Roll up, roll up, Insiders. The Deadline International team have once again been travelling the world to bring you the latest news and analysis from the global film and TV biz, with Mel and Zac both in the Middle East. Max and I actually found the TV world descending on London for once, so we didn’t have to go so far for access. Read on.
Tighten those belts: Straight over to Max Goldbart with this report — As news emerged repeatedly of mass layoffs at a wealth of legacy U.S. media companies this week, some of the most senior execs in the business were facing tricky questions about the economic headwinds at the Content London event in the UK’s capital. “Belt tightening is coming,” according to Showtime Entertainment President Jana Winograde, who teased her Paramount-owned network’s approach to the global macroeconomic crisis: keeping up the tentpoles but “finding creative ways” to fund lower budget shows. Warner Bros. TV Studios boss Channing Dungey concurred, saying people are “taking a look at the costs of production more,” having spent a period of time being “stuck in a spending bubble” that ended with the Covid-19 pandemic. Universal Studio Group Chairman Pearlena Igbokwe was less concerned, however, stating “we haven’t seen the crisis’ impact” as of yet and stressing that great shows don’t necessarily cost $20M per hour. Igbokwe was on hand to unveil two UK talent deals this week, as Universal ties with Dominic Buchanan and Bennett McGhee’s Home Team and Cooking with the Stars producer South Shore. And she wasn’t the only one with a slightly sunnier outlook on the gloom: Fifth Season’s Co-CEO Chris Rice said the media stocks crash meant those globally minded companies who like creative approaches to program and filmmaking had a great opportunity to make hot new co-productions. We constantly hear that international is the long-term future for entertainment, but maybe it’s also the short-term answer, too.
Harry & Meghan Spill The Royal Beans
This won’t be controversial: Is there a celebrity topic that divides opinion more than the marriage of Prince Harry and Suits actress Meghan Markle? Almost certainly not. So, there’s zero chance people will care about the couple’s Netflix doc series charting their relationship and their decision to step back from royal life in favor of a California lifestyle making podcasts and TV shows. This week, we got a first look at Harry & Meghan, the streaming doc from What Happened, Miss Simone? director Liz Garbus. Those who say Harry and Meghan are attention seekers won’t be sated by the opening line of the teaser trailer, in which the Duke of Sussex says: “I had to do everything to protect my family,” but this is their chance to tell more of their personal story and maybe change some minds. In theory, it won’t be long before the series drops now, but Netflix simply went with “coming soon.” Our Baz Bamigboye had noted a November 9 launch date to complement Season 5 ofThe Crown had been planned at one point but the controversy surrounding the drama’s latest run meant it had been pushed. That was all unofficial, of course, as the project has been shrouded in secrecy. Click here to watch the trailer.
Stones in Saudi: Mel Goodfellow has been in Saudi Arabia and filed this report — It’s that time of year when the Middle East’s festival circuit kicks into life. After Marrakech, Egypt Cairo and Carthage, Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea International Film Festival launched its second edition in the port city of Jeddah on Thursday. Running December 1-10, it coincides with the fifth anniversary of news breaking that the country was lifting its 35-year ban on movie theaters as part of wider reforms to open-up the country’s economy and society. Whether to attend the festival amid concerns over the country’s human rights track record remains a hot topic in international film professional circles. However, judging by the roster of high-level guests due to touch down this week — including Sharon Stone, Spike Lee, Jackie Chan and Shah Rukh Khan — the mood around the festival appears to be thawing. Jury president Oliver Stone declared at the opening ceremony that the country was “misunderstood,” and detractors needed to visit in person.
Too big to ignore?: Beyond the stars, international industry execs are also making the trip. Ron Halpern and Working Title’s Lucas Webb were in the audience for the opening film What’s Love Got To Do With It?, on which they are executive producers, while Elysian Film Group’s Danny Perkins, Wild Bunch International’s Vincent Maraval and Vine Alternative Investments partner and COO Steve Kovach are among the speakers lined-up for a program of industry panels. Ultimately, Saudi Arabia’s potential is getting too big to ignore. “Let’s not forget the market opportunities in Saudi Arabia right now. It’s the largest market in the region, both for production and consumption,” the Red Sea Foundation Ceo Jomana Al-Rashid told Deadline in the lead-up to the festival. “Red Sea is a perfect entry point and introduction to what’s happening in the region as a whole.” Full Red Sea coverage can be found here, including Diana’s cool sit down with Bollywood star Rukh Khan.
Screen Scotland Saves Edinburgh… Maybe
Appraise be: The Edinburgh Film Festival went bust in October, along with the Scottish capital’s Filmhouse Cinema and the Belmont Filmhouse in Aberdeen, after the charity that owned them called in the administrators. Things looked bleak for the much-loved festival but it’s possible things are looking up. National funding body Screen Scotland has acquired the rights and brand assets to the festival from FRP Advisory. However, there was no immediate announcement of a 2023 festival and instead Kristy Matheson, who led her Edinburgh Film Festival as Creative Director this year, has been given the task of appraising the possibility of an event next year. Funding for the work will come out of a pot initially awarded to the festival’s previous owner the Centre for the Moving Image. The Edinburgh Film Festival holds the record as the world’s oldest continually running film fest, so not only would Screen Scotland be saving a pretty great event in a beautiful city, but they’d also be ensuring the event’s Wikipedia page won’t have to amend that fact. Zac had plenty more.
Shanghai Disneyland Opens – Then Closes — Doors
Crackdown: China remains committed to its hard-line ‘zero Covid’ approach to the global pandemic, despite the recent protests aimed at softening the stance. Shanghai Disneyland had closed its gates in late October but had reopened them a week ago. However, by Tuesday the doors were slammed shut again as the government cracked down on the rise in cases. The park has been closed several times since the pandemic began in March 2020 but this latest closure will be a huge disappointment to Disney, which is still resetting under returning CEO Bob Iger, and something tells me Disney’s troubles in China don’t end here. Tom Tapp had more.
Hot One: Cynthia Erivo and Renee Zellwegger are teaming for Apple TV+ thriller series Raising Wild, per Max’s scoop.
Another One: MGM is shopping Jessica Lange and Ed Harris flick Long Day’s Journey into Night. Andreas on this.
Some more spice: Johnny Depp film Chocolat tempered into TV series treatment.
Stake: BBC Studios invested in Small Axe’s Turbine Studios.
First look: Maxine Peake as late Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya in Anna. Andreas with this one.
Trailer: Netflix drops a teaser for Harry & Meghan. That one won’t be controversial…
Slate: Prime Video France unveils a slate of films and TV — and a union deal for good measure.