Bonjour, Insiders. Jesse Whittock here to guide you through a whirlwind week in film and television. Cannes is nearly over, while we’ve got the latest twist in the ongoing U.S. labor disputes, which could have worldwide ramifications. Read on and don’t forget to subscribe here.
No Assurance Of Insurance
Broken bonds: Andreas broke one of the biggest stories of the year Tuesday. His scoop about the shut down of Pawel Pawlikowski’s Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara-starrer The Island revealed a new problem for the indie film sector: bond companies are refusing to insure movies due to impending SAG-AFTRA and DGA action. The Island’s producers found this out the hard way, as they were told the film couldn’t be bonded on the eve of shooting in Spain. Joker star Phoenix and Mara (Carol), both SAG-AFTRA card carriers, were forced to return home and the film is now in limbo. SAG-AFTRA members could strike on July 1 if a deal can’t be struck with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Negotiations begin on June 7. Leak Herald’s sources say any sizeable indie film who’s shoot bleeds into the SAG-AFTRA talks period will struggle to reach deals with bond companies. Studio films won’t be impacted, as they are self-bonded, but SAG-AFTRA talent working overseas on series shoots could impact the TV sector. In a sector still shaking off the last vestiges of the Covid-19 pandemic and plagued by layoffs, crashing ad markets and wonky streamer economics, the last thing anyone needs is indie filmmakers facing another hurdle to getting their projects made. All this harks back to the insurance woes that characterized the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, when TV shows and movies were stood down en masse due to a sudden inability to commercially insure. One to watch.
Strike out: The latest from the picket lines in the U.S. saw the likes of Duster, The Really Loud House and The Old Man shutting down production. With literally dozens of shows no longer shooting, it’s no surprise our Labor ed David Robb reported on-location filming in LA tumbled 51.5% last week compared with the same figure a year ago. Our U.S. team remains on the frontline, and this week we had a dispatch from 30 Rock among others. Talent agencies have begun belt tightening and layoffs as the strike rumbles on, while Lynette Rice looked at how social media is helping the writers on the picket lines. For full WGA strike coverage, click here.
Fremaux fights, deals done: Over to Zac Ntim, who’s been on the ground in Cannes since the start… It’s been an eventful second week here in Cannes. Things kicked off with Festival Delegate General Thierry Fremaux caught up in an altercation with a local police officer. Footage of the scrap, captured by veteran French journalist Eric Morillot, made its way to social media sites, showing Fremaux and the officer exchanging insults and minor blows outside the Carlton Hotel. French media reported that the incident occurred after Fremaux was caught riding his electric bike outside the grand establishment. Away from street beefs, the Cannes Market has been heating up, with a series of high-profile deals locked out of the Croisette. Leak Herald broke the news that Netflix has picked up Todd Haynes’ Competition title May December in an $11M deal for North American rights. The pact is being finalized by CAA Media Finance and UTA Independent Film Group, with Rocket Science brokering international deals. The film premiered at Cannes last Saturday, and received a hearty eight-minute standing ovation. The pic, starring Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore, is an early frontrunner in the Palme d’Or chatter here in Cannes alongside Jonathan Glazer’s latest The Zone of Interest, which has secured a slew of European and Asian sales. The biggest deal thrashed out at this year’s Cannes Market is Prime Video swooping to pre-buy international rights — excluding Germany — to Liam Neeson action sequel Ice Road 2: Road to the Sky for around $17M – another story broken by Leak Herald. Mubi has also been busy, picking up two Un Certain Regard pics, Rodrigo Moreno’s The Delinquents (Los Delincuentes) and Felipe Gálvez’s The Settlers, for major territories. Elsewhere Neon — the home of the last three Palme d’Or winners Triangle of Sadness, Titane and Parasite — picked up Justine Triet’s Cannes Competition feature Anatomy of a Fall for NA.
American Idol: In a stark sign ‘o’ the times, the hottest ticket in town this week was the premiere of a TV show, Sam Levinson’s sex-filled Euphoria follow-up The Idol. Levinson co-created the HBO series with pop star Abel ‘The Weeknd’ Tesfaye, who leads alongside Lily-Rose Depp in his first substantial on-screen appearance. The series received a five-minute standing ovation, during which Levinson fought back tears, but the response from critics and commentators has been less enthusiastic. Leak Herald’s Baz Bamigboye wasn’t exactly sold on the subject matter. Festivalgoers have also been scavenging to nab a ticket to Directors’ Fortnight’s headline Rendez-vous with Quentin Tarantino. The writer-director landed on the Croisette Thursday and introduced a screening of the 1977 pic Rolling Thunder before leading a masterclass session. Before the event, the Pulp Fiction filmmaker spoke exclusively with Baz and shared new details about his forthcoming 10th and final feature film, The Movie Critic. Tarantino told Leak Herald the pic is moving into “pre-pre-production” next month and will be based “on a guy who really lived, but was never really famous, and he used to write movie reviews for a porno rag.” Baz’s interview with Tarantino was split into two parts. Check one here and two here.
Closer: The festival concludes with the closing ceremony Saturday evening, but before that, Alice Rohrwacher and Ken Loach will debut their latest works in Competition. Both pics will be relatively starry events. Rohrwacher’s La Chimera features Josh O’Connor (The Crown) alongside Isabella Rossellini and Alba Rohrwacher. Conversely, Loach’s The Old Oak features a mix of professional and non-actors. The pic has been billed as the octogenarian’s last film, capping a decades-long career that includes 16 Cannes competition titles and two Palme d’Or wins. Can he grab a historic third? Check back with us on Saturday for this year’s winners and find all our Cannes coverage here.
Ed’s note: Last night, Zac was one of many hit by the obligatory travel chaos that all-to-often accompanies festivals in Cannes. Many were left stranded at Nice Airport or forced to trudge back to their apartments and hotels for an unexpected extra evening in France after flights to the UK were grounded. Happy to report the breaking news Zac is now safely back at home in London and already hunting his next scoop.
Disney Layoffs Go Beyond U.S.
Cuts begin: Part of Disney CEO Bob Iger’s return to the Magic Kingdom was about fixing spiralling spending and reshaping the company to be financially and strategically fit for the future. He laid out plans to save $5.5BN back in February — this included losing around 7,000 staff from across the company in three painful waves. The final one began in the U.S. this week, as our U.S. team reported first on Tuesday, with about 2,500 people impacted this time. Max and I had revealed in April that the cuts would eventually hit the international arm of Disney, which is primarily based in West London. Well, the axe came down on Wednesday, with more than 100 international staff learning they are at risk of redundancy. Labor laws tend to work differently outside the U.S. so the process will be slower, but the upshot is more good people will be heading into this weekend facing unemployment. Many are hitting the socials and using #OpenToWork and #HireDisney hashtags to advertise their new status. We hear most of those impacted have been in marketing, PR, HR, IT and engineering, along with other back-office roles, and it remains to be seen if the content teams stay safe. This is a live one so we’ll be updating as and when new information comes to light. Read more here.
Review: Over to Warner Bros Discovery’s UK and Ireland base in London, where Max revealed on Monday that WBD was reviewing its commissioning and editorial strategy due to the tough economic climate. Premiere dates could change and operational shifts may follow as commissioning execs examine the UK pipeline in depth. Producers were informed in the last week or so by Clare Laycock’s team. WBD UK and Ireland will unveil new commissions in coming weeks — in fact it announced a Vinnie Jones doc series yesterday — but these were ordered before the current review was undertaken.
Comedy Comes to Cardiff
Clarion call: Max was in Cardiff and filed this report… BBC comedy boss Jon Petrie cuts an affable, laid-back figure but announced himself Wednesday with a set-piece at the second BBC Comedy Festival in which he argued passionately for more support for a genre that often plays second fiddle to its big drama brother. Petrie called for a comedy tax credit along with a “package of measures” to safeguard the industry from costs that have risen “enormously,” in an impassioned speech that appeared to signal a new stage for the exec and was paired with his first big comedy slate since taking the post in September 2021. Unlike drama, Petrie argued, comedy struggles with third-party funding and therefore requires more support in these tough times. In an eyebrow-raising section of his speech, he directly contradicted BBC Director General Tim Davie’s ‘fewer, bigger, better’ mantra, calling the idea of focusing budgets on fewer titles in comedy a “mug’s game.” BBC boots on the ground swiftly stressed that comedy is different to other genres and Petrie won’t be hauled into the headmaster’s office on Monday morning for breaking rank.
UK > U.S.: Elsewhere on a fun day out in the Welsh capital, top British talent were extolling the virtues of working in the UK compared with glitzy Hollywood, coming as writers enter their fourth strike week. Bad Sisters creator Sharon Horgan lambasted the TV pitching system in the States. “No one lies to you [in the UK],” she said. “You don’t get bullsh**ted.” Horgan’s U.S. projects are on pause due to the writers strike but she is continuing to pen the second season of Bad Sisters, the double BAFTA-winning Apple TV+ hit that has turned the world’s gaze to her native Ireland. Meanwhile, and in a similar vein, Horgan’s agent Duncan Hayes was on hand during a different panel session to talk up the UK agenting system when compared with its U.S. counterpart. All our coverage can be found here.
In A Land Faroe, Faroe Away
No man is an Island (though this guy might be): What a year it has been for Torfinnur Jákupsson, the man we believe is more responsible than anyone for placing the tiny 53,000-population Faroe Islands on the global film and TV map. Having come up with the idea for hit drama Trom when he was just 16 working in a fish factory, Jákupsson has utilized its success to launch a production outfit, plan a wealth of other projects and spread the love about his homeland at a range of markets and festivals as he talks up the merits of filming in a nation that featured in the concluding scenes of James Bond’s No Time to Die. We caught up with him as his GRÓ Studios shingle turned one, with a slate of half-a-dozen projects heading out to market. Dive deeper.
🌶️ Hot One: Listen to an exclusive recording of Escape to the Chateau star Angel Strawbridge berating a producer, as part of Jake’s latest exposé.
🌶️ Spicy: Shahid Kapoor will star in an action thriller from Zee Studios and Roay Kapur Films, as Liz revealed.
🌶️ A third: Disney’s Star+ in Brazil has made a double-season order for period drama series Americana, about emigrated U.S. Confederates.
🌶️ Yes, a fourth: Ricky Gervais is working on his first BBC project in a decade, directing 7 Minutes. Max with the scoop.
😥 Drought: UK reality TV producers are struggling to find work and leaving the industry.
⛺ Festival: How Croatia’s NEM became a pivotal boutique TV market. Diana with the report.
🚪🚶♀️ Exiting: Berlinale Series boss Julia Fidel after four years in post.
🎥 Casting: Game of Thrones star Indira Varma joined the new Doctor Who.
🖋️ Signed: Luther Ford, who plays Prince Harry in the upcoming season of The Crown.
⚽ Footy: Prime Video has lined up doc series 99, about Manchester United’s historic treble-winning season.
🍿 Box office: The Fast & Furious franchise hit $7B globally, making it the fifth biggest in movie history.
👀 First look: At Some Nights I Feel Like Walking, Filipino indie feature on Manila’s disaffected youth.
And finally… a fond farewell to RRR and Thor star Ray Stevenson, who passed away aged 58.
Zac Ntim and Max Goldbart contributed to this week’s International Insider.