Welcome to International Insider, I’m Jake Kanter. Happy Thanksgiving to our readers in America. Here’s your weekly recap on all the global film and TV news you need to know this week. Any tips or stories can be sent to email@example.com, or my DMs are open. And sign up here to get this delivered to your inbox every Friday.
Royal Rumble Over Brexit
Setting the record straight: Brexit is getting closer and it’s starting to become real for producers — sometimes in unexpected ways. Film producer Paul Webster was forced to set the record straight on Thursday following an online furor over the casting of Prince William in the upcoming Kristen Stewart-Princess Diana film Spencer, which is due to shoot in Germany early next year.
Why the fuss? A casting call for the role of William, aged 11, was posted by casting director Amy Hubbard on Twitter this week, noting that British actors need not apply for the role “due to new Brexit rules from January 1st 2021” when the UK is due to leave the EU. The post was picked up widely by UK media outlets and caused a stir on social media with various actors lamenting that Brits couldn’t be cast in the role due to Brexit ending freedom of movement.
Brits welcome: Oscar-nominated producer Webster (Atonement) told us that the production is in fact meeting with British actors for the part and Brexit will have little impact on casting. “We’re meeting British boys all the time for this role,” Webster told my colleague Andreas Wiseman. “If they happen to have an Irish passport all well and good. But it’s not a hindrance to have a British passport. We’re not saying we need a foreigner to play Prince William.”
The upshot: The Spencer casting snafu raises multiple interesting questions, not least the extent to which Brit actors will be able to work on the continent from next year. The UK is due to leave the European Union on December 31, 2020, and so far there is no post-Brexit agreement with the bloc. Leaving the EU will end freedom of movement for Brits on the continent leading to restrictions on how they can work in Europe. However, certain UK-European co-productions with Brit cast are expected to be able to shoot on the continent thanks to the Council of Europe Convention on Cinematographic Co-production. This is something the BFI has confirmed to us in the wake of the Spencer brouhaha. That said, there remains uncertainty right to the last on Brexit.
One bit of clarity: UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced this week the creation of a new £7M ($9.4M) Global Screen Fund that is designed to partially plug the gap left by the absence of Creative Europe’s MEDIA funding. The UK received €12.2M (£10.9M / $14.5M) in MEDIA funding in 2018. Tom Grater had the details.
Banijay Cyber Attack
Hacked off: As International Insider told you last week, Banijay’s $2.2 billion takeover of Endemol Shine Group was pressing on pretty smoothly, despite a global pandemic and extended antitrust proceedings. But on the day we published our interview with CEO Marco Bassetti, the super-producer fell victim to a cyber attack that may have exposed sensitive staff data, including bank account details and ID records. We had the scoop.
What happened: The IT systems of Endemol Shine were compromised by a bad actor demanding a ransom. Banijay is not engaging with the ransom demand, but since last week, the company has confirmed that the perpetrators are in possession of internal documents. The Young Wallander and Survivor production group is working with cybersecurity specialists to establish how its technology was breached, who was affected, and what information has been exposed. Relevant authorities in the UK and Netherlands were notified.
The fallout: In our latest update on the incident today, we revealed that Banijay employees are set to receive updated training on phishing scams, per an email from Banijay Rights CEO Cathy Payne. She and COO Peter Langenberg have also written to hundreds of former employees to notify them of the breach, given their information may also have been compromised. “Please be assured we are doing all we can to rectify the matter quickly and safely and will continue to keep you updated as and when we have further findings from the investigation,” Payne said. One former employee told me that the cyber attack was a “sh*t show” for the integration process.
Mixed Christmas Fortunes For Euro Cinemas
Light at the end of the tunnel: After virus spikes in the autumn prompted renewed lockdowns in major European nations, the approaching Christmas period, typically a key box office stretch, means countries are looking to get cinemas open again.
Varying approaches: The UK will re-open venues on December 2, though only in two of the three tiers being introduced in its enhanced regional lockdown system. Major cities London and Liverpool will be in tier 2, meaning cinemas can resume operations, while cities including Newcastle and Birmingham will be in tier 3, meaning they will remain closed. The measures are expected to remain at the current levels until January. In France, cinemas can re-open from December 15, while the German government has confirmed theaters will remain closed until at least December 20.
‘Wonder Woman’ to the rescue? The question of what cinemas will be showing, with a continually shifting film slate, endures. Local markets will have holiday fare, but the key big-ticket release remains Wonder Woman 1984, which Warner Bros has confirmed is sticking to its December date. Earlier this week, the studio also confirmed the international rollout, with France and the UK getting the film first on December 16. What Warner hasn’t confirmed, however, is whether this will be a cinema-only release. The film is simultaneously debuting on HBO Max in the U.S. (with no PVOD charge) but there have been no announcements about a possible streaming bow elsewhere.
Netflix’s Big League Spending
One BILLION dollars: We know that Netflix is incredibly sweet on the UK, but on Wednesday we learned just how sweet. The streaming giant revealed that it will double its content budget in Britain to $1 billion this year — an eye-bulging sum that has been bolstered by the success of UK-made shows including The Witcher and The Crown. Full story.
Putting that into context: Netflix’s £750 million outlay in the UK puts it among the top tier of local broadcasters. It’s more than double the budget of BBC Two, the channel that has given the world hits including Peaky Blinders and Line of Duty, and Netflix now spends nearly £100M more than Channel 4 does across its entire suite of services. It is also breathing down the neck of ITV and BBC One, which both spend around £1B a year on programming. That’s a pretty staggering feat, given these two channels have dominated the UK television landscape for decades.
Meanwhile, over at Channel 4: Mere hours after Netflix’s spending splurge was announced, Channel 4 unveiled a five-year transformation plan aimed at weaning itself off TV advertising revenue and helping it fight competition from the streamers. It plans to prioritize online commissioning for its streamer All 4 in the hope of doubling digital sales to 30% of its £985M total revenue. “We will make choices that prioritize digital when it comes to types of shows, windowing the shows and how we monetize them. That is a big switch,” said CEO Alex Mahon.
Feras Fayyad In The Spotlight
Rising filmmaker faces questions: Feras Fayyad’s story is an extraordinary one. Having fled from war-torn Syria, the director has found refuge in Europe and Hollywood after his films have garnered Oscar nominations and Emmy wins. But there has been another twist in his tale after we reported on The Cave director becoming embroiled in an alleged #MeToo scandal in Denmark.
What happened: Fayyad made The Cave in Copenhagen with influential local production outfit Danish Documentary Production, but during his time in Scandinavia, a colleague accused him of sexual harassment. Production assistant Emilia Moth said Fayyad made inappropriate comments about her appearance and looked at her “ass” in the office. There was also a joke doing the rounds at Danish Documentary that Fayyad fantasized about Moth while he masturbated.
The denial: Fayyad vehemently denies wrongdoing. Although his attorney admitted that the director complimented Moth, he disputes making inappropriate overtures. “As a victim of sexual violence myself, and as a brother to seven sisters, I am extremely sensitive to any kind of behavior that could be interpreted as offensive,” Fayyad told us. “I have never engaged in such behavior myself. It is most unfortunate that in my efforts to tell the heartbreaking story of the destruction of my country, others are intent on attacking my character for political, financial or personal reasons.”
Denmark’s #MeToo reckoning: Fayyad is one of a number of high-profile individuals caught up in Denmark’s recent #MeToo moment. Moth’s decision to come forward won praise from top Danish filmmakers, with around 1,000 industry pros signing an open letter supporting her “courage” and expressing solidarity “with all those who have experienced abusive behavior.” Signatories included Oscar-winning The Undoing director Susanne Bier. Go deeper here.
AFM hots up: It took a little longer than usual due to Covid complications and an evolving market, but virtual AFM deals started funneling through this week. My colleague Andreas had the scoop on two films that have picked up pre-sales following the virtual event:
‘Call Jane’: Protagonist closed international deals on this women’s rights drama, which stars Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games), Sigourney Weaver (Avatar), Kate Mara (The Martian) and Rupert Friend. France, Spain, and South Korea have all taken the feature. Read more.
‘See For Me’: Paris-based sales firm Elle Driver inked a slew of pre-sales on this home invasion thriller, which was one of the sleeper hits at AFM. The film, currently in post-production, follows blind teenager Sophie (played by Skyler Davenport) who is house-sitting at a secluded mansion that comes under attack from thieves seeking a hidden safe. Her only means of defense is a phone app called See For Me. Full story.
🌶️ Hot one of the week: Bleed For This producer Chad A. Verdi is lining up movie biopics on Muhammad Ali Jr. and Lennox Lewis’s former manager Kellie Maloney, who underwent gender reassignment. Read more.
🍿 International box office: Gerard Butler thriller Greenland picked up $3.2M in China on over 14,000 screens, performing better than some other recent Hollywood entries, but still lower than may have been hoped, particularly as Butler excels in the market. Nancy Tartaglione has the details.
🏆 Awards news: The International Emmy Awards winners were announced on Monday. Among the victors was Glenda Jackson, who added another award to the mantlepiece for her BBC dementia drama Elizabeth Is Missing. Full winners here.
🚚 On the move: Cineflix Rights CEO Chris Bonney is heading to the golf course. The UK sales executive is retiring after eight years in charge of the distributor behind Apple series Tehran. Go deeper.
🎦 Trailer dash: Netflix dropped the first full-length trailer for Ryan Murphy’s musical The Prom, whose starry cast includes Meryl Streep, James Corden, and Nicole Kidman. Watch it.
📺 One to watch: BBC One’s big new entertainment show The Wheel (pictured) takes its first spin on Saturday evening in the UK. Hosted by Michael McIntyre, Warner Bros snapped up the international rights this week. More info here.
International Critics Line Goes Live
A plug: International Insider feels obliged to mention a new feature on the haloed pixels of Deadline. We’re calling it International Critics Line and it will spotlight local-language films being made outside of America that are worthy of your attention. We start with Mexican director Michel Franco’s Nuevo Orden (pictured), which is reviewed by Todd McCarthy. Todd says it “vividly and realistically depicts the sudden implosion of a society afflicted by class divides and gross economic inequity. It’s not a comfortable sit.” Read on here.
You can’t cage Gage: It must have taken some balls for upcoming actor Lukas Gage to post his now-infamous awkward audition tape, but the gamble sure did pay off. His video, in which a director can be heard lamenting the fact that “these poor people live in these tiny apartments” as Gage prepares to deliver his lines, has been viewed more than 10M times on social media and drawn parodies from the likes of Seth MacFarlane. It also provoked a mea culpa from the unnamed director, who revealed himself in Deadline as Brit Tristram Shapeero. The Brooklyn Nine-Nine helmer apologized for his “insensitive remarks” and promised to do better, prompting a second cycle for a news story that has gone viral on both sides of the pond. It’s unlikely you will have heard about Euphoria actor Gage before this week. You have now.
Tom Grater and Andreas Wiseman contributed to this week’s International Insider