Good afternoon Insiders and welcome to this week’s newsletter, Max Goldbart here with my hand on the tiller. Netflix was in London this week and there was plenty else going on for you to digest over lunch. Read on. And sign up and subscribe here.
Netflix Goes Big
London calling: Netflix has been on a major European charm offensive this year and Wednesday night was the UK’s turn to host a no-expense-spared event. Held at the Battersea Power Station – once a giant south London coal-power generator and now a futuristic mall, residential complex and cinema – the Netflix See What’s Next shindig saw presenter Anita Rani host the likes of Blue Story creator Rapman, actor and filmmaker Daniel Kaluuya and Sam McAlister of Prince Andrew interview fame. Sex Education star Alistair Petrie helmed a panel comprising Heartstopper’s Yasmin Finney, The Witcher’s Joey Batey and The Crown’s Claudia Harrison, and there was back-slapping aplenty as Netflix touted starry new UK project after starry new UK project. Daniel Kaluuya stole the show when discussing his upcoming dystopian feature The Kitchen, which is set in a world in which the gap between rich and poor has stretched to breaking point. “It’s a way to talk about London right now,” said the Get Out star, before revealing he came up with the idea for the film 10 years ago at a barbershop in the north of the city. Elsewhere, Netflix talked up sports docs on rugby and football, dramas such as The Gentlemen series adaptation, and revealed Eddie Marsan will star in highly-anticipated Rapman show Supacell. There were also new pics and trailers for Heartstopper and The Crown (pictured). A disembodied Charlie Brooker, meanwhile, was the MC, ending the night with a peak at the upcoming Black Mirror revival, which was finally confirmed after months of speculation and leakings just hours before the showcase, featuring a bumper cast including Aaron Paul, Kate Mara and Salma Hayek Pinault.
How much??: Netflix has long touted the UK as its second biggest production hub and the streamer was on hand with receipts, stating that it will have spent the eye-watering sum of $6B across four years here by the end of 2023. This averages out at around $1.5B per year, although, amidst some confusion, Netflix refused to provide year-on-year figures. VP Original Content Anne Mensah said the $6B was “an increase of nearly 50% on what we originally anticipated” and there’s no doubt that Netflix has gone big in the land of The Crown when one considers the projects to have emerged since 2020. Speaking at a different event the following day, UK policy boss Benjamin King hailed the streamer’s grassroots impact on UK production, having unearthed the likes of Ncuti Gatwa and Yasmin Finney.
You’re joking: But King wasn’t only in praise of the UK landscape, and he used his speech to stick his neck out and criticize the government’s upcoming Media Bill for the potentially “chilling effect” it could have on the shows Netflix chooses to commission in the UK. The Media Bill intends to bring streamers in line with broadcasters from a regulatory standpoint and King worries about the impact on Netflix if it is forced to abide by the impartiality rules that have governed the likes of the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 for decades. “We would strongly urge the government to consider this given the obvious potential harm to the status quo,” he added. A government spokesman told Deadline the Bill will “ensure VoD services are subject to similar high standards” as broadcasters. This one looks set to run, and Netflix is facing a similar future in Canada, where the much debated C-11 Bill has become law, meaning streamers are now regulated akin to the networks.
Korean splash: The UK wasn’t the only focus this week for the Netflix purse. Co-CEO Ted Sarandos met South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol over the weekend in the U.S. and pledged $2.5B spend in the nation between now and 2027, another whopping figure. That is twice the amount that Netflix has invested in the Squid Game territory since it launched there in 2016, as it seeks the next runaway smash in the vein of Hwang Dong-hyuk’s masterpiece. Netflix recently unveiled a 34-strong Korean TV and film slate, including gameshow Physical 100, Berlin premiere Kill Boksoon and revenge drama The Glory. The Washington meeting was also attended by Bela Bajaria, Netflix’s Chief Content Officer, with Yoon welcoming the investment alongside Minyoung Kim, Vice President of Content for Asia Pacific, describing it as a “large opportunity” for South Korean content creators.
All Happening In French Cinema
Corsini controversy: Cannes would not be Cannes without a dose of controversy and the festival is starting early this year with its late addition of Catherine Corsini’s mother and daughters drama Le Retour (Homecoming). Local media reported the film’s promised Competition slot selection had been put on hold following allegations of inappropriate behavior on set. Having conducted its own investigation, Cannes opted to select the film and announced its inclusion alongside 12 other new feature additions Monday. The move prompted outcry from some local professionals as well as the gender equality lobby group Collectif 50/50, who said it sent out the wrong message around the issue of sexual harassment and workplace bullying. Corsini dismissed the accusations in an open letter, responding to disquiet over a masturbation scene involving a minor as well as other claims of inappropriate behavior. It remains to be seen whether the letter will draw a line under the affair. With less than three weeks to go ahead of the festival kick-off, Monday’s announcement also added an extra shot of star power on the Croisette with additions including Robert Rodriguez’s sci-action thriller Hypnotic starring Ben Affleck and Alice Braga and Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire’s Black Flies starring Sean Penn and Tye Sheridan.
Scorsese campaign: Martin Scorsese, who heads to Cannes this year with Leonardo DiCaprio-starring epic Killers of the Flower Moon, also generated headlines but in a positive sense. Scorsese got behind a fundraising campaign to keep Paris arthouse cinema La Clef alive. The 50-year-old venue has been at the heart of a five-year battle to keep it up and running after the banking group that owns the building tried to sell it off. There was good news this week when La Clef Revival Collective, members of which squatted at the venue for two-and-a-half-years, announced they had struck a deal to acquire the site. “La Clef must remain a cinema,” wrote Scorsese in a heart-felt open letter posted on the site of France’s Libération newspaper proclaiming his passion for the theatrical experience.
Jafar Panahi Leaves Iran
14 years: In 2009, Iranian director Jafar Panahi was told he was handed a travel ban after stoking the nation’s ire for attending the funeral of a student shot dead in the Green Revolution. Fourteen years on, the The White Balloon, The Circle and Taxi auteur has left his home country, according to an Instagram post from wife Tahereh Saeedi. She posted the picture on Tuesday night, with caption: “After 14 years, Jafar’s ban was cancelled and finally we are going to travel together for a few days… ” Panahi’s lawyer was quick to bat back rumors that the dissident director has left Iran for good, stating that he is due back next week. However, the reported trip comes just two months after Panahi was released from Tehran’s notorious Evin jail following his arrest in July alongside filmmakers Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Al-Ahmad amid a government crackdown on the country’s artists and freedom of expression. Eyes have been trained on the nation since the death of Mahsa Amini and many cultural figures have spoken out. Mel’s initial piece can be read here.
One year on: Blink and you’d have missed it. Rupert Murdoch’s TalkTV reached its first anniversary this month and so what better time for Jake to take a deep dive, speaking with the likes of channel boss Richard Wallace and, of course, channel face Piers Morgan. “Love him or hate him, you won’t want to miss him,” ran the poster line advertising Morgan’s nightly show upon launch, before he welcomed Donald Trump as his first guest. Fast forward 12 months, Morgan tells Jake he has “helped put TalkTV on the map” but execs are at pains to stress the channel is much more than the former Good Morning Britain host. Go deeper.
“Embedded in the German film ecosystem”: Berlinale titles Measures of Men, Seneca, and Helt Super! were labelled “anti-Black” by an open letter from a collective of Afro-German filmmakers and industry professionals this week. The group did not hold back, stating that they wanted to go beyond “denouncing the existence and handling of these offensive, racist films” by challenging the “systemic errors and the structural anti-Black racism embedded in the German film ecosystem.” The collective, titled Schwarze Filmschaffende, were at pains to stress where the films were going so wrong. They highlighted, for example, that in John Malkovich-starring Seneca, which is based on the life of the Roman philosopher, the film uses racial slurs and “crude” violence against Black children as a cinematic practice that leads to the “desensitization of white audiences towards Black bodies.” More here from Zac’s write-up.
🌶️ Hot One: Sir Phil Redmond’s Grange Hill movie has set director Sara Sugarman and will be partly based on the character she played in the children’s TV classic, per Zac.
🌶️ Another: The White Lotus breakout Beatrice Grannò has joined Henry Golding in sci-fi romance Daniela Forever.
🌶️ A further one: Netflix has ordered Mexican underwater heist drama Bandidos.
🌶️ One more: The Reluctant Traveler with Eugene Levy was renewed by Apple TV+.
🪑 Chair: Richard Sharp has resigned this morning from the BBC after a report found he had breached government guidelines.
🖊️ Signed up: Your Honor EP Ron Ninio with CAA.
🤝 Done deals: Warner Bros. Discovery and Viacom 18 struck an exclusive content partnership in India, while SonyLIV and Applause Ent deepened their relationship.
🧑💼 New job: For former ITV Studios exec Patrick Spence, who will lead AC Chapter One – Anonymous, Casarotto Ramsay and United’s rebranded JV.
🧑💼 Also new job: For departing Big Talk boss Matthew Justice, who becomes Sony Pictures Television’s EVP, Head of UK & Europe.
🍿 Box office: Super Mario Bros jumped past a new milestone with $900M+ global.
📇 Slate: From Amazon Prime Video’s Spanish team, including a revival of live talent format Operación Triunfo and a local Takeshi’s Castle.
⛺ Festivals: Bollywood stars Poonam Dhillaon and Rajkummar Rao will attend the closing gala of the UK Asian Film Festival.
⛺ More festivals: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Lord of the Rings: The War of Rohirrim, Migration and Trolls Band Together are all set for the Annecy International Animation Film Festival.
🎤 Hosts: Unveiled for Big Brother UK in the form of AJ Odudu and Will Best.
🎥 Trailer: For Pedro Almodóvar’s Strange Way of Life starring Pedro Pascal and Ethan Hawke. You don’t have to be called Pedro, but it helps.
🖼️ First-look: At Alicia Vikander in Cannes-bound thriller Firebrand, in which she plays Katherine Parr.
Melanie Goodfellow and Jesse Whittock contributed to this week’s International Insider