EXCLUSIVE: We need to qualify Steven Soderbergh‘s self-imposed retirement from the business with an asterisk: feature films only. Just as his final film Behind The Candelabra airs this Sunday on HBO, Soderbergh is in talks to team with Clive Owen on The Knick, a period series set in New York in 1900. I’m told that he and Owen will set this series at Cinemax, which will give him a 10-episode season commitment. Soderbergh will direct all of the episodes. The setting: downtown New York in 1900, a tumultuous time of massive change and great progress. The series centers around the groundbreaking surgeons, nurses and staff at Knickerbocker Hospital, who are pushing the bounds of medicine in a time of astonishingly high mortality rates and zero antibiotics. Jack Amiel & Michael Begler wrote the pilot on spec, and they will be executive producers on the series. Owen and Soderbergh are also executive producers and so are Anonymous Content’s Michael Sugar and Soderbergh’s longtime producer Gregory Jacobs.
While this might make some might look cynically on Soderbergh’s “retirement,” he told me the other day in an interview for the Michael Douglas-Matt Damon Liberace movie that for the moment, he has shut the door on feature films. I can see that he likes the energy present in pay and basic … Read More »
Logan Marshall-Green has been cast as the title character in Quarry, a drama project for Cinemax based on the series of novels by Max Allan Collins (Road To Perdition graphic novel). Written by Graham Gordy and Michael D. Fuller, Quarry is set in the 1970s and centers on a Marine sniper (Marshall-Green) who, upon his return home from Vietnam in 1973, finds himself shunned by those he loves and demonized by the public. Combat-hardened and disillusioned, he’s recruited into a network of contract killers and corruption spanning the length of the Mississippi River. John Hillcoat is set to direct the pilot, co-produced by Anonymous Content. Hillcoat, Gordy, Fuller, Collins and Ken Levin executive produce with Anonymous’ Steve Golin, David Kanter, Matt DeRoss and Keith Redmon.
“We have the rights to do it and we would do it if we thought it was in our economic best interest,” Jeff Bewkes says this morning. But the potential market for a stand-alone HBO streaming service in the U.S. is “not sufficiently big enough now.” HBO chief Richard Plepler in March raised some consumers’ hopes that they might soon be able to subscribe to HBO without first buying basic cable: He said that it could make sense to package HBO GO with cable or phone company broadband services. Bewkes noted, though, that HBO and Cinemax have about 40M subscribers via U.S. cable and satellite services. Time Warner wants to protect those relationships: Distributors’ pricing and marketing decisions are even more important than the quality of the programming when it comes to influencing churn rates at the premium channels. Even so, Bewkes says that at Time Warner “we always look at opportunities to increase distribution” — and it already offers HBO GO without a pay TV subscription in Scandinavia. “We’re always going to keep evaluating it depending on the country.”
BBC drama controller Ben Stephenson and Piv Bernth, head of drama at Danish broadcaster DR, home of the original The Killing and The Bridge, shared their views on co-productions this morning in Cannes. The duo, who each work for public broadcasters, also touched on dealing with U.S. partners and the courage of their convictions. Scandinavia is a hot spot for drama, but Bernth says she only gets 4% of DR’s budget for drama so she’s “working with all kinds of different partners” and “trying to keep our feet on the ground.” She also confirmed that Killing creator Soren Sveistrup is working on a project for Cinemax, which he’ll present to the network within the next month.
Stephenson is careful to avoid the dreaded “Europudding,” or what he terms “Mid-Atlantic pudding,” but says, “In the past, all countries thought their drama was their drama, but today actually we all have quite a lot in common.” Even “the best microscopic local drama” can feel universal. Stephenson pointed to Downton Abbey, which is an ITV show, and to the BBC’s Sherlock as examples. They “are so British in their sensibility. They’re as English as English can get and that shows that if you do something well for your own country, the idea has attraction for abroad.” If Sherlock had been made expressly for international, Stephenson told me recently, it would have been cast differently. In the early days of the show, he said there were concerns that Benedict Cumberbatch’s high-functioning sociopath would not be embraced. “Couldn’t he be slightly nicer? Couldn’t you have a bigger star?” are questions he said were bandied about. “Ultimately it was the courage of convictions. It made Benedict a star and people love those rough edges.” Read More »
Cinemax has given a pilot order to Quarry, a drama project based on the series of novels by Max Allan Collins (Road To Perdition graphic novel). Written by Graham Gordy and Michael D. Fuller, Quarry is set in the 1970s and centers on a Marine sniper who, upon his return home from Vietnam in 1973, finds himself shunned by those he loves and demonized by the public. Combat-hardened and disillusioned, he’s recruited into a network of contract killers and corruption spanning the length of the Mississippi River. John Hillcoat is set to direct the pilot, co-produced by Anonymous Content. Hillcoat, Gordy and Fuller, all CAA and Anonymous clients, executive produce with Anonymous’ Steve Golin, David Kanter, Matt DeRoss and Keith Redmon. Read More »
New BBC Chief Says “Best Days Lie Ahead” Today was the first day on the job for the BBC’s new director general, Tony Hall. The broadcaster’s former head of news returned to the Beeb after more than a decade as CEO of the Royal Opera House. The organization he confronted today is in far different shape than it was when he left. After going into crisis mode last October when the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal broke open, the BBC was rocked by the mishandling of a Newsnight report that mistakenly identified a senior politician as an alleged pedophile. Those events led to the resignation of former director general George Entwistle after only 54 days on the job. Mark Thompson, Entwistle’s predecessor, left in September to become CEO of The New York Times Company and under his watch austerity measures were put in place after the license fee that was frozen until 2017. Two major unions went out on strike at the BBC last Thursday in protest over what was referred to as “a modern-day BBC sweatshop” along with bullying claims at the company. Hall made a handful of appointments prior to starting at the BBC, but has yet to name a head of news or head of television. In an email to staff today, he said, “With imagination and hard work, the BBC’s best days lie ahead of us.” Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Cinemax has put in development The Straits, a drama series adaptation of the 2012 Australian series starring Brian Cox. Hell On Wheels creators Tony Gayton and Joe Gayton will write, executive produce and run the project, a gritty modern-day drama that tells the story of a powerful and dangerous crime family who run their business out of the Florida Keys and into Jamaica, trafficking drugs, guns and exotic animals. When the kingpin tells his three sons that he has not yet chosen a successor, he sets in motion a series of catastrophic events that could destroy the very business he’s fought to build.
The original series, based on an idea by and co-starring actor Aaron Fa’aoso, was produced by Australian production company Matchbox Pictures, in which NBCUniversal has a majority stake. The Cinemax version will be co-produced by two other NBCU divisions, Working Title and Universal TV. The original series is available in the U.S. on Hulu (watch the trailer below). The Gaytons, repped by UTA, created AMC’s period Western drama Hell On Wheels and served as executive producers on the series for the first two seasons until their departure last October. Their feature credits include Faster for CBS Films with Castle Rock Entertainment and two other project for Castle Rock, Salt & Sea and Murder By Numbers.
As all eyes are on the ratings for last night’s Season 2 finale of HBO’s Girls (expected any minute now), the season-finale numbers for Banshee, which airs on HBO sibling Cinemax, also came out today. While not as noisy as Girls and other cable series, the freshman drama executive produced by Alan Ball, which was already renewed for a second season, had a solid freshman run. Its season finale Friday drew 455,000 viewers at 10 PM and 655,000 viewers for the two plays on the night. That is the largest audience yet for a Cinemax original series finale and third-highest for Banshee. Even before the finale, Banshee (average of 433,000 viewers in Live+Same Day/727,000 in Live+7) already outranked the two seasons of Cinemax’s Strike Back (303,000/512,000 for Season 2, 290,000/441,000 for Season 1).
Dougray Scott (Desperate Housewives), Milauna Jackson (Blood Done Sign My Name) and Robson Green (Wire In The Blood) have been added to the cast of Cinemax‘s action drama Strike Back as it starts production on a 10-episode Season 3. (Watch the teaser below.) The trio joins returning cast members Philip Winchester, Sullivan Stapleton, Rhona Mitra, Michelle Lukes and Liam Garrigan. Green plays a new member of Section 20, Scott a rogue operative James Leatherby, and Jackson is a key player who crosses paths with the counterterrorism team. In Strike Back’s third season, counterterrorism unit Section 20 pursues a deadly terrorist network from Colombia to Beirut to Europe, uncovering deadly plots that reach to the West. Returning directors are Michael J. Bassett (who also serves as co-executive producer), Julian Holmes and Paul Wilmshurst; returning writers are Simon Burke, James Dormer, John Simpson and Richard Zajdlic. Cinemax is producing with Left Bank Pictures and Sky.
Melissa George has been tapped for a lead role opposite Janet Montgomery in ABC’s drama pilotGothica. Set in the present day, the project, created by Matt Lopez and exec produced by Mark Gordon and Nick Pepper of The Mark Gordon Co., weaves together a mythology that incorporates the legends of Dracula, Jekyll and Hyde, Frankenstein and Dorian Gray. It centers on journalist Grace Van Helsing (Janet Montgomery) who takes over her family’s hometown newspaper. George, repped by ICM Partners, 3 Arts and Smelkinson, will play Fiona Hunter, the series’ most formidable force, and everyone – from Grace, to Dorian (Chris Egan), to Victor Frankenstein (Tom Ellis) – will find their mettle and savvy tested by this deliciously cunning woman. Aussie George recently toplined Frank Spotnitz’s BBC/Cinemax series Hunted. While the series ended when BBC opted not to renew it, Ciinemax and Sportnitz have been plotting two-hour movies centered on George’s character, which has developed strong fan following. Read More »
Danny Cannon is set to direct and executive produce the CW drama pilotThe Tomorrow People, the Warner Bros./Berlanti TV-produced adaptation of the British sci-fi series. Phil Klemmer wrote the script and exec produces with Greg Berlanti, Julie Plec and Cannon. Cannon’s pilot directing credits include the CSI franchise and Nikita.
RJ Cutler, who directed the pilot for ABC’s freshman drama Nashville, will helm CBS’ drama pilot The Ordained. The project, from CBS TV Studios and writer Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, centers on the son of a Kennedy-esque family who leaves the priesthood and becomes a lawyer to prevent his politician sister from being assassinated. CAA-repped Cutler serves as an executive producer on Nashville.
Emmy winner Todd Holland has signed on to direct the NBC single-camera comedy pilot Donor Party, from writer Alex Schemmer and Universal TV. It is about a guy who discovers he’s got children from sperm donations he’d made years ago. Holland is joining with his producing partner Karey Burke who will executive produce through their Dark Toy banner. Holland executive produces with Burke freshman NBC comedy Go On whose pilot he directed last season. Read More »
The apps for HBO GO and sister network Cinemax’s MAX GO have finalized a deal with Apple to make the services available on Apple’s AirPlay, which enables the channels’ subscribers to wirelessly stream programming from their iPhone, iPad and iPod touch to their HDTV using Apple TV. The announcement was made just now by HBO president and COO Eric Kessler at All Things D’s “All Things D: Dive Into Media” conference. Updates to both apps are now available on Apple’s App Store.
Skyfall director of photography Roger Deakins won the Feature Film honor tonight at the 27th annual American Society of Cinematographers Awards, two years after he won the society’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Deakins, who didn’t attend because he is working on the Hugh Jackman-Jake Gyllenhaal movie Prisoners, now becomes a frontrunner for the Oscar in the category, after Life Of Pi‘s director of photography Claudio Miranda won the BAFTA earlier in the day in London. (The ASC Awards noms pretty much mirror the Oscar nominees this year, with Deakins, Miranda, Anna Karenina’s Seamus McGarvery and Lincoln’s Janusz Kaminski nominated by both organizations. The only difference: Les Miserables’ Danny Cohen was up for an ASC Award and not an Oscar, and Django Unchained’s Robert Richardson is up for an Oscar but not an ASC.)
It was Deakins’ third win and 11th nomination for an ASC Award, having won previously for Shawshank Redemption and The Man Who Wasn’t There. His wife James accepted the award onstage at the ceremony, held at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland. She read a note he had prepared: “I share this award with everyone who worked on the production…filmmaking is truly a collaborative privilege.”
Deakins’ win for the James Bond pic capped a night in which Angelina Jolie made a surprise appearance to introduce the ASC Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Dean Semler, her DP on her 2011 directorial debut In The Land Of Blood And Honey and on Disney’s Maleficent, in which she stars. “I called him up to help me on a film I was directing, not thinking I’d get him”, she said in her intro. ‘Who can shoot it like you can?’ I asked. He said me, and did it. After the call, I’m not embarrassed to say I danced around the room”. Said Semler: “Angie, you’re amazing and we’re so glad you’re here …. This award has to be the greatest any cinematographer can reach for”. Read More »
After 34 years with the premium network, HBO Home Entertainment President Henry McGee is retiring to join the faculty of Harvard Business School. He will be replaced by Sofia Chang, currently SVP Program Strategy & Planning. McGee joined the cable network in 1979 and served in several roles before taking the reins of HBO’s video division in 1995. Under his management, HBO vastly expanded its home video operations to over 70 countries. McGee’s tenure is perhaps most notable for HBO’s early adoption of the Internet to advertise and distribute its programming; hbohomevideo.com launched in 1995, and hbodvd.com followed three years later. McGee also oversaw HBO’s embrace of new formats, most recently streaming service HBO GO. Chang, promoted to her current position last year, has been responsible for overseeing program strategy, audience research, and promotion planning and scheduling areas for HBO and Cinemax. She takes over March 4.
Cinemax has renewed Banshee for a second season three weeks into the action series’ freshman run. The second season of the drama, executive produced by Alan Ball, Jonathan Tropper, David Schickler, Peter Macdissi and Greg Yaitanes, will air in 2014. In its January 11 premiere, Bansheedrew a respectable 483,000 viewers at 10 PM and 965,000 over three airings. This is the first truly homegrown Cinemax series, having started as a project in development at sibling HBO. It joins Strike Back as the second Cinemax series to score a second-season renewal. Read More »
Last night’s Season 2 premiere of Girls at 9 PM drew 866,000 viewers, a slight drop from the 872,000 viewers the HBO show drew for its series premiere on April 15 last year. Sunday’s premiere was also down from the series-high 1 million that watched the Season 1 finale on June 17. Over three plays last night — 9 PM, 10 PM and 11 PM — Girls had a total audience of 1.6 million, up 42% from the double showing of the series premiere. HBO was happy right away with Girls, rewarding the series with a 10-episode second-season pickup April 30 after only three airings. Sunday’s premiere came the same night the show’s creator and star Lena Dunham won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy Series and the show won Best TV Comedy.
Enlightened was also back for its second season Sunday but on a new night. The 9:30 airing pulled in 300,000 viewers, a 43% rise from its series Monday series premiere on October 10, 2011. The show drew 609,000 viewers overall in all three of its plays Sunday. HBO renewed Enlightened for an eight-episode second season on December 11, 2011, after two months on the air. Friday’s 10 PM premiere of Alan Ball’s Banshee on the HBO-owned Cinemax had 483,000 viewers. The freshman series’ 11 PM rebroadcast got … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: NBC has given a pilot order to Bloodline, a stylized drama from writer David Graziano (Awake, Lie To Me) and producers Peter Berg and Sarah Aubrey. Berg is set to direct the pilot, produced by Universal TV and Berg and Aubrey’s Film 44.
Bloodline, which reflects Graziano’s love of pulp, graphic novels and ancient mythology, is a contemporary pulp action thriller in the vein of Kill Bill. Set against the backdrop of modern suburbia, it follows the story of an orphaned young girl, Bird Benson, who, due to an accident of birth, is caught in the epic struggle between two warring families of mercenaries and killers. Mentored by a mysterious Chinese man, Bird must accept the quest to find and defeat her mother in mortal combat if she is ever to lead a normal life. Graziano is exec producing with Berg and Aubrey. Bloodline extends Graziano’s relationship with NBC entertainment president Jennifer Salke who signed Graziano in an overall deal while at 20th TV. In addition to Bloodline, WME-repped Berg and Film 44 have drama M.I.C.E., based on the Israeli format The Gordin Cell, which received a put pilot commitment at NBC, with Berg writing/directing. Graziano, repped by Rothman Brecher Kim, also has mob drama The Sixth Family in the works at Cinemax, with Warner Horizon producing.
At NBC, Bloodline joins off-cycle medical drama pilot After Hours … Read More »
Wild Bunch Exec Protests High Costs Of French Filmmaking
An editorial written by Wild Bunch co-founder and sales chief Vincent Maraval has whipped up a mini-storm within the French film industry. The exec, who’s had a hand in such films as The Artist, The Wrestler, Pan’s Labyrinth, Fahrenheit 9/11, City Of God and March Of The Penguins, blasted the current state of French cinema, calling 2012 a “disaster”. France enjoys possibly the world’s most generous subsidy system which relies in part on investment by local TV networks, but Maraval says “even the biggest commercial successes lose money” with budgets inflated by above the line costs. Calling France “the world record holder for the average cost of production” after the U.S., Maraval says “French actors are rich from public funds and from a system that protects the cultural exception.” Maraval cites such talent as Vincent Cassel, Jean Reno, Marion Cotillard, Guillaume Canet and Audrey Tautou and asks why they would “be paid from €500,000 to €2M ($655K to $2.62M) for a French film limited to the French market but when they shoot an American film, whose market is worldwide, they’re happy with €50,000 to €200,000 ($65.5K to $262K)? Read More »
UPDATE: Shawn Ryan, who, like Kurt Sutter, also got his big break on FX with The Shield, also took to Twitter to criticize AMC over showrunner Glen Mazzara’s departure from The Walking Dead. “AMC, WTF? Common knowledge that AMC cut Breaking Bad shorter than it should have been. Now you have creative differences w/ biggest hit’s savior? With FX, Showtime, HBO, Starz, Cinemax, A&E, TNT and others to sell to, it’s a real question now why good show runners should sell to AMC?”
PREVIOUS:Sons Of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter has never been hesitant to tell people how he really feels and today he really let AMC have it over showrunner Glen Mazzara leaving The Walking Dead.Taking to Twitter on Friday, Sutter called the network executives “small-minded, bottom-line thinkers who have no appreciation or gratitude for the effort of its creative personnel.” He also warned that without Mazzara at the helm the “future is dim” for The Walking Dead – and that’s the nice stuff. Read all of what Sutter had to say:
AMC is run by small-minded, bottom-line thinkers who have no appreciation or gratitude for the effort of its creative personnel. Time and time again we see events like what happened today with Glen Mazzara. They continue to disrespect writers, shit on their audience and bury their network.