The Tribeca Film Institute has unveiled its grant winners for this year’s TFI Sloan Filmmaker Fund, which supports filmmakers with cash and guidance on their films that focus on science, math and technology. It’s always a cool bunch of projects in a genre that is surely underserved, and with this year’s batch of winners getting $150,000 the fund has now awarded more than $1 million in its 12-year history. This year’s three winners include Imitation Game, based on the life of British mathematician and logician Alan Turing, played by Benedict Cumberbatch; the Weinstein Company acquired it for $7M at EFM this year, the highest price ever for a U.S. rights deal there. (With that kind of cash in the mix I guess the Sloan grant is more of a tip-of-the-hat kind of thing.) Recent TFI Sloan projects include 2030, the climate change pic from Vietnam that opened the Panorama section this year in Berlin; the Sundance pic and Indie Spirit Award nominee Computer Chess; and Focus’ A Birder’s Guide To Everything starring Ben Kingsley and Kodi Smit-McPhee. This year’s recipients, chosen by a jury that included John Slattery, Meg Ryan, Dark Knight scribe Jonathan Nolan, will be honored at the Tribeca fest that kicks off April 17. Part of the Alfred P Sloan Foundation-sponsored events this year include a 10-year retrospective screening and panel for Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine Of A Spotless Mind on April 21. Here are this year’s winners: Read More »
Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormakur, who segues between Hollywood and home-based projects, is set to direct and produce serialized crime series Trapped in his native country. From Kormakur’s RVK Studios, it’s based on his original idea and written by Sigurjon Kjartansson and Clive Bradley. Trapped follows the investigation of the grisly murder of an unidentifiable man found in the water after an international ferry arrives in a small town at the bottom of a fjord. Soon after, a powerful blizzard hits the town with deadly force, making the only road in or out impassable. The 10-part series, the most ambitious Icelandic commission ever ordered, will air locally on public broadcaster RUV. RVK’s Magnus Vidar Sigurdsson is also producing and RVX, the effects arm of RVK, will design the VFX. Dynamic Television’s Daniel March and Klaus Zimmermann are executive producers and are handling worldwide distribution. Kormakur, whose The Deep was shortlisted for the Foreign Language Oscar in 2012, is currently directing Everest for Universal, Cross Creek Pictures and Working Title Films. Read More »
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.
Benedict Cumberbatch will go from playing a high-functioning sociopath to a troubled Danish prince next summer in a West End production of Hamlet. The Sherlock star will play the eponymous Shakespeare character in a stage run at the Barbican Theatre for 12 weeks beginning in August 2015. The casting had been rumored previously, but was confirmed today by the Barbican as it announced its lineup for the 2014-2015 season. Tony Award winner Sonia Friedman is producing. Her long list of credits includes The Book Of Mormon and last year’s Tom Hanks-starrer Lucky Guy on Broadway, and this year’s Olivier-nominated Chimerica. That play’s Lyndsey Turner, who is one of three women up for the Best Director Olivier in a strong year for female theater helmers, will direct the new take on Hamlet. Cumberbatch was last on stage in London in the National Theatre’s 2011 production of Frankenstein which was directed by Danny Boyle and co-starred Jonny Lee Miller. He’s one of a handful of British screen stars who have recently tackled Shakespeare on the West End including Jude Law, up for an Olivier in Henry V, and David Tennant, who recently played Richard II.
For the first time in a decade, the Peabody Awards has a TV home. Pivot, Participant Media’s TV network targeting millennials, has signed a deal to telecast the University of Georgia’s George Foster Peabody Awards through 2016, which marks the Peabody’s 75th anniversary. Broadcasting the awards, which honor excellence in TV, radio and webcasting, is challenging since winners traditionally are announced well in advance of the trophy ceremony. This year’s winners, for instance, will be announced April 2, but the medallions will be dispensed May 19 at a luncheon ceremony at New York City’s Waldorf Astoria. The 2014 Peabody Awards special, the two parties announced, will “blend highlights from the presentation ceremony with exclusive interviews with featured award winners. A date for that telecast was not announced. Read More »
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. Read More »
Arrow Films has acquired UK rights to God’s Pocket starring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. Sold by Electric Entertainment, the film is the feature directorial debut of Mad Men’s John Slattery. Electric acquired it at Sundance. IFC has U.S. distribution and Arrow will release later this year in Britain. Richard Jenkins, Christina Hendricks, John Turturro and Caleb Landry Jones also star in the film written by Slattery and Alex Metcalf. Based on the Pete Dexter novel, the movie follows a man who tries to cover up the accidental death of his stepson in a blue collar neighborhood in South Philadelphia. Arrow’s recent titles include Love Is All You Need, The Hunt and A Hijacking. Read More »
BREAKING: As Deadline was first to reveal after the exits of Lynn Harris and Sarah Schechter, Jon Berg and Courtenay Valenti have been promoted to EVP Development and Production at Warner Bros Pictures by Greg Silverman, President, Creative Development and Worldwide Production. Both execs, who’ve worked forever with Silverman, will report to him. Duties will be expanded for Valenti, a 25-year studio vet, and Berg, who has been rising in the ranks since arriving in 2008. They will take grater roles in oversight and management of Warner Bros’ development team and budget, as well as managing the studio’s film projects.
Related: Warner Bros Moving To Elevate Production Pair After Lynn Harris’ Exit
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The company launched last year by Rich Goldberg and Mitch Budin has made a pre-emptive strike ahead of Berlin, grabbing all North American rights to the psychological thriller. Vertical Entertainment picked up the Ombra Films production Mindscape from StudioCanal on the eve of EFM. Produced by Jaume Collet-Sera, the pic stars Sherlock Holmes heavy Mark Strong as a memory detective who enters people’s minds to help them recall details in order to solve crimes or investigate trauma. But when he suffers a stroke during a session gone wrong, he is left a broken shell of his former self. Brian Cox and Taissa Farmiga co-star in Mindscape, which is director Jorge Dorago’s feature debut. The filmmaker, who has helmed many award-winning shorts including La Guerra and has AD credits including Bad Education and Talk To Her, signed with WME after Cannes last year.
Related: ‘Mindscape’ Is A Go; Mark Strong, Taissa Farmiga Star
Hulu Plus has acquired subscription video on demand rights for CBS’ Elementary. This is an SVOD component of the exclusive off-network rights deal announced last week by WGN America for the drama series. Under the deal, Hulu Plus has the rights to offer complete past seasons of episodes of Elementary to its subscribers after each season has been broadcast on the CBS Television Network. Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller star in the modern-day take on Sherlock Holmes. Creator Rob Doherty, Carl Beverly, Sarah Timberman and Craig Sweeny executive produce for CBS TV Studios.
Blood Mountain, the next picture from Mongol director Sergei Bodrov, has attached Sherlock‘s Benedict Cumberbatch to star in the tale of a private military contractor whose Special Forces team is ambushed and killed during a covert raid, forcing him to personally escort one of the world’s most wanted terrorists over hostile terrain in order to bring him to justice. Project was written by Jonathan W. Stokes with revisions by John Romano. Lawrence Bender, Nicola Horlick and James Gibb will produce. Shaun Redick is exec producing alongside Rachel Green of Derby Street Films and Brooklyn Weaver (Out Of The Furnace, upcoming Run All Night) of Energy Entertainment. Silver Reel will finance the film, with executives Claudia Bluemhuber and Ian Hutchinson also serving as executive producers on the project. Skady Lis of Germany’s Getaway Pictures will serve as a co-producer. Getaway will handle the European co-production of the film with the UK and the U.S. Principal photography is slated to begin in April in Morocco. Altitude Film Sales will rep international rights in Berlin next month. UTA Independent Film Group reps North American.
PBS has announced the premiere date of the Britcom Vicious, starring Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi as a gay couple who have been together nearly half a century. The six-part series, which PBS acquired from Shine International in October, will air on Sundays and premiere July 6 at 10:30 PM. Meanwhile, Jacobi’s drama Last Tango In Halifax has been ordered for a second season, returning June 29, PBS chief Paula Kerger announced this morning at TCA. Also unveiled: Ken Burns is working on a a documentary series about country music — though it won’t air until 2018, Kerger said this morning. Country Music will follow its evolution of over the course of the 20th century as it “eventually emerged to become America’s music,” PBS claimed in its announcement.
And, PBS will never, ever air Downton Abbey seasons closer to its UK run, Kerger indicated — hopefully putting a stake in that debate for press tours ever after. Kerger cited this month’s Season 4 debut audience – 10.2 million viewers, which was a 22% jump compared to the Season 3 opener (7.9 million), which itself had been a leap from the series Season 2 launch crowd of 4.2 mil. Downton is PBS’ highest rated drama ever. ”It’s become a bit of tradition after the holidays to come together to watch Downton,” Kerger said happily. “The audience build over the years…argues to keep the January time frame,” she said. And, of course, a fall launch coinciding with the UK’s Downton season would put it in the teeth of the commercial broadcast network’s fall-season rollout, which, she noted, TV critics in the room had criticized PBS for doing in the past. Not to mention that the series’ UK broadcaster determines its debut date not terribly long before it actually happens — no weeks and weeks of promotions, as is the norm in the U.S. PBS cannot upstage the show in the UK. Read More »
The ill-timed consolidation of the best TV movie and miniseries Emmy categories will likely be short lived. The TV Academy has started a procedure for the two longform categories to be restored for this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards, putting an end to the category’s two-year merger. “The recommendation has been made to split Outstanding Miniseries or Movie into separate program categories,” a TV Academy spokesperson said in a statement. “This is on the agenda to be discussed at the February 4th Awards Committee meeting.” The move, first reported by TVLine, is the first in a two-step process, with a recommendation first going to the awards committee and then to the Board of Governors for a vote. It was triggered by the so-called “rule of 14″ where more than 14 submissions in a category prompts a discussion of creating a new category and fewer than 14 opens a consolidation conversation. The dramatic drop in miniseries production at the end of the last decade — which resulted in only 2 getting nominated in the best miniseries Emmy category in both 2009 and 2010 — invoked the rule of 14, leading to the February 2011 vote to merge the best TV movie and miniseries categories.
One can argue that when made, that decision was already outdated because by early 2011 the miniseries genre was already coming out of the collapse with a number of solid Emmy contenders that year, including the opening installments of PBS’ Downton Abbey, which started off as a limited series; PBS’ Sherlock and BBC America’s Luther; as well as HBO’s Mildred Pierce, ReelzChannel’s The Kennedys, Sundance Channel’s Carlos and Starz’s The Pillars Of The Earth. But the TV Academy continued combining longform categories.
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