns both movie franchises after its Fox acquisition in 2019. It all bodes rather well for Avatar’s two sequels, which have wrapped after a Covid-hit shoot in New Zealand.
🌶️ Hot one of the week: Cast has been finalized for Amazon UK original series The Rig, with Game Of Thrones star Iain Glen joining Schitt’s Creek actress Emily Hampshire as co-lead. We had the scoop.
🌶️ Another one: Jamie Foxx, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, January Jones, Maika Monroe, and Andrew Dice Clay are set to star in action-thriller God Is A Bullet, which is to be directed by Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook), and is based on the novel of the same name by Boston Teran. Andreas Wiseman had the story.
🏆 Awards news: It’s a good week to be Russell T Davies. The It’s A Sin and A Very English Scandal writer picked up not one, but two lifetime achievement prizes from the UK’s Royal Television Society and France’s Canneseries.
🐉 GoT prequel update: Peter White got the details of the latest Game of Thrones prequel plans. HBO is developing a trio of ideas for new projects set within George R.R. Martin’s fictional world. They include 9 Voyages aka Sea Snake, Flea Bottom and 10,000 Ships. More here.
🚚 On the move: FilmNation Entertainment has promoted Ashley Fox to lead the company’s film production department. It follows Fox’s Oscar and PGA nominations as a producer on Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman. Go deeper.
🇮🇳 Amazon in India: In a first for its Indian operations, Amazon Prime Video will act as co-producer on upcoming Hindi movie Ram Setu, which will be led by superstar Akshay Kumar. Click for more.
🔪 Farewell Villanelle: BBC America revealed this week that the fourth season of Killing Eve will be its last. The Sid Gentle drama could be back in some form, however, with plans to develop a number of spin-off series. Peter had the details.
📺 One to watch: UK television presenter Richard Bacon has transformed himself into a format creation machine and British audiences will get a first look at his work in BBC One’s Through The Keyhole-style show This Is My House. It premieres March 24. Trailer here.
🎦 Trailer dash: Tom Grater got first footage from SXSW pic Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break. It features an ensemble of British comedy actors in the story of a weedy charity shop worker who has his heart set on winning a national talent competition. Watch now.
Double Omar seven: Netflix’s surprise hit Lupin features Omar Sy as a stylish gentleman thief, who uses master of disguise, Arsène Lupin, as his inspiration. But there’s another character Sy took his lead from, the French actor told Nancy in an interview this week. “When we think about a character who’s cool, who can do lots of things, who has style, who’s charming — he has everything so I say he’s James Bond for us,” he said. So, could Sy ever be tempted to throw his hat in the ring for 007 himself? “I know there’s a rule to playing James Bond. I did some research to see if I wasn’t reaching too far to hope for that one day, but the first rule is they have to be English so it’s already screwed for me,” he laughed. From the sounds of it though, he’ll happily settle for being France’s bastion of cool. “Netflix is the Olympic Games for series and we are the French representative.” Read the full interview.
Tom Grater contributed to this week’s International Insider.
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