International Insider: EFM Hits New Heights; Amazon’s Mega Lease; Oscars International; ‘Neighbours’ No More

Afternoon International Insiders. The team is in Berlin and EFM is hotting up. We’ve got the latest from Germany and more so read on.

EFM Reaches New Heights Despite Virtual Format

Tom Hanks

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Record-breaking: It has been a strong start to this year’s virtual European Film Market. Last night, the Tom Hanks comedy A Man Called Otto was picked up by Sony in a glossy $60M world rights deal following a heated bidding war that lasted several days. Andreas and Mike Fleming Junior had the scoop. That figure was a record for the EFM, eclipsing last year’s $55M pact Netflix made for The Pale Blue Eye. Big big numbers.

Deal-making: Don’t expect EFM action to end there. A lot more high-profile packages have been unveiled across the last week, and we’re expecting more eye-catching deals to close over Zoom in the coming days. Hot projects on offer that Deadline told you about first include: Michael Mann’s Ferrari starring Adam Driver, Penelope Cruz and Shailene Woodley; John Michael McDonagh’s Fear Is The Rider; the Naomi Watts-starring The Friend; Chris Pine’s directorial debut Poolman; the Gerard Butler-starring Just Watch Me; and Eileen with Anne Hathaway and Thomasin McKenzie – that’s just a selection.

Berlinale: Over on the festival side, it’s been an understandably muted beginning to this year’s condensed edition. Footfall is extremely light in the city, no surprise there, but a small number of industry people have made the trip, mostly to support the films debuting in the program. Last night’s opening film, Francois Ozon’s Peter Von Kant, received warm write-ups (read ours here). The opening ceremony was a muted affair, heavily impacted by the strict 50% capacity limit in the festival’s venues, but organizers pressed on bravely in the face of ongoing disruption. Isabelle Adjani, who co-stars in Peter Von Kant, was a no-show after being a Covid contact, while a slightly awkward moment between Berlinale co-directors Carlo Chatrian and Mariette Rissenbeek encapsulated the challenges facing the fest this year. Read our write-up of the opening ceremony here.

Amazon’s Mega Lease

Shepperton Studios

New neighbors: Amazon and Netflix are neighbors. In the week’s big studio news, Prime Video picked up a multimillion pound 10-year lease at Pinewood Group’s expanding Shepperton Studios site in Surrey, South East England. The move is yet more evidence that the streamers are desperate to expand their UK footprints, coming a few months after Netflix doubled its space at the same site. The competition is clearly stepping up. For Amazon, 2022 is the year of the UK original and the Europe team is eagerly pushing upcoming big-budget scripted projects including Hartswood Films’ The Devil’s Hour, grime/drill music drama Jungle and Martin Compston-starring The Rig. Good Omens and Anansi Boys both film in Scotland and Lord of the Rings series two is coming to Bray Studios in Berkshire. Last week’s stats showing record spend on film and drama in the UK are looking anything but an anomaly. In a sign of good faith, Amazon is also partaking in a scheme with UK training body ScreenSkills to take on apprentices and help fight the skills crisis, with funding coming directly from the UK government.

Oscars International

Drive My Car

Academy firsts and records: All eyes were on L.A. this week for the Oscar nominations, one of the bigger moments in the seemingly never-ending U.S. awards season. Several international films were highly recognized, with Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast picking up seven noms and meaning the Death on the Nile star has now been nominated across a record seven different categories during his illustrious career. Meanwhile, Netflix’s The Power of The Dog, which topped the list with 12 noms, comes with buy-in from New Zealand, Australia and the UK, while Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car made history in becoming the first Japanese film to secure a Best Picture nod, with Hamaguchi also recognized in the Best Director category.

The international five: Drive My Car is also one of five facing off in the Best International Feature Film category, alongside Pablo Sorrentino’s Hand of God, Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World, Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s Flee and a wondrous debut for Bhutan and Pawo Choyning Dorji’s Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom – just the second ever Bhutanese film to be submitted. “It feels like a dream, like I’ll wake up tomorrow and it will have been a dream,” Pawo told Nancy, who had this snap analysis and interview piece for your digestion.

Sitting Down With De Luca & Abdy

MGM deep dive: Busy week for our Nancy who also spoke to MGM Film Group Chairman Michael De Luca and Motion Picture Group President Pam Abdy off the back of a string of Oscar nom successes for the likes of No Time To Die, Cyrano, House of Gucci and Licorice Pizza. With Amazon’s MGM buyout still making its way through the winding U.S. regulatory corridors, read on here to get to know Michael and Pam’s thoughts on the Academy Awards, leading MGM through a pandemic and working with talent.

Neighbours No More


Ramsay Street closing: The week started mournfully as Fremantle announced beloved Australian soap Neighbours will end in the summer after 37 years unless it is able to find a new UK buyer. The show may be set a 24-hour plane ride away but Neighbours has long relied on co-pro funding from ViacomCBS-owned UK network Channel 5, and Channel 5 is no longer willing to stump up the cash, pivoting instead to original drama. Fans were up in arms but it’s not quite the end yet.

Curtain twitching: UK broadcasting heavyweight Michael Grade, who has run all of the nation’s major broadcasters (bar Channel 5) at some point or other, predicted “someone will pick it up,” adding during a BBC interview: “Neighbours has a readymade audience, is a big brand, and will get a lot of publicity.” All eyes on Fremantle’s next move but meetings are likely being set up. My analysis Tuesday found ITV to be the most likely buyer, with several from the UK’s production and distribution community branding the network a “natural home” and one that would suit the soap’s friendly teatime tone. A Fremantle spokeswoman stressed that it’s early days and cast and crew are the current priority.

The Essentials

🌶️ Hot one of the week: ViacomCBS has cut ties with Gobstopper TV following an investigation into bullying at the Just Tattoo Of Us producer. The investigation was launched over the summer after 10 former staff and freelancers said they had experienced or witnessed bullying while working for Gobstopper.

🌶️ Another one: Netflix has set female-led action adventure series Palomino from Sony-backed The Crown producer Left Bank Pictures.

🌶️ And another: Actress and filmmaker Romola Garai is working on a raft of projects including a re-team with Amulet producer Matthew James Wilkinson (Yesterday).

🚚 On the move: Sky Studios much-admired Chief Content Officer Jane Millichip is leaving after nine years with the pay-TV giant.

🚚 On the move: Fox’s Masked Singer commissioner Claire O’Donohoe has joined long-time collaborator Natalka Znak at Banijay.

🍿 Box office: Tom had the scoop on the Tinder Swindler becoming the first Netflix doc to lead the streamer’s most-watched film chart.

🤝 Deal-making: Banijay has partnered with La Vie En Rose producer Alain Goldman, whose Pitchipoï Productions and Montmartre Films will produce scripted projects with Banijay France.

🎦 Trailer: BBC Three and Hulu unveiled the first trailer for their next Sally Rooney adaptation, Conversations With Friends.

🖼️ First Look: Diana Lodderhose had exclusive behind-the-scenes pics from Gerard Butler’s Kandahar.

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