Rhys Coiro (Hostages) and Joe Egender (Hunger) have landed lead roles in History’s miniseries Texas Rising (working title) from A+E Studios and ITV Studios America. Leslie Greif (Hatfields & McCoys) is exec producing the project, which will detail the Texas Revolution against Mexico and the rise of the legendary Texas Rangers. Coiro will play Vern Elwood opposite Bill Paxton, Ray Liotta, Brendan Fraser and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Egender will play Beans Wilkins, a Ranger who is always hungry and looking for his next meal.
HBO‘s Game Of Thrones has made piracy history. According to TorrentFreak, more than 193,000 BitTorrent users shared a single copy of Sunday’s episode and about 1.5 million people downloaded it during the first 24 hours. The numbers are “unprecedented”, says TorrentFreak. The previous record was set last year, when 171.5K shared the same file of GOT‘s Season 3 finale. Over 1 million BitTorrent users downloaded that episode. The HBO show is a network exclusive and not available on services like Netflix, leading to increased piracy numbers particularly overseas.
Netflix has released its second season trailer for Jenji Kohan’s prison dramedy Orange Is The New Black. Featured are returning stars Taylor Schilling, Jason Biggs, Laura Prepon and Kate Mulgrew, along with new addition Lorraine Toussaint. Season 2 premieres June 6, with all 13 episodes available at once.
EXCLUSIVE: GrandElectric Entertainment, a new shingle formed by ex-Strike Entertainment partner Eric Newman, has teamed with director Jose Padilha‘s Cold Mountain to preemptively purchase Nekome, a period action pitch by John Hlavin. Studiocanal will finance development and production of the film.
The title is the Yiddish word for revenge and the film is set in the days following the end of World War II. Two young Holocaust survivors are sent by the Jewish underground to Brazil to hunt down and kill the escaped Nazis who ran their concentration camp. The film will shoot in Brazil. Studiocanal is committed to finance the film, but Newman and Padilha retained distribution rights in Brazil, where Padilha is a movie god after his Elite Squad films.
Sports Comedy ‘Blue Mountain State’ Seeking Movie Resurrection Via Kickstarter Crowdfunding Campaign
Spike comedy series Blue Mountain State was cancelled in 2012 after three seasons, but a second life on Netflix and Hulu reinvigorated fan interest. Now the show’s creators are hoping to channel that demand into a big-screen film continuation with a Kickstarter campaign launched today. “We’ve seen fan activity on social media since the show ended and went on to Netflix, and we’ve seen the audience continue to grow through that platform,” said Alan Ritchson (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire), who played high-strung All-American linebacker Thad Castle on the show and is aboard to produce the film project with co-creators Chris Romano and Eric Falconer. “When they find it on Netflix, they also find out it’s no longer airing on Spike or being made. A lot of them are asking for another season. We didn’t get our senior year and we want to do that.”
Ritchson, Romano and Falconer seek to raise a minimum of $1.5M to produce a Blue Mountain State movie based on the series, an idea that’s been brewing since Spike cancelled the show. Producer Lionsgate TV passed on doing a feature film but sold the rights back to Ritchson and company and retain a first-look option on the potential movie.
Taking a beloved TV series to the big screen through crowdfunding worked well for recent Kickstarter successes Veronica Mars, which raised $5.7M and opened day-and-date via Warner Bros last month, and Zach Braff’s Wish I Was Here, which raised $3.1M and opens July 18 through Focus Features. Both high-profile films, however, also encountered their own high-profile snafus.
The second season of Eli Roth‘s Netflix original series, Hemlock Grove, will premiere on Friday, July 11th at 12:01 AM PT, with all ten episodes available. Based on Brian McGreevy’s novel of the same name and produced by Gaumont International Television, Hemlock Grove stars Famke Janssen, Bill Skarsgård, Landon Liboiron and Dougray Scott. It is a supernatural thriller which explores the strange happenings in a small Pennsylvania town and focuses on the unlikely friendship between the founding family’s young heir, Roman Godfrey (Skarsgård), and gypsy newcomer and outsider, Peter Rumancek (Liboiron). Each holds a monstrous secret that has been unleashed. “I cannot wait for fans to see what’s in store for season two – it is going to blow away all expectations,” Roth said.
SANTA MONICA, CA, and VANCOUVER, BC, April 14, 2014 – Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF), the premier next generation global content leader, and RocketJump Studios, a pioneering digital studio that has emerged as one of YouTube’s hottest innovators, have formed a ground-breaking multiyear partnership for the creation of film, television and digital content, the two companies announced today.
EXCLUSIVE: Voltage Films has set Jane Fonda and Bruce Greenwood to join Fathers And Daughters, the Gabriele Muccino-directed film that stars Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Aaron Paul, Diane Kruger, Quvenzhané Wallis and Octavia Spencer. Production just got underway in Pittsburgh. The film is a love story between a troubled father and his daughter who lives in New York 25 years after him, Crowe plays a famous novelist suffering from depression as he tries to raise his 5-year-old daughter. Seyfried plays the girl as an adult, who has struggles of her own, shrapnel from that childhood. Fonda will play the novelist’s longtime friend and literary agent while Greenwood will play the writer’s brother-in-law, who with his wife (Kruger) wages a legal battle to forcibly adopt the young daughter (Kylie Rogers).
The tech-heavy exchange fell 3.1% today to a two-month low as investors, fearful that the bull market for Internet and biotech companies has run its course, continued to shift their cash into more conservative investments. On NASDAQ’s worst day since 2011, the Standard & Poor’s 500 fell 2.1% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 1.6%. Media stocks also felt the chill: The Dow Jones U.S. Media Index fell 2.8%. All of the major companies we track lost ground. CBS (-3.8%) was hardest hit in Big Media followed by Time Warner (-3.7%), Disney (-3.7%), Sony (-3.6%), Viacom (-3.6%), Comcast (-2.8%), News Corp (-2.2%), Fox (-2.1%), and Discovery (-1.7%). In the rest of the sector companies licking their wounds include Pandora (-10.5%), WWE (-7.2%), Facebook (-5.2%), Netflix (-5.2%), Lionsgate (-4.8%), and RealD (-4.6%)
Global Showbiz Briefs: Participant Media Boards Malala Yousafzai Docu; ‘Rising Star’, ‘Master Class’ Headed To Asia; More
Participant Media Boards Docu About Pakistani Girl Wounded By Taliban
Participant Media has come aboard as a co-financing partner on the Parkes + MacDonald Productions documentary about Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai. An Inconvenient Truth’s Davis Guggenheim is directing. In 2012, student activist Yousafzai gained international recognition when she survived a brutal assassination attempt by the Taliban at age 14. Shot in the head and neck when gunmen opened fire on her school bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, she was targeted for speaking out on behalf of girls’ education in her community. Production starts in early July 2014, in association with Image Nation Abu Dhabi. Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald are producing, with a release eyed for early next year. In addition to its financial commitment, Participant will collaborate with Image Nation to launch a social action and advocacy campaign to expand the reach and impact of the film.
Charlotte Koh, head of content development at Hulu Originals, has departed the streaming company. The move comes just more than a week after Hulu hired seasoned TV development executive Craig Erwich. The former president of Warner Horizon was tapped as SVP and head of content March 31, tasked with leading the content and programming strategy for Hulu and Hulu Plus as one of the first major hires by new CEO Mike Hopkins. That move apparently made things more crowded with Koh, who helped launch Hulu originals like animated The Awesomes (renewed for Season 2 to air this summer), comedy The Wrong Mans and docu-series Behind The Mask. (Koh unveiled 17 original series on tap for 2014 in a January blog post.) But that push came at a time when Netflix and Amazon made major strides establishing slates of network-quality comedy and drama series, and the hiring of Erwich signaled Hulu’s intention to become a major player in those arenas. The service’s most recent original series, comedy Deadbeat starring Tyler Labine, debuted today. It centers on a man whose life revolves around helping ghosts reach the afterlife.
Fox TV Studios president David Madden has signed a new long-term contract with 20th Century Fox Television to remain at the helm of the boutique cable production company for at least four more years. Madden, a respected veteran TV executive and producer, was elevated to the top FtvS post in 2010 after a stint shepherding the company’s development as EVP creative development and production. He helped establish FtvS’ identity with such series as FX’s The Shield and The Americans, USA Network’s Burn Notice and White Collar, AMC’s The Killing – which he helped bring back from cancellation twice, once at AMC and once at Netflix. Because of the health of the company on Madden’s watch, FtvS was kept as an independent label after the company was put under the purview of 20th TV Studios CEO and chairmen Dana Walden and Gary Newman and not merged with 20th TV’s own successful cable arm, Fox21. “David encourages creators to take big swings, and the results have been breakthrough programs, from The Shield and The Killing to Burn Notice and The Americans,” Walden and Newman said. “He’s a smart, strategic leader who is beloved by both the creative community and his colleagues. We couldn’t be happier that he’ll be with us for many years to come.” In addition to White Collar and The Killing, which are heading into their final seasons, and The Americans, which is about to be renewed for …
EXCLUSIVE: If you are a major agency and you wait for an actor to be discovered before signing him, it’s too late. UTA emerged from a competitive situation to sign Lorenzo Richelmy, who is playing the title character in the massive Netflix/Weinstein Company TV limited-run series Marco Polo. Richelmy is a 23-year-old Italian actor who’ll play the 13th century merchant traveler who was among the first to establish ties with Asia. The first two episodes, which I am told are among the priciest ever, will be helmed by Kon-Tiki directors Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg, who take this on before doing the next Pirates Of The Caribbean. The 10-hour series is executive produced by creator-writer John Fusco and showrunner Daniel Minahan. It’s Netflix’s attempt to build on original programming successes House Of Cards and Orange Is The New Black. Richelmy, who is bilingual, starred in the Italian-produced drama Il Terzo Tempo (The Third Half), which premiered at last year’s Venice Film Festival, and the comedy La Terra e Il Vento (The Earth And The Wind). UTA becomes the actor’s first American agency. Richelmy continues to be represented in Rome by Daniele Orazi at Consorzio Officine Artistiche.
UPDATED: The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing into Comcast’s $45.2B acquisition of Time Warner Cable wrapped after three hours today. And Comcast EVP David Cohen upheld his reputation as a lobbying Jedi Master, although critics of the deal scored by pointing out how it could lead to higher prices and problems for independent programmers. Cohen started off strong in his opening statement: He cast his company as the embodiment of the American Dream — and announced that it has more than 1M WiFi hot spots with plans to boost their transmission speeds. “This is the 13th time we’ve increased Internet speeds in 12 years,” he says. Public Knowledge’s Gene Kimmelman — a former Justice Department antitrust lawyer — hit back. He charged that it would be “anathema to Comcast” if programmers want to offer content directly to consumers via the Internet for a low cost. The cable giant is committed to “charging top dollar” and, as owner of NBCUniversal, would be like an octopus with tentacles “each capable of squeezing innovation.”
In regard to pricing, Cohen said, in response to a question from committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), that “there is nothing in this transaction that will make anyone’s bills go up….Consumers today are in the driver’s seat.” He added later that programming costs have appreciated 98% over the last decade. Later he told Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) — who wanted to know whether shareholders would demand higher prices — that “we have made it a point of significant discussion about our need to continue to invest to compete better with national and global competitors.” Kimmelman responded that Comcast is in the driver’s seat in the highly concentrated video and broadband markets. “The squeeze will come from Comcast,” he says. “It’s logical. They want to save money….and it could lead to significant price increases for others.”
Franken had Cohen against the ropes in a discussion about Comcast’s efforts to push customers to buy multiple or upgraded products. “When you train [sales]people to upsell, you’re not training them to sell the stand-alone product.” Cohen said that “we are allowed to train people to upsell,” but sales reps also “have to be aware of the stand-alone product” and provide it on request.
For about six months, the industry has been buzzing about Turkey and its potential as a fresh source of adaptable formats. That’s been spurred on by recent deals with the U.S., a successful export track record in neighboring regions, and a growing need for unique formats on the part of Western buyers. But, in the half-year since 2013’s Mipcom, people are wondering whether Turkey can really emerge as a new proving ground to be cultivated by the West, or if executives have been prematurely excited by some groundbreaking in-roads.
Turkey, which straddles Europe and Asia, has historically traded in series and soaps with largely local and historical themes. And its production industry is growing. According to data released at last month’s Discop market, it has surpassed Latin America to be the most prolific drama-producing nation outside the U.S. Other recent data says that a majority of Turkish channels air more than 100 new shows a year. Those are for the most part exported to the rest of the Balkans, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, bringing in about $150M in 2013.
But outside those territories there wasn’t much action until October last year. During the Mipcom market, Turkey made a big entrance into the U.S. with the first scripted format set up at a network by American producers when Ghost Whisperer alums Ian Sander and Kim Moses sold the Eccho Rights-repped The End to Fox. Unlike much Turkish output, the story is contemporary and has a universal feel. It centers on a woman who must navigate a web of lies and intrigue as she searches for her husband whom she presumed dead following a plane crash — but it turns out, he never boarded the plane. Produced by local powerhouse Ay Yapim, it aired in the first half of 2012. In the past six months, The End (or Son in Turkish) has been sold into Germany and Russia for local versions, while Shine France took an option and Netflix signed a non-exclusive agreement for the original in Sweden and the UK. The End has also aired on SVT in Sweden, the first time a Turkish drama had been shown in primetime on a national channel — it doubled the slot average.
EMMYS: John Landgraf Calls For Tougher Category Rules, Says ‘True Detective’s Entry As Drama Series “Unfair”
FX Networks CEO John Landgraf today threw his hat in the debate over what constitutes a drama series and a miniseries for Emmy consideration and whether an hourlong series can enter as a comedy, challenging the TV Academy to stiffen its criteria and create stricter category guidelines.
FX anthology series American Horror Story shook up the Emmy landscape three years ago when it opted to submit itself as a miniseries, not a drama series. The race was jolted again this year when HBO’s True Detective took the opposite stance, identifying itself as a drama 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,” HBO programming president Michael Lombardo told Deadline last week.
Landgraf today defended the network’s decision to submit AHS as a miniseries, objected to HBO’s decision to have True Detective compete as drama series, and called on the TV Academy to better define its categories. “I don’t think it’s cynical to enter AHS as a miniseries,” he said. “I don’t look at it that way. The definition should be a miniseries has a story that ends, a series has a story that continues on.” Landgraf argued that limited series have the advantage to attract bigger-caliber actors, like True Detective‘s Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as well as Billy Bob Thornton who toplines FX’s limited series Fargo. “It’s unfair for HBO to get actors that you can’t normally get to do a series who would do a close-ended show and pack the (drama actor) category. That is patently unfair to people like (The Americans’) Matthew Rhys who signed for seven years.” Right now, TV Academy defines shows like AHS and True Detective as having “dual eligibility,” with the series producers left to decide in which of the two categories they are eligible for they would compete.
Mia Kirshner (The L Word) and Waleed Zuaiter (Revolution, Homeland) have booked recurring roles on Netflix’s untitled psychological thriller drama from Sony Pictures TV. Written and executive produced by Damages creators Todd A. Kessler, Daniel Zelman and Glenn Kessler (KZK), the 13-episode series centers on a close-knit family of four adult siblings (Kyle Chandler, Ben Mendelsohn, Linda Cardellini, Norbert Leo Butz) whose secrets and scars are revealed when their black sheep brother (Mendelsohn) returns home. Kirshner, repped by APA, Wishlab and Characters, most recently shot a guest role on ABC pilot Clementine. Zuaiter, repped by Stone Manners Salners Agency and Ramos Management, will play Major Eckhardt, a mysterious authority figure in the Florida Keys who is having an affair with Meg Rayburn (Linda Cardellini). Zuaiter is coming off a starring role in the Oscar-nominated film Omar.
Tom Wheeler gave as good as he’s gotten today when he addressed a potentially hostile audience of TV and radio station owners at the NAB Show in Las Vegas. “Trust me. I get the skepticism,” he told the group which has been irked by his efforts to block local station cooperative agreements, among other things. “Here’s the former head of the cable AND the wireless industry at the NAB Show telling you he’s your friend….There is no more ridiculous metaphor.” But he assured the audience that now “I have the American people as my client.” And they would be best served if broadcasters think differently about their medium.
“We are at an inflection point where broadcast licensees can move from being the disrupted, to being the disruptor,” much like Netflix, the FCC chairman says. Instead of just hitting up pay TV providers for retransmission fees, local stations can create vibrant local news and entertainment online services. “It can be the basis for a fixed and mobile-delivered cable-like service. You possess the two most important components of a successful digital strategy: compelling content – specifically, the most important content: local content – and the means to promote it. …For all the wonderful things the Internet has done, one place that it has yet to deliver on its promise is local content.” Net neutrality would ensure that these services are carried online. But “your window of opportunity won’t stay open forever,” he says, nothing that others including Yahoo and Verizon are preparing deals to offer competitive content.
Less than a week after reaching an agreement on a new three-year contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers, the WGA today announced it’s bringing the contract to a membership vote (see the email to members below). “This year, ballots may be cast online, by mail (for those requesting a paper ballot) or at membership meetings in New York and Los Angeles on April 29, 2014,” said WGA West President Chris Keyser and Michael Winship, President, WGA East in an email to members. The union’s current contract expires on May 1. The duo also revealed that both the WGA West Board and the WGA East Council have unsurprisingly approved the new contract.