Hello International Insider friends, and happy Friday. In the week in which Netflix said its coronavirus boom could be over, here are the seven things you need to know about the global film and TV business. If you want to subscribe to get this alert in a timely fashion, sign up here.
1. Scoop: Sky Steps Up Restarts
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Sky soars again: After we brought you news last week of War Of The Worlds becoming the UK’s first pandemic-era TV drama series shoot, industry chatter around restarts is intensifying. Sky is among those leading the charge, with August being a key month in its planning. Dramas Britannia and Temple (pictured), and comedies Breeders and Code 404 are all set to begin shooting again, while the likes of A Discovery Of Witches will follow soon after. Here’s the full story.
A gamechanger? Sky was one of the UK broadcasters that fed into new guidance published this week on close contact among cast and crew on-set. The safety protocols, which are designed to help shoots return to some sort of normality, recommend that people breaking two-meter social distancing rules should be tested at least once a week for coronavirus alongside daily symptom checks. In short: kissing just got the green light. Read more.
2. Phoebe’s Writing Fears
Human after all: Phoebe Waller-Bridge is among the hot favorites to win a BAFTA TV Craft Award tonight for Fleabag, but the Brit admitted this week that her dazzlingly authorial voice doesn’t always come naturally. Waller-Bridge said she wrote and re-wrote the famous confessional scene with “Hot Priest” Andrew Scott right up until the cameras were rolling. “There are some things I am 1000% sure about. The rest of it, I’m constantly questioning and doubting,” she said at a virtual BAFTA event.
Gong-giving with a twist: You can see if Waller-Bridge claims the prize for best comedy writer at tonight’s awards, which will be streamed live on BAFTA’s YouTube channel at 7PM UK time. Episodes star Stephen Mangan will be presenting the virtual ceremony alongside British comedian Rachel Parris, and the pair have already pre-recorded the skits that will break up the evening’s formalities. Watch here.
3. Lionsgate Pride Shrinks
End of an era: A true big beast of the international studios world announced his departure on Wednesday. Zygi Kamasa, the longtime CEO of Lionsgate UK and Europe, is stepping down at the end of the month to pursue an “entrepreneurial opportunity.” Kamasa has overseen the investment, production and distribution of more than 350 films, including Oscar winners and box office hits such as La La Land, Brooklyn and The Hunger Games.
A smaller pride: Kamasa was tightlipped about his new venture, but his departure does mean the number of group-wide executives at Lionsgate in Europe continues to shrink dramatically. TV chief Steve November quietly moved into another role at Lionsgate-owned production label Further South Productions last year, while Ross Cunningham, head of theatrical marketing, and Lorna Mann, SVP of publicity, have both departed in recent months. Lionsgate UK and Europe president Nicola Pearcey will assume Kamasa’s duties, while head of production and acquisitions Nick Manzi also remains.
4. Depp’s Defenders
The revelations keep coming: Johnny Depp’s legal battle with British tabloid The Sun continues to produce a string of extraordinary revelations, as the darkest recesses of his relationship with Amber Heard are thrust into blinding daylight. This week, London’s High Court heard evidence from a string of Depp acolytes, many of whom spoke to the actor’s good character and made allegations about Heard’s own propensity for violent outbursts. Mixed in with the evidence were tawdry tales of severed fingers and feces-ridden bed sheets.
Ryding to the rescue? There were two notable absentees among Depp’s defenders: his former lovers Winona Ryder and Vanessa Paradis were pulled from the witness stand by the Pirates Of The Caribbean star’s legal team. Ryder was slated to give video link evidence on Wednesday. Having said that, we did get a closer look at the witness statements they provided in support of Depp. Ryder, in particular, struck a heartfelt tone. “I truly and honestly only know him as a really good man — an incredibly loving, extremely caring guy who was so very protective of me and the people that he loves, and I felt so very, very safe with him,” she said.
What’s next: The trial has at least another week left to run, during which we are likely to hear more evidence in support of the case being mounted by Rupert Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers, which is defending The Sun’s claim that Depp is a “wife beater.” Depp vehemently refutes the allegation. Keep across our coverage here.
5. Best Of The Rest
Chinese cinemas back in business: Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro and Nancy Tartaglione got the inside track on why Chinese movie theaters are opening faster than U.S. counterparts during the pandemic. They discovered that China’s centralized power and a sprinkling of propaganda are just two of the reasons why the curtain is opening on film screenings. Go deeper.
Australia’s Hollywood bait: Australia has announced a $400M AUD ($280M) extension to its Location Incentive scheme, as the country bids to take advantage of its relatively low exposure to the coronavirus pandemic. Films including Thor: Love and Thunder have previously benefited from the scheme. Full story.
Mistaken identity: A sticky moment this week for NBCUniversal-owned Monkey Kingdom. We revealed that the production outfit apologized profusely after mistaking comedian Dane Baptiste for actor Richard Blackwood during an exchange with the former. Baptiste called out the incident on Twitter but didn’t name Monkey. Read more.
A suitable buyer: BBC One’s much-anticipated Vikram Seth adaptation A Suitable Boy (pictured) debuts in the UK on July 26, but ahead of the premiere, the show has found an international home in the shape of Netflix, which has taken global rights everywhere except the U.S., Canada and China. The deal was one of eight new Indian films and series the streamer acquired this week. More details here.
The litigious hand of God: Diego Maradona’s lawyer Matias Morla says the Argentine soccer star is exploring possible legal action over Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino’s upcoming Netflix film The Hand Of God. The World Cup winner did not authorize the use of his image in the movie, though Netflix insists it’s not about him. Go deeper.
6. One To Watch
True crime pays: If you enjoyed the deeply unsettling Don’t F**K With Cats, then you might want to add Fear City: New York vs The Mafia to your watchlist. Made by Raw, the British producer behind the Luka Magnotta documentary, Fear City promises a detailed look at the history-making 1980s investigation into New York’s most formidable mob bosses. Ex-Mafia associates feature among the talking heads, as does former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, now Donald Trump’s attorney. The three-part Fear City is co-produced by Brillstein Entertainment and drops July 22. Here’s the trailer.
7. And Finally…
Cat among the pigeons: UK Parliamentary committee hearings are usually bear pits for those giving evidence, and this week was no exception when ITV CEO Carolyn McCall faced MPs of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee. McCall was smacked down for her “lack of contrition” over reality program The Jeremy Kyle Show, which ITV canceled last year after the death of a participant, and — in a carefully worded answer — said she would not block her children from appearing on Love Island, despite a string of suicides linked to the show. But the heated exchanges were cooled by an unexpected arrival: MP John Nicolson’s cat interrupted proceedings, prompting the immortal, never before uttered words at a Parliamentary hearing: “Rojo, put your tail down.” McCall, as you can see above, struggled to keep a straight face. You can watch the cat bomb here.