EXCLUSIVE: Now might be the perfect time for more faith-based features to get in on the box office hunger that’s propelled Christian-themed fare like Fox’s Son Of God and Freestyle Releasing’s God’s Not Dead into the Top 10. True-tale biopic Noble is one such film aiming to join the fray as it makes festival rounds and screens for buyers this month in LA and NY before heading to Cannes. Deirdre O’Kane (Moon Boy) stars as Christina Noble, a humanitarian and author who channeled her deprived and destitute childhood growing up on the streets of Dublin, Ireland into a lifelong mission to help children in need in Vietnam and Mongolia. Noble founded the Christina Noble Childrens Foundation in 1989 and wrote two books about her life’s work. Stephen Bradley wrote and directed the film, based on Noble’s life, which also stars Downton Abbey‘s Brendan Coyle, Game of Thrones‘ Liam Cunningham, and Sarah Greene. Melanie Gore-Grimes produced the UK/Irish pic, which was filmed in Vietnam, Liverpool, and Cumbria. Michael J. Hunt exec produced for his Ansty Productions. Noble won the Panavision Grand Prize at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and the Audience Award at the Dallas International Film Festival, and next stops by the Nashville Film Festival and Newport Beach Film Fest. Continental Media is repping sales. Check out the trailer exclusively on Deadline:
Emmy season is revving up already even though the primetime awards show won’t be happening until the end of summer (Monday August 25th on NBC). But if you want to vote, the first major deadline looms tomorrow April 17, the last day to join the Academy, renew your membership or apply for hyphenate ballots in order to cast a ballot in this year’s contest. There is always a surge of interest in joining the Academy around this time of year. In fact, last season there was a substantial increase in membership, primarily in order to cast an Emmy ballot. It’s not uncommon to see applications coming in bulk from staffs of shows that want those nominations, but unless these hopefuls apply by Thursday they will have to wait until next year.
In addition to the deadline, the Television Academy (as it now calls itself – and full disclosure I am on the Board Of Governors representing Writers) just sent out a formal letter this week to the eligible membership (now well over 16,000 and climbing) regarding instructions for online voting, which is being instituted for the first time this season.
X Files veteran Frank Spotnitz moved to London for Cinemax/BBC series Hunted a few years back, and in 2013 launched London-based Big Light Productions. Now, he’s digging even further into the UK TV scene. Spotnitz and Nicholas Meyer (Houdini) have created crime series Freud: The Secret Casebook. NBC Universal-owned Downton Abbey producer Carnival Films will produce with Big Light. The period drama will see Sigmund Freud become the world’s first criminal profiler. Set in early 20th century Vienna, the series will focus on Freud as he uses his startling new theories about psychology to help solve crimes, and will blend episodic murder mysteries with the on-going tale of the psychoanalyst-cum-detective’s tangled and provocative personal life. The project is out to cast and directors. Downton‘s Gareth Neame is exec producing with Nigel Marchant for Carnival; Alan Gasmer (Vikings), Matt Baer (Unbroken) and Christian Popp and Alexander Keil of Germany’s Producers at Work are also exec producing. Spotnitz is keeping busy in Europe these days. He was at Mip-TV in Cannes last week to talk about his gig as showrunner on the second season of TNT pick-up Transporter The Series, and he also unveiled Big Light’s new first-look distribution deal with Tandem Communications. Transporter, which he boarded in season two, will air on TNT later this year.
In late March, BBC Director General Tony Hall announced the broadcaster’s greatest commitment to the arts in a generation. Part of the plans outlined at the time called for a further three filmed adaptations of Shakespeare’s History plays for BBC Two, including a new version of Richard III. Today, BBC Two confirmed on its Twitter feed that Benedict Cumberbatch will trade his kingdom for a horse as the titular king. The telefilm will be executive produced by Sam Mendes, produced by Downton Abbey‘s Rupert Ryle Hodges, written by Ben Power, and directed by former artistic director of the Royal Court Theatre Dominic Cooke in his screen directing debut. Cumberbatch, a Royal Court alum, said, “I can’t wait to work with Dominic Cooke again to bring this complex, funny and dangerous character to life.” The news comes as Cumberbatch is also gearing up for another Shakespearian lead: He’s playing Hamlet on stage in summer 2015 on the West End. Meanwhile, his Sherlock co-star, Martin Freeman, is also set to play Richard III, onstage at London’s Trafalgar Studios from July 1 to September 27 this year.
More than a week after HBO announced that its buzzy True Detective will compete as a drama series at the Emmys, shaking up the drama race as a potential frontrunner, the decision is still a hot topic of conversation, with pundits debating whether the eight-episode series, created by Nic Pizzolatto and starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, belongs in the drama or miniseries category. The latest to weigh in was Mad Men creator Matt Weiner. “I was surprised they did it but I bet that everyone who is in that Drama category said ‘oh s***’,” he told Deadline‘s Pete Hammond. “That makes me think HBO did the right thing.”
HBO had not commented on its Emmy category choice for True Detective until now. Here is what the network’s programming president Michael Lombardo had to say about it. “This project was pitched to us, it was produced by us and marketed by us as a series. Nic never thought of this as a miniseries, and we always treated him as a creator of a series. In our minds this is a series, and the only reason to enter it as a miniseries was a cynical reason that didn’t feel like the right thing to do.”
‘Mad Men’s’ Season 7 Big Hollywood Premiere Buzz: How Does It All End? Why Can’t The Cast Win At Emmys? And Why Does Matt Weiner Welcome HBO’s ‘True Detective’ To Drama Series Race?
AMC threw a Hollywood premiere Wednesday night to kick off what was termed “the beginning of the end.” AMC president Charlie Collier, Mad Men creator Matt Weiner and cast and crew were at the Arclight Theatre for the “Time Zones” episode that begins the first half of Season 7 premiering April 13th. The season marks the final go-round of the landmark four-time Emmy-winning Best Drama Series. The protracted goodbye will be split between seven episodes this spring and the final final episodes in spring 2015.
It was all very bittersweet last night as production actually was just beginning on those even as the premiere was kicking off. In fact, executive producer Scott Hornbacher, who directed the “Time Zones” episode, was late to this party as he is also directing the first of those backend episodes. He told me later at the Chateau Marmont afterparty that it’s going to be tough to end it, pointing to several people in the room he described as “family,” people he saw every day. That was the general consensus I got from so many cast members and AMC execs who have been with this since Day 1. One exec told me he was 24 when he first saw the pilot script. He’s 35 now. Life goes on. And so does Mad Men – at least to the conclusion for this iconic group of characters. CAA’s Bryan Lourd was seated next to me (he reps Weiner) and told me he wouldn’t have missed this event — even though CAA is having its retreat this weekend at La Costa near San Diego and he had to postpone a run-thru there to 11 PM so he could make it down the 405 freeway after the screening.
Endemol Worldwide Distribution has pacted with London-based Origin Pictures, makers of recent BBC mini Death Comes To Pemberley, in an exclusive three-year first-look deal. The partners will jointly develop and finance a new slate of drama series for the UK and international markets, marking a further push by Endemol into scripted projects. Endemol will provide development funding and will handle international rights. The pair previously worked together on Death Comes to Pemberley, which launched at Mipcom last October. Origin Pictures, founded in 2008 by former BBC Films exec David Thompson, works across television and features. Its TV credits include BAFTA nominated mini The Crimson Petal And The White and the upcoming BBC One mini Jamaica Inn starring Downton Abbey‘s Jessica Brown Findlay. On the feature side, Origin has produced 2011 horror pic The Awakening and last year’s Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom.
EXCLUSIVE: Princess Pictures has acquired screen rights to The Traitor’s Wife, the bestseller by Allison Pataki about Benedict Arnold’s historical betrayal of Gen. George Washington. Turns out that behind the most notorious turncoat of the American Revolutionary War was a wife half his age who orchestrated the whole thing. Peggy Shippen Arnold was a beautiful socialite with a loyalty to the British that led her to exploit her husband’s disillusionment into a scandalous move.
The label will team with Anonymous Content, which is coming off HBO’s True Detective. Washington learned of the plot when British Major John Andre was caught with Arnold’s traitorous documents in his boot. While Andre was hanged, Arnold fled and became a Brigadier General for the Brits. There has been a lot of chatter in the press about screen interest on this book by Pataki, who’s the daughter of former New York Gov. George Pataki. The film will be exec produced by Princess’ Pamela Fielder and David B. Ford, and Doreen Wilcox Little, Anonymous Content and Paul Green. Paradigm brokered the book deal with Lacy Lynch of Dupree/Miller, and Princess Pictures was also repped by Paradigm and attorneys Barry Hirsh and Ryan Nord.
UPDATE, 6:40 AM: GMA gang this morning told viewers that Josh Elliott is leaving the show to go to work for NBC Sports, marking the second successful poaching of a GMA cast member by NBCU, and that he would be replaced as news anchor by Amy Robach, who was on the scene – Elliott himself was on “vacation.” Meanwhile, over at NBC, Al Roker publicly congratulated Elliot, via Twitter, for his “conscious uncoupling” from GMA/ABC. Watch here:
ABC US News | ABC Business News
UPDATE, 6:30 AM: Josh Elliott‘s former Good Morning America colleague Sam Champion weighed in this morning on Elliott’s announced exit from the ABC morning infotainment show to go to work for NBC Sports. Champion, who was also poached by NBCU and now works at The Weather Channel, called it “a great opportunity for Josh’s heart,” adding, “I know that fans of GMA are not loving it.” Watch here:
PREVIOUS, SUNDAY PM: After an intense negotiation with ABC News, Good Morning America news anchor Josh Elliott is leaving the network for NBC Sports. ABC News wasted no time in announcing his replacement: Amy Robach, who has been part of the GMA team for some time, including filling in for Robin Roberts at various moments when she was out for medical reasons. Elliott, who had been making about $1.2 million salary at GMA, turned down an offer to stay with the show for $4-$5 million. After his fellow anchor Lara Spencer nailed down a lucrative multiyear contract Thursday, Elliott raised his ask to $10 million a year. With Elliott, NBC is getting a strong sports guy — a next generation Bob Costas — who previously worked at ESPN. Per the terms of Elliott’s exit, he cannot appear on NBC’s Today for six months according to people familiar with the situation. Elliott is the second member of the ensemble team that put GMA in first place in the morning show ratings race, and to depart for an NBCUniversal property. In December, NBCU successfully poached longtime GMA weatherman Sam Champion who is now a bigwig at their Weather Channel. In much the same way they did today, ABC announced Champion’s replacement, Ginger Zee, minutes after it was reported that he was leaving. In the wake of Champion’s departure, GMA has scored some of its highest ratings ever.
One of the most intriguing questions of this year’s Emmy season has been answered, with HBO‘s buzzy True Detective opting to compete as a drama series. The project, created by Nic Pizzolatto and starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, was sold and done as an eight-episode limited series, which easily would’ve qualified it as a miniseries. FX’s anthology series American Horror Story, which airs 13-episode installments, started off in the drama series category at the 2012 Golden Globes before switching to longform for the 2012 Emmy Awards. It has competed as a miniseries ever since and has been dominant in Emmy nominations, landing 17 last year. The drama field is far more competitive and tough as PBS’ Downton Abbey found out after switching from miniseries to drama series after Season 1. Still, winning a drama series Emmy has a big cachet to it. Plus, True Detective does employ drama series storytelling techniques. But an entry as a miniseries would’ve pretty much guaranteed the moody Louisiana series a dominant performance and a slew of trophies. Now it will go against the final installment of AMC’s Breaking Bad among other drama heavyweights. With the TV Academy restoring separate best TV movie and best miniseries categories and True Detective not entering as mini, the longform field has a lot of room this year. Ryan Murphy is behind top contenders on both sides — film The Normal Heart and mini AHS. With the slew of event series put in the pipeline by the networks not slated to premiere until after the end of this year’s eligibility period (Fox’s 24: Live Another Day, for example, debuts in May and won’t qualify for 2014 Emmys), AHS‘ top competitor will likely be FX’s Fargo.
AMC Studios has tapped The Book Thief director Brian Percival (Downton Abbey) to helm the pilot for Knifeman, the drama about a charming, arrogant surgeon who robs graves and harvests organs in 18th century London. Rolin Jones (United States of Tara) wrote the pilot, adapted from Wendy Moore’s John Hunter biography The Knife Man: Blood, Body Snatching and the Birth of Modern Surgery, which he developed with Ron Fitzgerald; both will exec produce. Another 2014 AMC pilot, Galyntine, will be directed by David Mackenzie (Starred Up, Perfect Sense). The fantasy-action adventure with hints of sci-fi is set in a postapocalyptic future without technology where a band of survivors is forced to adapt to isolation and the challenges of their new world. Jason Cahill (Halt and Catch Fire) wrote the pilot and is exec producing with The Walking Dead‘s Greg Nicotero. Scott Free’s David Zucker and Ridley Scott also are executive producing through their first-look deal with AMC. Knifeman and Galytine are being eyed for 2015 series pickups. The network is premiering new series Halt and Catch Fire, Turn and Better Call Saul this year.
Related: 2014 AMC Pilots
WARNING: This article contains several spoilers regarding TV series plot lines. Stop now if you don’t want to know who might have died in one of your favorite shows.
Could the sudden and shocking murder of Josh Charles’ character Will Gardner last night on The Good Wife actually turn out to be a smart move come Emmy time? The evidence is mounting that getting killed off a series might not be good for your bank account but could be a blessing in disguise for any successful Emmy campaign. Lately it seems that way. Charles is bound to get more attention awards-wise this season than ever, and the launch of the campaign might well be tonight when he makes a shrewdly timed appearance on Late Night With David Letterman. As Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva first reported last night, Charles wanted off the show and was convinced to stay through much of this season in order to tie up his storyline and kill off Will.
UPDATED: CBS‘ The Good Wife already went through a major reset at the beginning of the season when Alicia (Julianna Margulies) left Lockhart Gardner, finding herself locking horns with her former boss, friend (and on-and-off flame) Will Gardner (Josh Charles). But that was just a little ripple compared to the shock wave that hit the show tonight. Here is the story behind the stunner, with The Good Wife creators/showrunners Michelle and Robert King, who wrote the episode, discussing the major exit, its impact on the show and what lies ahead. Warning for DVR viewers — this story contains a major spoiler. Proceed with caution.
PREVIOUS, MONDAY PM: Paul Greengrass tonight delivered BAFTA’s David Lean Lecture — the London-based org’s annual talk for the world’s leading filmmakers — and issued stark warnings for the health of the UK’s directing industry. The British filmmaking scene was in good shape, he said, thanks to the area’s “simple and transparent tax breaks” which encourage Hollywood studios to invest. But he warned the industry must leverage the studios’ buying power to encourage some of that Hollywood money back into UK content.
To a full house that included British talent like Richard Curtis, Miranda Richardson and Mat Whitecross, Greengrass offered a wide-ranging talk that covered his first steps into filmmaking and his vision of the future of the business. He heaped praise on Hollywood, and said “a lot of baloney” was talked about the U.S. industry’s priorities. Hollywood is not a place run entirely by cynical hacks, he said. “It’s full of smart and committed people, who understand filmmakers… And it also has guilds and trade unions with power and voice. That’s why the studios are looking for places that don’t, and that’s why they come [to the UK].”
But he warned that UK directors have a hard time making follow-up features at home after their debuts, and that the situation in British TV is especially dire. He claimed directors earn less in residuals for helming the likes of Doctor Who and Downton Abbey than stunt performers.
“Oh my gosh! WOW! Oh, my gosh! Okay, So Hi! I’m Daniel!” the young man began. “Oh sh*t! Oh my god! So, um, to be fair to the show, you guys all seem so natural on the show, even when — you guys seem so chill, and I want to know, are you guys always like that, off-camera?!” he emoted while hopping about. “Oh my gosh! I’m right here! Oh my gosh!” Daniel said, beginning to foam over as he discovered his image was being projected on a giant screen over the cast, so that the show’s many fans in the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood could see him as he asked his question. “And, um, like, I want to know, you guys seem to embody the characters, and become your characters. Retta, are you always, ‘Oh, damn! Bitch!?” concluded Daniel, who was just another super-fan attending PaleyFest in the theater, but would likely have been Tasered had he come within three feet of the cast members outside the theater on Hollywood Blvd. Unless, of course, he’s an actor punking PaleyFest for JKL which has its studio just down the road.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about! I’m not like that OK? Shit! Fuck!” joked Retta, who plays Donna Meagle, the office manager at the Pawnee Indiana Parks and Recreation Department on the NBC comedy.
“All I’m asking is, Are you guys always like that?! Are you always like a klutz?!” Daniel continued – that question apparently was directed at Jim O’Heir, who fell out of his chair on cue.
“Yeah! So, that’s like my question. OK?!” Daniel concluded.
The cast, and show co-creator Mike Schur, stood and gave Daniel a standing ovation. Daniel began to hyperventilate and record the moment on his camera.
In a sign of the ongoing pull of the UK as a filming location, Disney Channel‘s new multi-part movie Evermoor is gearing up to shoot in Britain. Disney Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) has co-commissioned the longform live-action mystery/adventure/comedy with Disney U.S. It will air on Disney Channel in 160 global territories from the fall. Liverpool-based The Only Way Is Essex producer Lime Pictures, which is owned by All3Media, will make Evermoor for Disney. The story follows Tara Bailey, an American teen who is uprooted from her city home in the U.S. and brought to a beautiful but isolated village on the edge of some very creepy moors in middle England. As her famous novelist mom and step-dad are busy unpacking at Evermoor Manor, Tara, her brother, and her British step-siblings try to adjust to life in their new home. It’s not long before danger, mystery and intrigue unfurl.
Evermoor breaks new ground for Disney, becoming its first live-action movie produced in the UK for broadcast on Disney Channel in the U.S. But it’s no surprise such a Disney project would land in Britain. Already, the movie studio consistently films big features at Pinewood — including the next Star Wars installment later this year. And Marvel titles are regularly shot at Shepperton. But overall, new and expanded TV and film tax credits have made Hollywood sit up — and in some cases line up — to access the market which has a skilled crew base and great facilities.
A rash of acquisitions of European and U.S. independent production companies has been steadily spreading over the past year and a bit. One exec says, “We joke that there’s a transaction a day.” Leading the charge is the UK’s ITV, which has been on a shopping spree since it first bought a controlling stake in Duck Dynasty maker Gurney Productions in late 2012. Also acquisitive has been the Pro Sieben-owned Red Arrow, which recently bought Say Yes To The Dress maker Half Yard Prods. But it’s a two-way street: NBCUniversal already owns Downton Abbey producer Carnival Films in the UK as well as Monkey Kingdom and Chocolate Media, among others. Warner Bros last month entered an agreement to take over the global interests, outside the U.S., of Dutch company Eyeworks, and has a majority stake in UK production group Shed Media. Core Media is also known to have its eyes open to UK purchases. What’s more, many of these outfits also own companies in the hot Nordic region. And now there’s word that giant FremantleMedia may be moving in on vast group All3Media. A TV industry exec says, “We had the super-indies and now there’s a new breed of mega-indies.” If FremantleMedia acquires All3Media, it would create what an observer describes as “a very big beast.” Fremantle is a large group with significant turnover and some of their properties are getting older, an exec suggests. “It’s very difficult to replace that scale just through new productions.” However, I’m cautioned that should a deal be done, it won’t be in the imminent future.
So what’s been driving all this consolidation and cross-pollination? For one, with TV channels proliferating in the U.S., whether it be via basic cable or digital platforms, foreign outfits see a prime opportunity to establish a foothold and build scale. In the reverse, U.S. companies moving into the booming UK production sector know that broadcasters are doling out a lot of cash for original content.
Global Showbiz Briefs: British Film Institute Taps 3 For Governing Board; BBC Two Drama ‘Banished’ Adds 4 To Cast; More
British Film Institute Add 3 To Governing Board
The British Film Institute has appointed three new members to its Governing Board: Sony’s Andrea Wong, Blueprint Pictures’ Pete Czernin and UK TV host Jonathan Ross. Wong is President of International Production at Sony Pictures Television and President of International for Sony Pictures Entertainment. Among other duties, the London-based exec oversees Sony’s creative teams outside the U.S. as well as the 18 owned and joint venture international production companies around the world. Czernin co-founded London-based film producer Blueprint Pictures, whose titles include The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Seven Psychopaths and In Bruges. Czernin is prepping the release of Lone Sherfig’s Posh and is in production on Marigold Hotel 2, which is shooting in India with Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Richard Gere and others. Ross is a veteran of the BBC and now presents The Jonathan Ross Show on ITV. The BFI Board of Governors is chaired by Greg Dyke and co-chaired by Libby Savill. The other governors include Warner Bros’ Josh Berger and director Tom Hooper.