EXCLUSIVE: Andrew Macdonald and Allon Reich’s DNA is enjoying a banner moment with two hit films either side of the Atlantic — Ex Machina domestically and Far From The Madding Crowd in the UK both exceeding expectations — and a pivot toward TV production that could see the London-based company become a small-screen powerhouse.
The company has a slew of high-profile TV projects in the pipeline, including:
– An adaptation of Wolf Hall author Hilary Mantel’s A Place Of Greater Safety about the French Revolution that is being written by Richard Warlow (Ripper Street) and is a co-production with the BBC.
– Nick Hornby (Brooklyn) is writing an original returning series about the music industry in the late 1970s.
– Bryan Elsley (Skins) is writing an original limited series contemporary thriller.
– Stephen Beresford (Pride) is writing an original idea about the battle of succession in a fictional royal family.
Macdonald and Reich also are reteaming with longtime collaborators John Hodge (Trainspotting) and Alex Garland (Ex Machina) on two separate original projects. In addition to working with high-profile names, the duo also is working with emerging talents such as Lucy Kirkwood (The Smoke), Dominic Mitchell (In The Flesh) and Beth Steele, who won the Evening Standard‘s Most Promising Playwright award in December.
“There’s no story you can’t tell on TV now,” Macdonald tells Deadline. “It’s becoming more and more like cinema. It’s a world. Look at Downton Abbey — it’s the whole world that gets created. Before you could only make British TV for British people. Now, if it’s good enough, the whole world will see it. We want to make TV drama that plays internationally.”
The big push into TV production follows the February launch of DNA TV Limited, a partnership with Fox Networks Group with the goal of generating dramas, comedy and limited-run event series for UK and international broadcasters.
FNG will have a first-look to co-finance and distribute DNA TV’s projects on Fox, FX Networks and the National Geographic Channels in the U.S. as well as the 300-plus Fox International Channels. The deal was born out of the relationship that Macdonald and Reich had with FNG topper Peter Rice. The trio worked closely together dating back to 2003, when DNA locked a $50 million joint venture with Searchlight to make British features for worldwide distribution. DNA’s credits include The Last King Of Scotland, 28 Days Later and Sunshine.
It’s a sign of the times, and further evidence of the so-called Golden Age of television, that TV will become the company’s main focus, even with two hits at the box office. Garland’s Ex Machina, starring Alicia Vikander, has become a surprise sleeper domestically for A24 with over $10 million and counting. In the UK, Thomas Vinterberg’s Thomas Hardy-adaptation Far From The Madding Crowd, starring Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts and Michael Sheen, exceeded expectations with an opening weekend of $2.1 million for Fox.
“We had the biggest screen average of the year in the U.S. so far with Ex Machina,” says Reich. “We’re not the first people to see it’s a golden age in terms of quality of TV drama coming out, particularly U.S. cable, Scandinavia, France, Israel and to some degree the UK. It’s very exciting what you can do now with content and the business model.”
DNA’s partnership with FNG gives the company the independence to commission writers directly and not be reliant upon either the studio or UK broadcasters. That freedom, coupled with the duo’s existing relationships with some of the best European-based talent, has allowed DNA to fast-track its TV activities.
“Our goal is to produce two TV series a year and one film,” says Macdonald. “We’ve always seen ourselves as a bridge between European talent and American money and distribution. A lot of British companies only develop with British broadcasters but there are only four British broadcasters. There’s a whole world now that’s interested in British stories provided you find the right way to tell them.”
Macdonald and Reich speak very highly of the likes of Sky Italia’s gangster drama Gomorrah and The Returned on Canal+ as examples of stellar European talent. DNA is looking to partner with the best writers, producers and broadcasters from across the continent.
For all the attention they’re now paying to TV, neither Macdonald nor Reich is giving up on film, as their current success bears out. “Our film strategy hasn’t altered much,” says Reich. “We’ve never believed in having a big slate. We only develop projects we really believe we can get made. Each one’s a very big boulder that a small number of people manfully try to roll up the hill. The difference now is no one’s dragging creative people to TV anymore. In front of and behind the camera, it’s what everybody wants to do. It’s exciting.”