International Insider: Cannes Gets In Gear; Inside Sky Studios; Strike Unsettles LA Screenings; Russia Rattled

Welcome, Insiders. Cannes is now well under way while the picket lines remain busy in LA. Jesse Whittock here in London. I’ve rounded up all the big and important news from film and TV, so sit back and enjoy the read. Subscribe here.

Cannes Gets In Gear

Controversy: Diana Lodderhose here reporting from Cannes where it’s been all systems go on the Croisette since the festival kicked off with the opening of Johnny Depp starrer Jeanne du Barry on Tuesday. It wouldn’t feel like a proper Cannes without a healthy dose of controversy. Festival head Thierry Frémaux responded to French actress Adèle Haenel’s suggestion that Cannes is part of a French eco-system that turns a blind eye to sexual violence. “It’s not true and the proof is that if you believed it, you would not be here, listening to me now, taking your accreditations and complaining about the press screenings for a festival of rapists,” he told journalists at a press conference on opening day. All eyes were on Depp and his Jeanne du Barry director Maïwenn on opening night, notably because it was the first acting role Depp has had since he won a defamation suit against ex-wife Amber Heard and also because Maïwenn came under intense scrutiny after reports arose of her spitting on a journalist before the festival. A humbled and defensive Depp spoke up at the Cannes press conference Wednesday telling journos, “In regards to me and my life, the majority of what you’ve read is fantastically horrifically written fiction.” Elsewhere, Catherine Corsini’s Homecoming brought in a whole new set of problems with stories about harassment of workers on the pic’s set and a masturbation scene involving minors. In a press conference on Thursday, Corsini reflected on what she’d do differently when shooting future sex scenes: “I would ask myself more questions. We should have intimacy coaches so that the actors feel comfortable.” 

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Deals: While this year isn’t its usual sunny affair, with downpours of rain becoming a more frequent occurrence as the festival rolls on, buyers and sellers seem fairly optimistic and float a healthy market in terms of product. It remains to be seen if this turns into dealmaking. Neon came in with the first acquisition of the festival with animation Robot Dreams from Spanish filmmaker Pablo Berger. Elsewhere, we’re hearing Elon Musk documentary Musk, which sold before the festival to HBO’s documentary films division, has been heating up in the international space with a number of buyers from multiples territories said in a bidding war.

Civil Disruptors: There might be a writers’ strike going on but Deadline unveiled its own set of Disruptors at Cannes. Our latest magazine had a huge cover story scoop, as our Editor-In-Chief for Film Mike Fleming Jr. sat down with Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio to talk Killers of the Flower Moon, their new Western, and cinema more generally. It’s fascinating stuff from a trio of maestros. The mag is rammed full of exclusives and unique stories from the world of film. We’ve got exclusive interviews with Louis Theroux (and his jiggle-jiggles flow), Idris Elba and Mo Abudu on their African content pact, Wim Wenders on Amselm and Perfect Days, Jeffrey Wright on Asteroid City, Ken Loach and Paul Laverty on The Old Oak and loads more aside. Scrap your afternoon plans and read the whole darn thing here. And the rest of our Cannes coverage can be found here, featuring Indiana Jones, Sean Penn and Hirokazu Kore-Eda. Roll on week two.

The Inside(r) Story Of Sky Studios

Sky’s the limit?: Those of us long enough in the tooth will remember when Stuart Murphy first pushed European pay-TV giant Sky towards original commissioning back in the early 2010s. The broadcaster is now firmly established as a player on the original content scene through shows like BrassicChernobyl and I Hate Suzie but there have been murmurs of unrest from the UK’s production community for some time now. Confusion remains over Sky Studios’ role — is it a producer, commissioner, both, or something else? — and sources point to a power struggle between Sky Studios CEO Cécile Frot-Coutaz and Sky UK content chief Zai Bennett. Meanwhile, the question over the future of Sky’s brand-defining HBO output deal rumbles on. There are so many tantalizing threads to pull at, and pull at them is exactly what Jake and Max have done in a super authoritative investigation published this week. Deadline has spoken to more than 20 top sources for the story, so read on for the full picture.

Strike Unsettles LA Screenings

Hey, big spenders: The end of May is drawing close, which means only one thing to international TV execs: the LA Screenings. I spoke to buyers flying into California as they head to the studio lots to screen new titles and talk content. The studios that launched global streaming services have, to an extent, pulled back into the old familiar of program licensing this year, so anticipation is arguably higher than pre-pandemic. However, the writers strike has caused unexpected confusion over slates and logistics – one buyer told me they had never entered the Screenings in a more confused state. Few network shows will be available (and there are questions about when they’ll go into production), but the LA studios have internationalized over the years and now boast slates full of shows from around the world, meaning they still have plenty on offer. Bear in mind Australian rom-com streaming series Colin From Accounts was arguably the breakout from last year’s event. Who knows where this year’s hit is hiding. Go deeper here.

Strike latest: As the strike moves into its third week, SAG-AFTRA’s national board unanimously voted to recommend authorization on a strike ahead of its film and TV negotiations, as our Labor Ed David Robb reported Wednesday. Keanu Reeves and Seth Rogen’s Lionsgate feature Good Fortune was among the latest production shut down by picketers, while HBO’s Casey Bloys used the Warner Bros Discovery Upfront to voice hope for a “fair resolution.” Our intrepid and tireless U.S. reporting team remains on the picket lines and has been breaking all the latest developments. Read all about them here.

“Emergency” In UK Unscripted

Work dries up: When the UK market re-opened after the pandemic, the problem for producers was finding enough crew for the mountains of shows going into production. But “feast to famine” has been the way since, according to union Bectu, who sounded the alarm for a state of “emergency” in UK unscripted this week due to an “unprecedented” lack of work. Freelancers are going months without finding gigs, while several producers I’ve spoken to this week say landing orders at networks has rarely felt harder. At Channel 4, some told Deadline they felt an across-the-board commissioning freeze was in place. While the network insists this is not the case, content boss Ian Katz said things are no doubt slowing down at a Wales Screen Summit talk Wednesday. The extent of the “emergency” is certainly up for debate. One UK producer criticized Bectu’s use of term, finding that it will only encourage more freelancers to leave the sector at what is already a tricky time. Max wrote about how “feast to famine” is leading to a situation that demands a collaborative long-term solution. Dive deeper.

“Protect the PSBs”: Later in the week, new Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer made friends with the British terrestrial broadcasters at the Deloitte and Enders Media & Telecoms 2023 & Beyond Conference as she revealed a guiding principle of her work would be: “Protect our public service broadcasters.” BBC, ITV and co have been increasingly threatened by streamers and the demand for continued prominence in the digital era is among their biggest priorities. Meanwhile at the conference, BBC DG Tim Davie attempted to shift things onto the front foot following a difficult few months and Channel 4 boss Alex Mahon went intriguingly rogue by criticizing big-budget TV shows that “aren’t very good.” All of our coverage can be read here.

Rodnyansky Rattles Russia

“I’m just laughing about it”: Prominent international film producer Alexander Rodnyansky has rattled the Russian government. A Russian court has ordered the arrest of the Kyiv-born media mogul and theater director Ivan Vyrypaev for “spreading false information about the war” in Ukraine. Police might struggle to censor them seeing as they both live outside Russia, however. Diana tracked Rodnyansky down this week and asked him about his arrest in absentia. “This is crazy — I’m just laughing about it,” he told her. On a more serious note, he warned he was probably “not the first and definitely not the last” to be targeted for standing up to Putin’s regime. Sadly, he’s right. Rodnyansky has taken it upon himself to vocally object to the invasion of Ukraine, which is now into its second year. He fled his Moscow home after two decades when he got wind his opposition was rousing suspicion within the Russian government. “I’m trying to make Russians aware of what is going on in Ukraine,” he added this week. For more on his story, click here.

The Essentials

🌶️ Hot One: Elvis’ Women, a new doc series about the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s relationship with women, is has headed to Prime Video.

🌶️ Another: MGM+ boarded ITV’s Arthurian drama The Winter King, while The CW joined the UK network on Sophie Turner crime series Joan and acquired Everyone Else Burns.

🌶️ A third: Buzzy upcoming Israeli drama Red Skies landed a second season before the first launched.

🏪 New shop #1: Banijay launched premium docs label DSP Films, as Max revealed Wednesday.

🏪 New shop #2: Exhibitor PVR Inox launched a motion pictures arm to acquire content for the Indian market.

✂️ Ties cut: Channel 4 ended its relationship with Escape to the Chateau‘s Dick and Angel Strawbridge after an investigation into clashes with producers.

🌍 Global Breakout: The latest in our feature strand was Israel’s East Side.

🇲🇾 Malay foray: Prime Video unveiled its first slate from Malaysia, per Liz.

💰 Money, money, money: For UK indie Mad As Birds, which landed a seven-figure cash injection.

🎥 Trailer: For First Five, HBO Max’s docu-series about Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s government.

🤝 New job: Paramount Global’s Lawrence Szabo exited for BBC Studios’ LA arm.

🍿 Box officeFast X zoomed off with $32.9M after opening in 12 international markets, Nancy reported.

🌴 Back to Miami: NATPE is returning to Florida in January 2024 after its Chapter 11 rescue.

🏆 Honored: Kate Winslet and Ben Whishaw won the top acting prizes at the BAFTA TV Awards.

Diana Lodderhose and Max Goldbart contributed to this week’s International Insider.

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