Hello, and welcome to International Insider, Jake Kanter here. For those who missed us last week, this is Deadline’s new weekly newsletter containing everything you need to know about the global film and television business. If you want to subscribe, sign up to our breaking news alerts here.
Here are the six things we want you to know this week:
1. Scoop: D-Day For Endemol Shine Deal
One for the diary: It’s been eight months since Banijay Group announced its $2.2BN takeover of MasterChef producer Endemol Shine Group, and the deal is still in a regulatory quagmire not helped by coronavirus. But there is now light at the end of the tunnel, with the European Commission setting a provisional date of June 30 to make a ruling. As regulatory hurdles go, this is the Super Bowl for all concerned in the takeover. Read more here.
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2. Cannes Gets Cracking
Sales slated: There has been a wave of activity this week ahead of the Cannes virtual market on June 22. My colleague Andreas Wiseman has reported on a number of eye-catching projects that have been packaged up for buyers, including ballet feature Joika, starring fast-rising Jojo Rabbit actress Thomasin McKenzie, and To Leslie, featuring Oscar-winner Allison Janney. He also revealed Penelope Cruz’s next project, Spanish language feature On The Fringe, and Fargo-style British thriller Sweet Dreams, with an ensemble cast that includes Nick Frost.
The Antipodean connection: One interesting theme to emerge is Cannes-bound indie movies setting up shoots in Antipodean nations as filmmakers look to countries with low COVID-19 rates in a bid to facilitate safe production. Joika is slated for an early 2021 shoot in pandemic-free New Zealand, while new Elisabeth Moss vehicle Run Rabbit Run will be filmed in Australia.
Talking of which: Also from Aus, here’s a rare (unique?) example of a feature movie that shot on-set entirely during lockdown. Kurt Winner, of Equilibrium fame, has filmed a reboot of the Children Of The Corn franchise, despite the global production industry grinding to a complete halt during the pandemic. Faced with the crisis, producer Lucas Foster (Ford v Ferrari) reports that after consulting with local authorities they decided to push on, with cast and crew entering isolation together to avoid virus spread.
3. Netflix’s New Age Of Accountability
History haunts TV: It’s been a week of blistering black British drama, with BBC One premiering Windrush story Sitting In Limbo and Michaela Coel’s dazzling I May Destroy You on the same night. But it’s also been a week in which we’ve been reminded about the uncomfortable history of white British and Australian comedians wearing makeup to portray people of color.
The blackface takedowns: In the context of George Floyd’s death and the Black Lives Matter movement, Netflix was quick to realize that its subscribers might take offense to Matt Lucas and David Walliams doing blackface sketches in Little Britain (pictured) and Come Fly With Me. It scrubbed the shows from its archive last Friday, with the BBC, BritBox and Sky soon following suit. Netflix then doubled down by removing other Brit hits, The League Of Gentlemen and The Mighty Boosh, for the same reason, as well as four shows from Aussie comedian Chris Lilley. HBO Max took similar action over Gone With The Wind (though promised to restore it with historical context).
The big picture for streamers: Archive shows have become prized and powerful calling cards for streamers, but they are also presenting new questions about accountability. Potentially problematic representations of race, sex, and gender are no longer consigned to dusty DVD shelves, they can be recommended to millions by sophisticated algorithms and glossy content guides. Patrolling back catalogs is going to take on increased importance at a time when judgments about what is acceptable and what is not can become outdated in a matter of days.
4. BBC Director General Race: The Fallout
The successor seeks his successor: One of Tim Davie’s first jobs after succeeding Tony Hall as BBC director general in September will be finding a replacement for himself as the CEO of BBC Studios. Jobs don’t get much bigger in British TV, with BBC Studios boasting revenues of £1.2BN ($1.5BN) and a sandbox of brands that includes Doctor Who and Top Gear.
Early contenders: Paul Dempsey, president of global distribution and a 22-year BBC Studios veteran, is already being talked about as the man to beat. One source cheekily asked if NBC Entertainment chairman Paul Telegdy might be lured back home, while another mooted Sony’s Wayne Garvie. But there is a school of thought that says Davie should hire a woman after he became the 17th white man to lead the BBC. Well-qualified candidates could include Sophie Turner Laing, whose future is uncertain as Endemol Shine is inhaled by Banijay, and Anna Mallett, the former BBC Studios COO who now runs ITN.
Eyes on Charlotte Moore: Another loose end is the future of BBC director of content Charlotte Moore. She lost out to Davie in the battle to be DG, and gossip about her getting a bump up to creative director as part of a “joint ticket” appointment is yet to materialize. There are mixed views on their working relationship: two people told us that Davie and Moore do not always see eye-to-eye, while others point to a healthy partnership. Either way, it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to deduce that Moore is open to a new challenge after interviewing for the director general role.
5. Best Of The Rest
It’s been a troubling week for All3Media producer Lime Pictures, which is looking into accusations of racism on two of its biggest shows. Actress Rachel Adedeji (pictured) raised questions about the treatment of black cast members on soap Hollyoaks, while reality star Vas J Morgan said he was the victim of “systematic racism” on The Only Way Is Essex. The company has promised to do better.
A window into Russia: Deadline gathered four of Russia’s top film executives this week to discover how they are planning to return to work post-COVID and how the country is forging new international ties. You can watch a nine-minute highlight reel here, and the full discussion is available within. Deadline is hosting similar discussions with executives from Germany and Poland next week.
Line Of Duty fans rejoice, the British police corruption drama is back on Netflix internationally after going dark for weeks following the messy collapse of Kew Media Group. Deadline also revealed this week that ITV Studios will shop Season 6 of the World Productions show — once it manages to get back into production.
Passion in a pandemic: The UK’s lockdown ‘sex ban’ has been a source of some ridicule, but dating has been a real challenge during this lengthy crisis. That will be captured in Five Dates, a fast-turnaround interactive rom-com developed during the pandemic that will star Doctor Who‘s Mandip Gill and Vikings‘ Georgia Hirst in a user-driven story about online dating in isolation. Tom Grater reports.
Duncan Clark departs: Longtime Universal President of International Distribution Duncan Clark, a 41-year industry veteran, is stepping down from his position in August, transitioning to a consulting role with the studio. Replacing Clark is Veronika Kwan Vandenberg. Nancy Tartaglione reflects on the smart straight-shooter’s career.
6. Ones To Watch
Salisbury, we feel you: The Salisbury Poisonings is the BBC’s brilliantly realized new miniseries on the 2018 nerve agent attack on retired spook Sergei Skripal on British soil. It premieres on June 14 after some uncertainty at the Beeb over whether to hold it back until after the coronavirus crisis — and when you watch it, you’ll understand why. Long before COVID-19 swept the globe, the historic British city of Salisbury got a taste of lockdown when Skripal was poisoned. People were banned from shops and restaurants, told to wash their hands, clothes and carry cleansing wipes, and PPE was commonplace. It all feels very relatable.
The real deal: Once you get past the obvious coronavirus resonance, it quickly becomes clear that the Dancing Ledge drama starring Anne-Marie Duff, MyAnna Buring and Rafe Spall is a remarkable achievement. It is written by former BBC journalists Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson who spent a year in Salisbury exhaustively researching their script through extensive interviews with those involved in the incident. It gives The Salisbury Poisonings serious gravitas and authenticity. Go deeper here — plus this is what Lawn and Patterson are up to next.
And don’t miss this: Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods launches globally on Netflix today. Despite being set during the Vietnam War, it has striking relevance to events currently unfolding around the world. Pete Hammond has the lowdown.