Good afternoon Insiders, Max Goldbart here with your weekly dose of the biggest headlines, analysis and deep-dives of the week. Read on, and sign up here.
Boom Then Bust (Then “Shaky”)
Records don’t last long: There was a bittersweet feeling after UK producer trade body Pact’s Census 2022 press briefing on Tuesday. Spotlighting full-year 2022, the briefing showed how the UK TV production sector hit record highs of nearly £4B ($5B) last year, driven by the streamers, who upped spend by a whopping 133% to £700M. Big hits to land included Heartstopper and The Crown Season 5. Multiple records were broken in a year in which the UK TV industry was virtually at full employment, but, during the briefing, most questions to Pact CEO John McVay focused on the here and now, as things feel very different today for many producers. McVay was honest in his assessment of 2023 and years to come, with a view that full-year 2023 will be “tough” and 2024 will likely be “shaky” before things return to a calmer growth trajectory.
Tough times: It certainly doesn’t feel like boom time at present, and McVay acknowledged the difficult combination of the economic crisis, ad recession and U.S. strikes, which have led to a situation where three-quarters of the freelance below-the-line workforce is out of work, according to a recent Bectu survey. In future, he urged local broadcasters not to get “carried away” during the good times but be mindful of bad times to come, and chided Channel 4 for not being honest early enough about their particular struggles. The hope is that commissioning will pick up over the coming weeks as the ad markets returns to something more like normality, while fingers are crossed that the U.S. labor action will end swiftly (talks will finally resume between the WGA and AMPTP next week). In the interim, producers fear dozens of freelancers could vacate the industry in a bid to find work, and Bectu has written to the AMPTP urging financial assistance for UK crew suffering during the strikes. Patience is wearing thin.
Pact vs Equity: Speaking of the labor action, McVay had a few choice words for British actors union Equity’s General Secretary Paul Fleming. Never one to mince words, McVay branded Fleming’s recent remarks that there could be industrial action in the UK in the next 12 months “unhelpful,” adding that Fleming’s comments “may have warmed the cockles of his union colleagues but we’re always trying to fix things and want to keep everyone working.” Pact and Equity are about to start thrashing out a new deal for which Equity’s demands are similar to that of SAG-AFTRA’s, and, at the time the newsletter hit your inbox, Equity hadn’t responded to McVay’s riposte. Both Equity and Writers Guild of Great Britain (WGGB) reps were at the annual Trades Union Congress this week, and WGGB President Sandi Toksvig used the opportunity to lay down a WGGB motion urging streamers to end their practice of “buy-out agreements” and embrace residuals, which aligns with the WGA’s demands. The U.S. labor action is most definitely being felt on this side of the pond, and at present there is little end in sight.
Tales From TIFF
‘Stop Making Sense’: The Toronto International Film Festival closes this Saturday with Sylvester Stallone’s Netflix doc Sly. Across two packed weeks, TIFF has debuted an assortment of new features, including Hayao Miyazaki’s final film, The Boy and the Heron (Kimitachi wa Dou Ikiru Ka), which opened the fest. Other highlight premieres from this year’s slate included The Dead Don’t Die, directed by Viggo Mortensen and starring Vicky Krieps; Kristoffer Borgli’s Dream Scenario with Nicolas Cage; Ellen Kuras’s film Lee, starring Kate Winslet; Daddio, starring Dakota Johnson and Sean Penn; Dominic Savage’s Close to You, starring Elliot Page; and A24’s restoration of The Talking Heads’ classic concert movie, Stop Making Sense. Directed by the late Jonathan Demme, the restoration appeared to be the hottest ticket in town as David Byrne and co turned up with director Spike Lee to open the film. Stop Making Sense is “the greatest concert film ever,” Lee proclaimed as he opened the film. Later in the week, Imax reported that the pic was now its highest-grossing live event after taking $640,839 from 25 simultaneous TIFF screenings across 165 Imax locations in North America and the BFI Imax in London. On the industry side, business has been relatively quiet, meanwhile. We revealed the first major acquisition deal on the ground here with Netflix closing on Woman of the Hour, the fact-based thriller that marks the directing debut of Anna Kendrick. The deal is said to be around the $11 million mark. You can check out all of our TIFF reporting here and Deadline’s reviews from Canada here.
It’s An Honor
Me old China: China’s relationship with the international TV market has been full of promise, false starts, make ups and break ups over the years. Following the pandemic, things really cooled off, so the announcement this week that China would be Mipcom Cannes’ Country of Honour in October was a surprise. The Asian industrial powerhouse will put on a show in France next month, running a session presented by the China Pavilion on the country’s latest output, discussing Chinese TV’s evolution and holding masterclasses on successful format adaptations (those long enough in the tooth will remember when the only stories around China and international formats were based around allegations of theft and copycat programs). In total, more than 300 Chinese delegates are expected, the biggest figure since 2019, which was a year after China was last named Country of Honour. Most notably, as Mipcom kicks off on Monday, Tencent VP and Tencent Online Video CEO Sun Zhonghuai will deliver a keynote speech in the Palais des Festivals’ Grand Auditorium. He’ll reveal secrets of how art and technology shape streaming giant Tencent’s strategy and how international players can partner with the company in the future. Sounds like China wants to reunite with its old flames, and light up some new ones.
Bad Day, Mate
Aussie cuts: To Australia, where Jesse reported on plans to ax several screen funding programs. “Hard to comprehend” and “disaster” were two of the less choice phrases uttered by Aussie producers body Screen Producers Australia. “It shows disappointing short-term thinking about the value of the screen industry,” added CEO Matthew Deaner. Australia’s Labor government, for what it’s worth, claims the cuts to the Made in NSW Fund (the Post Digital and Visual Effects, and Digital Games Development Rebate Program are also impacted) are necessary due to A$188M ($121M) being shorn from the Department of Enterprise, Investment and Trade’s budgets by the previous incumbents. The likes of local drama Mystery Road, Mad Max 2: Furiosa, Mother and Son, Disney+’s The Artful Dodger and Thor: Love and Thunder have benefitted from the fund, which Screen Producers Australia says created “jobs and multiples of economic activity in in Sydney and regional areas of the state.” Prior to the cuts and U.S. strikes, Australian production had been experiencing something of a purple patch, with the streamers showing renewed interest and big-budget offerings such as Last King of the Cross selling around the world.
Clarkson Back On The Farm
Improved relations: Amazon is preparing for another season at Clarkson’s Farm. That’s right, the show that us TV trade journalists have been keeping a hell of a watchful eye on since that column is close to fourth season greenlight, per Jake’s report Thursday. Speculation has abounded since commissioner Fozia Khan said at last month’s Edinburgh TV Festival she had been “shocked and disappointed” by Clarkson’s remarks, while outgoing chief Dan Grabiner described the show as “bigger than Clarkson.” Clearly not big enough to boot the host out as of yet, it seems, with Jake reporting on those familiar with the matter saying discussions have been positive and there is ambition on both sides to bring the show back, with the former Top Gear troublemaker at the helm. We understand Grabiner has been influential over past months in the decision not to immediately cull Amazon’s most popular UK series, but he is off shortly to set up his own prodco, Orchard Studios, and attention now turns to the strategy of his replacement, Tara Erer. A few days after we revealed Grabiner’s exit, Amazon also revealed it was losing UK and Pan-English Scripted Head of Production Frank Murray, who is launching a Transatlantic film and TV production venture with an “eight-figure equity investment” from New York.
🌶️ Hot One: eOne international sales boss Stuart Baxter (pictured) is exiting, according to Jesse’s report.
🌶️ Another One: A Man Called Otto producer SF Studios has shut its UK production arm as part of a restructure.
🌶️ Triple heat: Paramount+ UK unscripted boss Daniel Pearl is moving to Lion TV.
🤝 Done deal: For Miyazaki’s The Boy and the Heron in the UK.
⛺ Festival latest: Jessica Chastain will be feted with Zurich’s Golden Icon Award.
🏪 Setting up shop: President Obama photographer Anna Wilding has launched Broader Horizons Entertainment.
🏪 Setting up another shop: Four film and TV music supervisors have banded together to create 45RPM. Read Diana’s interview.
👏 Oscars: ITV is the new UK home of the world’s biggest award ceremony, picking up rights after Sky’s 20 year run.
🍿 Box Office: Shah Rukh Khan’s Jawan thrilled at home and abroad, per Nancy’s latest.
🤖 AI latest: Italian broadacster Rai has ordered a celebrity improv series in which a machine generates “unpredictable situations, rules and games.”
💵 Cash: Japan’s Visual Industry Promotion Organization and Japan Film Commission announced an incentives program for offshore film and TV productions shooting in the country.
🎥 Trailer: For Nada, Hulu’s upcoming series in which Robert De Niro can be seen embracing colorful Argentine slang.
🪓 Breaking Baz: Our roving International Editor-at-Large chatted to director James Hawes about working with Anthony Hopkins and Johnny Flynn on One Life.
Zac Ntim and Jesse Whittock contributed to this week’s Insider.