Bill Nighy Narrates C5/Smithsonian River Series; ‘The Witcher’ Director Develops NENT Group Series; BBC Arts Boss & Commercial Director Exit; Debuts Dominate Macao Market; Abacus Boards Nick Broomfield Doc — Global Briefs

By Jake Kanter, Andreas Wiseman

Bill Nighy
Chris Chapman

Bill Nighy To Narrate C5/Smithsonian River Series
Love Actually and Shaun Of The Dead star Bill Nighy is to narrate a six-part Channel 5 and Smithsonian Channel Canada series, titled World’s Most Scenic River Journeys. The exploration of famous rivers is a co-production between Argonon’s BriteSpark and Blue Ant Studios’ Saloon Media, who will shoot in Europe and North America respectively to get around Covid-19 travel restrictions. World’s Most Scenic River Journeys is executive produced by Tom Porter at BriteSpark, with Helen White acting as series producer. Steve Gamester is executive producer and producer at Saloon. Nighy has previously narrated Channel 5’s World’s Most Scenic Railway Journeys, which was also made by BriteSpark.

‘The Witcher’ Director Develops NENT Group Ferry Disaster Series
Charlotte Brändström, who has helmed episodes of The Witcher and The Man In The High Castle, is creating a NENT Group series about the 1994 sinking of an Estonia ferry in the Baltic Sea, during which 852 people died. Estonia: The Last Wave will premiere exclusively on NENT Group’s Viaplay streaming service, and is produced by Scandinavian Content Group in association with ITV Studios. “Making drama based on real events is a specific challenge. The aim is not to dramatise what we already know, but to show what we otherwise would never see,” Brändström said.

BBC Arts Boss & Commercial Director Exit
Jonty Claypole is to step down as the director of BBC Arts in April 2021 after seven years in the job, while BBC commercial director Bal Samra is also leaving after a 30-year spell at the broadcaster. During Claypole’s time in charge of arts, he has overseen programming including Civilisations, Contains Strong Language, and the BBC’s ongoing Culture In Quarantine initiative. Claypole is leaving to write a book, Words Fail Us, and become involved in other arts initiatives. Samra has helped launch services including iPlayer and BritBox after first joining the BBC in the 1990s. “The time for my next big adventure is now. I’ve a number of ideas to develop in the coming months,” Samra said. BBC director general Tim Davie said: “Bal has made a significant mark on our industry and on the BBC, connecting creativity to business opportunities for the benefit of audiences. His commercial acumen and skill are widely-recognised and respected across the broadcasting industry.” On Claypole, Davie added: “I want to thank Jonty for being such a great champion for the arts at the BBC. He has helped us create and showcase more arts and culture than any other broadcaster.”

Debuts Dominate Macao Market
Director Haolu Wang’s project Fellow Travellers has taken the Best Project Award, which comes with a cash prize of $15,000, at the International Film Festival & Awards Macao (IFFAM) Project Market. Camille Gatin produces Wang’s debut about a man who travels to a parallel world, replacing his alternate self there in an attempt to attain closure following the sudden death of his estranged wife. The Creative Excellence Award ($10,000) went to Greek-France-Japan project Titanic Ocean, from director Konstantina Kotzamani and producer Maria Drandaki. The Best Co-production Award ($10,000) went to USA-Thailand-Spain project Entanglement, from director Mattie Do and producer Annick Mahnert and the Macao Spirit Award ($5,000) was awarded to Singapore-Indonesia project Prisoners of the Pacific by director Junxiang Huang and producer Eric Khoo.

Abacus Boards Nick Broomfield, BBC Suge Knight Doc
Abacus Media Rights has secured international distribution rights (excluding Free TV in UK) to Last Man Standing: Suge Knight and the Murders of Biggie & Tupac, the new documentary from Nick Broomfield. Commissioned by the BBC, the film tells the story of Suge Knight, the former CEO of legendary rap music label Death Row Records, who was recently sentenced to 28 years imprisonment for manslaughter and other violent crimes. The film takes a look at Death Row and how L.A.’s street gang culture had come to dominate its business workings, as well as an association with corrupt LA police officers who were also gang-affiliated. From production company South Central Project Limited, the project is due for completion in January 2021. It was ordered by Patrick Holland, Controller BBC Two and commissioned by Jan Younghusband, Head of Music TV Commissioning.

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