Fargo, Platoon, Annie Hall, Hotel Rwanda, and Hoosiers are among the films from the MGM library that will join the programming lineup for those who pay $79 a year for Amazon Prime (which provides free shipping for merchandise in addition to entertainment content). But the e-retailer seems most excited about Vikings, which airs in the U.S. on History. It’s not a shock to see it on Amazon: The company’s European streaming service, Lovefilm, has had it since May. It’s “a series we know our customers love in both the U.S. and abroad,” says Brad Beale, Director of Digital Video Content Acquisition for Amazon. And MGM is glad to collect the check. “We are always looking for opportunities to bring our content to new audiences in innovative ways, which is exactly what this partnership delivers,” says John Bryan, MGM’s President, Domestic Television Distribution.
The freshman season of Vikings was a marauding success for History, with the historical drama emerging as the No. 1 new cable series of the year and scoring three Emmy noms yesterday. Now there’s a trailer for Season 2, which debuted at Comic-Con today. “More armies, more Viking ships” — that was Vikings creator Michael Hirst’s biggest promise to the crowd at Comic-Con and that’s exactly what the teaser trailer delivered (watch it after the jump), showing Norse crusader Ragnar Lothbrok’s vast army clashing with their foes on a bloody beach, Troy-like style. Many of the actors present, most of them bearded and long-haired, followed Hirst’s cue, in keeping details about Season 2 close to the vest. Audiences will learn more about Ragnar’s sons, in particular Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig), and of course Ragnar’s wife Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) will ultimately learn of her husband’s extramarital affair.
Related: EMMYS: ‘Vikings’ Justin Pollard
“As Americans, you like to say that family comes first,” Hirst told Room 6a, “The same can be said of the Vikings. Ragnar bred a lot of sons who became famous in their own turn. When he died, they finally declared war on the whole world.” Hinted Winnick: “Her relationship with Bjorn and Ragnar is tested. We learn that our son is older and it’s interesting to see if she is stronger or weaker in that situation.”
Diane Haithman is an AwardsLine contributor.
In the first episode of History’s Vikings, lead character Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) can barely contain his excitement as he tries to persuade brother Rollo (Clive Standen) that Viking ships might venture West to discover what new cities and new gods might be found in uncharted territory. How, wonders Rollo, can a ship stay true to its course with no land in sight? Ragnar shows Rollo the sunboard, a disc that floats on water and charts direction by the location of the noon shadow. Rollo remains skeptical: What happens when clouds obscure the sun? Ragnar then unwraps the precious sunstone, a crystal whose reflective properties can pinpoint the sun’s position even in blinding fog.
Thomas J. McLean is an AwardsLine contributor.
Cinematography that stands out from the TV crowd is now about more than looking better than most other shows—it’s about getting a look that meets the high standards once reserved only for feature films. But with television schedules and budgets typically only a fraction of their big-screen counterparts, cinematographers on shows such as Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Good Wife and Vikings use every lighting and camera tool or trick at their disposal to deliver the goods. Digital technology and the popularity of cameras like the Alexa, which operates well in low-light conditions, have helped immensely, but it still takes creativity to find camera moves and lighting techniques that truly stand out.
Going back to basics has paid off for AMC’s Mad Men. Cinematographer Christopher Manley likes, whenever possible, to drop the second camera typically used to ensure closeups and coverage of every scene. “We set up A shots, and if the B shot can work without compromising either shot, then we’ll use it. Otherwise, we don’t,” he explains. The result is more medium shots, giving the closeups more impact and evoking a classic big-screen style. “Doing closeups a lot of the time in television is more about a holdover style from when TVs were much smaller and people were sitting in their living room looking at a 20-inch screen 8 feet away,” says Manley. “Nowadays, everybody has a large 16:9 television that dominates their living room, so I think it’s OK to go back to a more old-fashioned scale of using wider shots.”
Thomas J. McLean is an AwardsLine contributor.
For sound editors and mixers, the broadening of TV’s audio palette into feature-film territory requires a lot of work and plenty of tricks to get shows to sound as good as they look on tight budgets and even tighter schedules. “I spend quite a bit of time trying to find the right people who can do feature-quality work but not take feature time,” says Tim Kimmel, supervising sound editor on HBO’s epic fantasy series Game Of Thrones. With 10 hourlong episodes to complete in about five months and a tight schedule on the production pipeline, work often continues until the last minute. “By the time we finish mixing the show, we’re still waiting on final visual effects, so we will end up going back into episodes that were basically completed,” Kimmel explains.
History Channel announced today that it is picking up another season of Vikings. The first scripted drama for the network, Vikings will return for 10-episode second season next year. Production is set to begin this summer. The show’s first-season finale will air April 28. The renewal comes five episodes into what has been a successful run for the series. With a lead-in from the Mark Burnett-produced The Bible, Vikings had 6.2 million viewers, 2.5 million adults 18-49 viewers and 2.7 million adults 25-54 catch its March 3 debut. That topped the broadcast networks at 10 PM in the 18-49 demo. The series has emerged as the No. 1 new cable series of the year.
It was a big night for History, whose 10-hour miniseries The Bible opened with 13.1 million viewers and 4.6 million adults 25-54 to rank as the No.1 cable entertainment telecast of the year. It was followed by the debut of the network’s first original scripted series, The Vikings, which rode The Bible‘s coattails to draw 6.2 million viewers, 2.5 million Adults 18-49 and 2.7 million Adults 25-54, beating the broadcast networks at 10 PM in the 18-49 demo. The rollout was part of a new strategy by male-skewing History which is launching the bulk of its programming after the end of football season this year.
When offshore directors make a breakthrough film and start getting those big Hollywood studio offers, too often they lose the perspective that made their early films so worth discovering. That’s not going to happen to Baltasar Kormakur, the Icelandic helmer who continues to split time between making Hollywood fare and mining Iceland for homegrown stories. Kormakur’s latest film, The Deep, was just selected by Iceland as its entry for 2013 Best Foreign Language film. A harrowing fact-based adventure tale about an Icelandic man who was the sole survivor of a fishing boat crew that sank in the dead of winter off the south coast of Iceland in 1984, the film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this month.
While many came to that festival to see Oscar-bait films including Argo, The Master and Silver Linings Playbook, there was quite a lineup of films that played Toronto and went on to become Foreign Film nominees including the Norwegian film Kon-Tiki by directors Espen Sandberg-Joachim Ronning, and the Danish film A Royal Affair by Nikolaj Arcel. And of course Michael Haneke’s Amour, Austria’s selection and what has to be considered the Foreign Film frontrunner.
The directors of Kon-Tiki and A Royal Affair will get their Hollywood shots, while Haneke just flat-out disdains what he feels are predictable and formulaic Hollywood films and will stay where he is. Kormakur is going at it in his own way:
Travis Fimmel (The Beast, Baytown Outlaws) and Jessalyn Gilsig (Glee, Heroes, CSI: NY) are among the new cast members announced today for History’s upcoming scripted series Vikings. Fimmel will play the role of Viking leader Ragnar; Gilsig has …