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.
The judges are set for 13th annual edition of the event founded by Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro and Craig Hatkoff. The seven competition juries for the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival include 33 filmmakers, writers, producers, actors, journalists and entrepreneurs. The World Narrative Competition judges are Lake Bell, Steve Conrad, Bart Freundlich, Catherine Hardwicke and Ben Younger. Jurors for other categories include Toni Collette, Whoopi Goldberg, Jeff Goldblum, Alfonso Arau, Heather Graham, Anton Yelchin, HBO’s Sheila Nevins and Google’s Regina Dugan. The Nas rap docu Time Is Illmatic will open the fest, which runs April 16-27 in NYC. The recently re-retitled Begin Again closes it. Here is the full list of jurors and categories:
Studiocanal-owned Tandem Communications (Crossing Lines) has pacted with X Files veteran Frank Spotnitz‘s Big Light Productions in a first-look distrbution deal. Spotnitz is in Cannes this week in support of the second season of Atlantique Productions’ Transporter The Series, on which he is showrunner. He was also on hand for the announcement this afternoon of the new deal with Tandem, saying he has a slate of projects at Big Light that are looking for the best partners and the best distribution platforms. The writer/producer founded London-based Big Light in 2013 after he moved to the British capital for Cinemax/BBC series Hunted, and found he wanted to stay. Projects being developed at Big Light include work from some U.S. talent, but overall are ambitious European drama series that will have global appeal. They’ll also draw on the best lessons he has been able to bring from the States. At the same time, he is enjoying the local sensibilities. “When you come to Europe, you wake up,” he said. “Hollywood people make lots of money, and here people do it out of passion.” Spotnitz added, “I love many, many things about Hollywood,” but says he’s found that in Europe, people work hard “because they want it to be good… In Hollywood, popularity is always first.” Tandem’s President Rola Bauer did not elaborate on terms of the deal, but said the company had been keen to …
Melissa George has been tapped as the female lead opposite Rufus Sewell in ABC’s Richard LaGravenese drama pilot. Also cast in the pilot, in the vein of Dangerous Liaisons, is Elliot Knight. The untitled project is set in New York and revolves around the love and rivalry between two equally matched, powerful socialites, Philip Fitzgerald Julien (Sewell) and Margot Worth Cole (George), who play out their obsessive attraction and seduction of each other through their manipulation of others. Brit Knight, repped by Resolution, Affirmative Entertainment, UK’s Payne Management and Mike Adler, plays Philip’s right-hand man Leo who is loyal to his boss and keeps all of his secrets. This marks the second consecutive ABC/ABC Studios drama pilot for Aussie George, who toplined Gothica last season. She also played the lead in the Cinemax/BBC drama Hunted.
Related: 2014 ABC Pilots
House alumna Odette Annable is set as one of the main leads in ABC‘s 10-episode summer drama series The Astronaut Wives Club, from Fake Empire, Groundswell Productions and ABC Studios. Written by Stephanie Savage based on Lily Koppel’s book, it tells the real story of the women who stood beside some of the biggest heroes in American history during the height of the space race. Annable will play Trudy Cooper, the youngest of the Astro-wives and a licensed pilot herself.
Related: 2014 ABC Pilots
After 300: Rise Of An Empire had an opening-week global gross of $136 million and resuscitated the franchise potential of a first film that ended with a bloody pile of 300 dead Spartans, the town is asking: who the heck is this Sullivan Stapleton, avenger of Spartans, scourge of Persians and the latest guy in town with a star look and a six-pack? And more importantly, when is he available to reinforce to Hollywood that he’s got the goods to become its next leading man?
I caught up with Stapleton as he was home in Melbourne, recuperating from a concussion suffered in Bangkok while he was there filming Strike Back, the Cinemax series he stars in with Philip Winchester. He has done barely any press. That knock on the head kept him from being able to fly, which knocked him out of the chance to do the tour for the 300 sequel. A few things about Stapleton: he’s Australian, and like most of the actors who grew up in the business there before coming to these shores, he’s got a working-class attitude and is not at all full of himself. When you speak to him, you call him Sully. He looks like an edgier version of Pierce Brosnan, and in an age where Hollywood continues to build franchises around young actors who’ve barely passed puberty, Stapleton is (gasp!) 36 years old and is the first new face to come along in the action game in awhile who actually looks like a man. Though he will the first to admit that getting older takes a toll.
“My head is good now, but I’ve been thinking I must be getting older, because I took a hit to the head that hurt a bit more than it did when I fell all the time when I was a kid,” he said. “It was an accident, my head hit the road, and they put me in a hospital in Bangkok and then I came here to my mom’s house for rest, relaxation and more tests. Unfortunately, it means that I couldn’t do the 300 tour, which was sad for me because I love that film. I am so thankful to the bosses at Warner Bros for giving me that job, and the guys from Strike Back who have allowed me time to get over this head wound. Obviously, that opening weekend helped the cause.”
House Of Cards‘ Sebastian Arcelus and Gerald McRaney are joining the cast of Relativity’s Nicholas Sparks adaptation The Best Of Me. Directed by Michael Hoffman (The Last Station, The Emperor’s Club), The Best Of Me tells the story of Dawson and Amanda, two former high school sweethearts who find themselves reunited after 20 years apart, when they return to their small town for the funeral of a beloved friend. Their bittersweet reunion reignites the love they’ve never forgotten, but soon they discover the forces that drove them apart twenty years ago live on, posing even more serious threats today.
Cinemax‘s first primetime drama series Strike Back had been filming its 10-episode fourth and final season in Bangkok, Thailand when one of its two stars, Sullivan Stapleton, suffered a serious injury while exploring the town in his free time. As a result, filming of the series will take a six-month break so he can recover. Because of Strike Back‘s action nature, the roles of stars Stapleton and Philip Winchester are physically demanding, often involving stunt work, which requires them to be in perfect physical condition that often includes intensive pre-filming training. Production will continue in Thailand through March as scheduled before it takes a break, resuming in the fall in Hungary. In the next few weeks, the series will be filming around Stapleton. He stars in the upcoming 300: Rise Of An Empire, which opens next week, so I hear Stapleton had filmed a lot of his Strike Back scenes in order to accommodate the standard carve-out given to actors on series who have a movie to promote. His injury will likely impact his promotional plans for 300.
VES Awards: ‘Gravity’ Wins 6 Including Top Prize; ‘Frozen’ Goes 4-For-4; 3 Nods For ‘Game Of Thrones’
The much talked-about visual effects in Alfonso Cuaron’s space thriller dazzled even the pros, as Gravity floated away with six wins at the VES Awards tonight. The pic won in all but one of its categories, including the big prize of Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Feature Motion Picture. Cuaron capped off his film’s big night with the Visual Effects Society’s Visionary Award. Cuaron accepting his honor said briefly, “Finally, visual effects are merging into the whole process of the cinematic experience,” the filmmaker said in his acceptance speech. “It’s about the integration of lights, sets and even actors.” Gravity continued its awards-season momentum, following up on big wins at the Art Directors Guild Awards, the American Society of Cinematographers Awards and DGA Awards.
Meanwhile, Frozen further cemented its Oscar front-runner status with wins in all four of its categories. Pacific Rim, which entered the 12th annual VES Awards with six nominations, second only to Gravity, went home empty-handed. And, just like last year, HBO’s Game Of Thrones was the big winner on the TV side with three VES Awards, also missing out in just one of its nommed categories. The evening also featured a tribute to VFX pioneer Ray Harryhausen, who died in May, and a Lifetime Achievement Award to Oscar and Emmy winner John Dykstra, whose credits range from the original Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica to Spider-Man and Django Unchained. As the 186-minute show ending, host Patton Oswalt quipped, “”Omigod! Who’s president now!?”
Here is the complete list of winners, followed by our live blog, with Anthony D’Alessandro on the scene:
Does the Time Warner CEO need a refresher in the difference between TV “viewers” and “ratings”? It couldn’t hurt after he mistakenly confused the two in a comment to analysts on Wednesday that Starz challenged. Jeff Bewkes wanted to demonstrate that Cinemax — usually overshadowed by HBO — is an “underappreciated asset.” To drive home the point he added: “In 2013, we actually had more viewing at Cinemax than at Starz and basically, the same viewing at Cinemax as at Showtime.” The problem? “He meant ‘ratings,’ not ‘viewership’,” a company spokesman tells me. The error is meaningful: Starz is in more households than Cinemax, and usually handily beats the Time Warner channel in the number of eyeballs it attracts. For example, Starz averaged 232,000 live-plus-same-day viewers last year vs. 158,000 for Cinemax, according to Nielsen data supplied by Starz. Bewkes’ initial “viewership” claim “is not substantiated when examined through the lens of all accepted audience measurement standards,” Starz says. Nielsen data show that “Starz bested Cinemax in households and in total viewers P2+ for total day, in prime time, in live-only viewing, and in every live+DVR measure, both for the flagship Starz network and the multiplex channels.” Easy to see why Time Warner prefers to look instead at ratings, the percentage of potential audience that tunes in. The Cinemax-brand channels collectively had a 1.0 total day rating in …
The company didn’t make a direct connection to Netflix — but the comparisons, especially in profitability (see chart below), become irresistible now that Time Warner reports results for HBO, previously lumped with Turner networks. This morning’s numbers scratch the surface; other filings should tell us much more. The company intends to take advantage of HBO’s financial firepower: HBO will increase spending and hours for original series in 2014, CEO Jeff Bewkes told analysts. Much of the spending will boost Cinemax, which he calls “an under-appreciated asset” with more viewers than Starz and about about the same as Showtime. HBO, the channel, accounts for about two-third of the operation’s 45M domestic and 85M overseas subs. Execs also noted that subs are growing at a healthy pace, with domestic up by 2M in 2013. International revenues account for 25% of the unit’s total — a number that’s expected to grow. Bewkes says that Netflix, Amazon and Hulu have had “no discernible effect” on HBO so far.
Here’s how HBO and Netflix compare on the top and bottom lines:
Franka Potente (The Bourne Identity), Amaury Nolasco (Prison Break) and Elizabeth Rodriguez (Orange Is The New Black) are among a septet of actors who have joined Cinemax‘s drama pilot Blanco, starring Shiloh Fernandez. Written by Mark Rosner and directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, the pilot, from Fox TV Studios and Lakeshore Entertainment, centers on Ruben (Fernandez), an uptown gangster — nicknamed Blanco for being a light-skinned Dominican — who uses his status as a confidential informant to turn the tables on law enforcement and build his criminal empire. Potente will play Leslee, Blanco’s girlfriend; Nolasco is cast as Jesus, Blanco’s brother; and Rodriguez, repped by Stone Manners Salners Agency and Opus Entertainment, will play NYPD Detective Stephanie Gomez. Also cast in the pilot are Sebastian Arcelus (House Of Cards) as Blanco’s lawyer Andy Silver, Audrey Esparza (The Following) as Blanco’s brother’s girlfriend Veronica, Erik LaRay Harvey (Boardwalk Empire) as NYPD Detective Mike LeBeau, and Alex Hernandez (Law & Order: SVU) as Blanco’s associate Nando.
Alan Ball’s True Blood may be coming to an end, but his Cinemax‘s series Banshee is only gaining momentum. The action series, now in its second season, just snagged another early renewal for a third season to air next year. It comes after three episodes, with Episode 4 slated for tomorrow night. Executive produced by Ball, Jonathan Tropper, David Schickler, Peter Macdissi and Greg Yaitanes, Banshee stars Antony Starr as Lucas Hood, an ex-con and master thief who tracks down Carrie Hopewell (Ivana Milicevic), his former lover and partner in crime, who has reinvented herself as the wife of the Banshee, PA prosecutor. In Banshee, Hood assumes the identity of the town’s sheriff and continues his criminal activities, even as he’s hunted by the shadowy gangsters he betrayed years earlier. Cinemax’s other original action series, Strike Back, was recently renewed for a fourth and final season.
EXCLUSIVE: HBO has optioned the novel Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt for a comedy series, which will be executive produced by former HBO entertainment president-turned-producer Sue Naegle and top comedy producer, 3 Arts’ David Miner (30 Rock, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Parks & Recreation). The project, set in Charlotte, North Carolina’s high society, is described as a scathing comic window into the dysfunction of the American family, as Old South traditions clash with 21st Century realities of sex, race, religion and class. Barnhardt will co-executive produce. Search is underway for a writer to pen the project, with Barnhardt involved at the story stage. Naegle, who left HBO in September, also serves as an executive producer on Robert Kirkman’s drama Outcast for HBO sibling Cinemax and Fox International Channels. The Lookaway, Lookaway novel is repped by RWSG.
66th Annual DGA Awards: Alfonso Cuarón Wins Best Feature Film Director For ‘Gravity’, TV Winners Include Vince Gilligan ‘Breaking Bad’, Steven Soderbergh ‘Behind The Candelabra’, Beth McCarthy-Miller ’30 Rock’, Glenn Weiss ‘Tony Awards’ Don Roy King ‘Saturday Night Live’
UPDATED WITH ALL WINNERS AND SPEECHES: The 66th annual DGA Awards was held tonight at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles, hosted by Jane Lynch. The DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film went to Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity. This was his first DGA nomination. Cuaron reflected on his research for the film, which in many ways, focuses on Gravity‘s philosophical commentary on humanity. “We saw all these photographs of earth from space, and it’s absolutely beautiful; hues of greens and blues,” explained Cuaron, “Everything seems so organic (from space). Those silly lines and boundaries we put on political maps, you can’t see that from space. It’s a bizarre experiment of nature, that is the human experience. And it’s what we as directors try to sort out as filmmakers.” It’s worth recalling that while cuaron hasn’t made a bad movie, getting Gravity made was very difficult. Universal kicked it to the curb after Angelina Jolie dropped out. Warner bros took it in, but it was in peril after Robert Downey Jr. decided not to play the role George Clooney wound up playing. the studio looked at several actresses including Natalie Portman, before deciding on Sandra Bullock. It was a real show of faith by Warner Bros, whose movie chief Jeff Robinov championed the project. It has become an outsized global hit, following in the footsteps of Life Of Pi and Avatar. It was this movie that inspired TriStar’s Tom Rothman to want to make his first film To Reach The Clouds, the Robert Zemeckis directed film about Philippe Petit’s groundbreaking high wire walk from the North to South Tower of the World Trade Center in 1974. They are hoping Joseph Gordon Levitt will play him and that production will begin by summer. In the other major film award, Jehane Noujaim was honored as Best Documentary Director for The Square. TV winners included Vince Gilligan for Breaking Bad’s “Felina” episode, Steven Soderbergh for Behind The Candelabra and Beth McCarthy-Miller for the 30 Rock finale.
Transporter The Series has found a new U.S. home. TNT has picked up the first and upcoming second season of the international series, which will debut on the network in fall 2014. (watch trailer below) Season 2 is going into production on February 26, with shooting planned for Morocco, the Czech Republic and Canada. Based on Luc Besson’s Transporter film franchise, the series stars Chris Vance as professional transporter Frank Martin, who can always be counted on to get the job done — discreetly. The project has had a bumpy ride: It was picked up by Cinemax in early 2011, but the project suffered several setbacks during the filming of its first season, including a showrunner change and a production shutdown when Vance was sidelined by an injury. Cinemax ultimately opted not to air the series but, based on the solid performance of the first season in France, Canada and some Fox International territories, the producers decided to proceed with a second season, with The X-Files veteran Frank Spotnitz as new showrunner.
Vance is a familiar face to TNT viewers; he has a recurring role on the network’s flagship drama Rizzoli & Isles, in which he plays Casey Jones, Jane Rizzoli’s on-again-off-again romantic interest.
2ND UPDATE 2:16 PM: The NPD Group today issued a “data clarification” about its Monday press release that said its study found that streaming services are gaining while premium cable channels are losing subscribers. A day after Showtime refuted those findings, NPD Group said it should not have called our declines for HBO and Showtime.”Upon further examination of the results,” the group said in the release, “there is data supporting the conclusion that individual subscribers are either subscribing to more channels, or adding channels over time.” Here’s the full statement: “A recent press announcement from The NPD Group that was released on Monday, January 20, 2014 (‘Cord Shaving? SVOD Subscribers Increase, as Premium TV Subscribers Decline, According to The NPD Group’) should not have called out declines in subscribers for specific premium TV channels, HBO and Showtime. The data used for the press release pertains to aggregate results for all premium TV channels and does indicate that the overall number of subscribers has declined, based on a representative sample of the U.S. population. However, upon further examination of the results, there is data supporting the conclusion that individual subscribers are either subscribing to more channels, or adding channels over time. In that case, faithful premium channel subscribers are becoming more so – which would be consistent with the subscription increases being reported by individual channels.”
UPDATED 3:14 PM Tuesday: Not so fast, Showtime says. The premium channel issued a release today saying the “NPD Group ‘study’ does not accurately reflect actual subscriber counts.” Showtime says that not only has it added 1M subs in six of the past seven years, but premium rivals HBO, Cinemax and Starz also have increased subs during that period. Here’s the full statement: “Contrary to erroneous reports published this week, Showtime and every other premium network have increased both subscribers and penetrations over the last two years. A study released by the NPD Group claimed the opposite, comparing gains made by video services like Netflix to the performance of premium cable. The study does not accurately reflect actual subscriber counts. According to SNL Kagan, from March 2012 through September 2013 – the timeframe the NPD Group allegedly measured — Showtime penetration grew from 21.1 percent to 22.8 percent; HBO penetration rose from 28.2 percent to 29.2 percent; Cinemax penetration climbed from 11.2 percent to 13.6 percent and Starz penetration jumped from 19.9 percent to 22 percent. While it is true that video services like Netflix have gained, so too have premium cable channels.”
EXCLUSIVE: In one of her first projects as a producer, former HBO entertainment president Sue Naegle has come on board Outcast, the exorcism drama project from The Walking Dead‘s Robert Kirkman. In his pilot writing debut, Kirkman penned Outcast on spec for The Walking Dead international partner Fox International Channels, which developed the project internally before taking it out. I hear Naegle, who was still at HBO at the time, read the script and recommended it to her colleague Kary Antholis, whose team had already been actively pursuing it. Naegle has a relationship with Kirkman. She is known for her love for supernatural and horror fare and is a fan of Kirkman’s graphic novel The Walking Dead. As an HBO development executive, she went aggressively after the property and had talks with Kirkman.
HBO got very close to a Walking Dead deal, which was championed by Naegle. It ultimately didn’t make, and AMC snagged the comic book for what would become the biggest series on television. She now will get to work with Kirkman on Outcast, on which the two serve as executive producers alongside David Alpert of Circle of Confusion. The gig dovetails with her producing deal at HBO. Based on Kirkman/Skybound’s recently announced comic book by the same name, Outcast follows Kyle Barnes, a young man who has been plagued by possession since he was a child. Now an …