International Insider: Brexit Deal?; German Culture War; ‘District Z’ Dispute; Berlin, MipTV Off
Hello, and welcome to the final International Insider of 2020. Jake Kanter and Tom Grater with you in the saddle to look back on another week of offerings from the film and TV biz. International Insider will return in New Year, but until then, we hope your holidays are happy and healthy.
Eleventh hour: Nothing has been confirmed yet, but as we send this newsletter the UK and EU are understood to be on the verge of agreeing terms on a last-minute Brexit deal, avoiding a ‘no deal’ scenario at the eleventh hour. Reports indicate that key breakthroughs were made overnight between Downing Street and Brussels, and the two parties are now close to finalizing an agreement.
What next? Even after it is published, the lengthy document will need to be ratified by the UK parliament, potentially in an emergency session on December 30, while the European Parliament will also have to pass it. Film and TV organizations will need to pour over its details to ascertain exactly what this means for their industry.
Impact on the creative biz: That remains to be seen. A Brexit deal, as opposed to no deal, is thought to be the lesser of two evils. It should mean fewer work permit restrictions, for example, but the exact ramifications of all of this are unlikely to be clear until well after the Brexit transition period ends at midnight on December 31.
Culture War In Germany
“Truly shocking”: That’s how the director of And Tomorrow The Entire World, Germany’s Oscar entry this year, described a parliamentary inquest into her film from Germany’s far-right AFD party, which questioned why the country’s national film body had supported the movie. Four AFD MPs described the film, which is about an anti-facist group, as “a rather tendentious picture of left-wing extremism” and questioned its legitimacy. The move has stirred up concerns that have been bubbling away in Germany for some time about AFD’s influence on the arts. Go deeper.
Context: Alternative for Germany (AFD) has been the third-largest party in the Bundestag since the 2017 election, and despite protestation that it is not particularly interested in film and TV policy, its growing influence on German national funding, particularly through regional bodies, has been concerning local producers.
The future: At present, filmmakers in Germany say they do not believe AFD has the power to enact significant policy changes, but there are fears that economic downturn caused by the coronavirus, among other challenges, could strengthen the party after the next election in September 2021, and potentially allow it to exert greater influence on culture.
‘District Z’ Dispute
Trouble in France, where a dispute has erupted over TF1’s new ratings smash District Z. As we revealed on Wednesday, Banijay-owned ALP thinks the zombie game show is a clone of its own entertainment franchise, the 30-year-old international hit Fort Boyard. We hear ALP has written to the producer of District Z, Sony-backed Satisfaction Group, threatening to sue for format infringement. Neither side is commenting.
The beef: ALP’s concerns are said to center on the mythology behind each show, as well as specific format points. Fort Boyard tells the story of an old rich man who lives in a sea-locked fortress and invites a team of celebrities to steal his treasure via a series of challenges. District Z, meanwhile, focuses on Professor Z, a rich scientist living in an abandoned mansion, who invites a team of celebrities to steal his treasure through a series of challenges in which they risk being captured by a zombie.
How it could play out: The District Z dispute proves an old TV idiom that where there’s a hit there’s a writ. Having said that, format infringement cases are rare and notoriously difficult to succeed with, so it would raise eyebrows if the wrangle wound up in a court of law. One thing’s for sure, the Banijay producers who have told Sony that they are interested in optioning the format may now be thinking twice after their sister company raised a warning flag.
Berlin & MipTV Bite The Dust
Standing down: Soon after International Insider hit your inboxes last week, two of TV and film’s biggest markets announced plans to abandon their physical events early next year as coronavirus continues to torment event planners. Berlin Film Festival has been rethought as a two-part gathering: a virtual European Film Market in March and mini-fest over the summer. MipTV, meanwhile, will go online in April ahead of what is hoped can be a physical Mipcom in Cannes in October.
The big picture: Event organizers are being savvier about planning ahead in the pandemic and 2020 has shown us that business can be done at virtual gatherings. Providing early certainty is helpful, particularly when so much remains uncertain. The vaccine is coming, but Covid-19 is not going down without an almighty fight. Hopes of a return to industry jollities in the spring are all-but extinguished, but we remain warmed by the thought that 2021 can’t be as bad as the year just gone.
Dominique Delport Departs
Vacating Vice: One of the bigger stories of a quiet week was the departure of Dominique Delport, Vice Media’s president of international and global chief revenue officer. The French executive has worked at Vice for nearly three years, collaborating closely with Nancy Dubuc to help try and shake the “bro culture” image that existed under co-founder Shane Smith. Vice also remains on track to turn a profit this year, despite the difficulties of coronavirus and another round of job cuts. Our full scoop is here.
What’s next for Delport: An established figure in the French media scene, the Vivendi board member is launching a consultancy company called Arduina Partners. He will count Vice among his clients, while Delport is also mentoring three startups, mixing artificial intelligence and intellectual property. “I had a fantastic run at Vice these nearly three years and it’s a bittersweet feeling to leave such a talented team,” he told us.
Amazon UK Bans ‘The Prince’
Barred: UK distributor Peccadillo Pictures was shocked this week when Amazon Prime Video UK informed the company it had banned its release The Prince for containing “offensive content” that clashed with the streamer’s guidelines. That’s despite the same version of the movie being available to buy on DVD on Amazon. Read more.
🍿 International box office: Warner Bros/DC’s Wonder Woman 1984 debuted in 32 international box office markets at the weekend and opened to an estimated $38.5M from 30,221 screens. This was well down on forecasts of $60M as a result of a disappointing showing in China and sudden theatre closures. Nancy Tartaglione had the details.
🌶️ Hot one of the week: Disney+ is stepping up its push into UK-produced originals with the ambitious natural history show, Growing Up Animal, from Warner Bros International Television Production outfit Wall To Wall. We had the scoop.
🏆 Awards news: The Los Angeles Film Critics Association named Steve McQueen’s BBC/Amazon series Small Axe as Best Picture at its annual vote on the year’s best movies. Read more.
🚚 On the move: The Crown producer Left Bank Pictures has beefed up the role of executive producer Michael Casey and handed him a board seat following the departure of Suzanne Mackie in October. Go deeper.
🎦 Trailer dash: Who better to reflect on the chaos of 2020 than Charlie Brooker? His Netflix special Death To 2020 lands on December 27. Here’s the trailer, featuring a starry cast including Samuel L. Jackson, Lisa Kudrow, Joe Keery, and Hugh Grant. Take a look.
🎄 Festive ones to watch: Following the coronavirus production shutdown, the schedules are a little short of big festive crackers, but BBC One has pulled a couple of gifts out of its sack. Julia Donaldson adaptation Zog and the Flying Doctors will be a treat for the whole family, while the Call The Midwife Christmas special is our tip to top the UK festive ratings.
We thought we’d end 2020 by dishing out a handful of our own gongs. It’s been a dark year, so below are a few moments that brought us some light and levity. And the winner is…
🏆 Most 2020 Awards Acceptance Speech: A clear win here for Chernoyl’s Simon Smith and Jinx Godfrey who triumphed at the BAFTA Craft Awards in the fiction editing category. They filmed their acceptance speech at a motorway service station — and even created a tinfoil BAFTA for the occasion. Watch it here.
🏆 Best TV News Zoom Bomb: 2020 gave us a window into peoples’ homes, meaning some unusual domestic scenes played out on news channels, where the chaos of everyday life met the day’s headlines. Our winner here is professor Clare Wenham, who juggled an important interview on coronavirus with her daughter finding the perfect home for her unicorn picture. The results are delightful. 🏵️ Highly commended in this category is Sky News’ foreign affairs editor Deborah Haynes, who was interrupted by her son asking for two biscuits. Watch here.
🏆 Best Accidental Zoom Panel Participant: Ok, not entirely dissimilar to the above, but it’s worth remembering the baffling moment where an elderly gentleman interrupted a Cannes Virtual Marche panel featuring Neon’s Tom Quinn and Elissa Federoff. After some digging, it turned out to be the father of Brent Lang, exec editor at our sister publication Variety.
🏆 Iconic Quiz Contestant Of The Year: January feels like a different world, but it was a world that gave us actress Amanda Henderson’s appearance on BBC quiz Mastermind. Asked to name a very famous Swedish climate change activist, a panicky Henderson reached for the first thing she could think of: “Sharon.” See for yourself here. The moment was made all the better when Greta Thunberg changed her Twitter name to Sharon after the clip went viral.
🏆 Best Stifled Yawn Of 2020: Over to TV news again where BBC presenter Ben Brown was literally caught napping as the camera tossed back to the studio. “Oh! Caught out there,” the anchor exclaimed before calmly moving on. It’s been a long year, so we felt every moment of Brown’s fly-catching yawn. Here’s the clip.