International Insider: Scripted Boom Time; Omicron Wreaks Havoc; Netflix’s India Play; Holland To Banijay; Bye Bye Berry

Happy Friday International Insiders. Here is your final dose of the biggest international headlines and analysis of 2021 before we take a break until Jan 6. Thanks so much for your support this year and we hope you have a lovely Xmas and New Year. Oh and, as ever, to get this sent to your inbox every Friday, sign up here.

Scripted Boom Time 

Start with the good news: Some good news to end the year before we move onto the bad as a mammoth BFI report showed 2021 is set to be a record-breaking year for high-end TV (HETV) and film in the UK. Accompanying this week’s 324-page Screen Business report, which focused on 2017-2019, were stats for the first three quarters of 2021 showing spend to be at a whopping £4.7BN ($6.3BN), with £6BN ($8BN) predicted for the full year as many more projects have been ordered in the past three months. Speaking to journalists during a press briefing, BFI CEO Ben Roberts pointed to “early signs of the sector bouncing back very strongly” in 2021 following a pandemic-disrupted 2020 that saw production completely shut down last summer. Stringent protocols and the UK government insurance scheme were repeatedly lauded for their impact. All this is even better news for the UK economy, with the BFI reporting returns of £13.4BN ($17.9BN) from the screen industries between 2017 and 2019. The focus on the 2017-2019 period did feel slightly odd given what has happened in the world since… 

No surprise: Admittedly, the stats come as little surprise. Anecdotally, it’s been very obvious that the streamers are moving their shows to the UK and commissioning more originals, with big-budget productions such as Rapman’s Supacell ordered from UK indies recently and the likes of Amazon’s Lord of the Rings set to relocate soon. Notably, the data was partnered with figures that showed almost £1BN ($1.3BN) was either pledged or spent on studio space between 2017 and 2020, investment that is now coming to fruition as was discussed in last week’s International Insider. On Monday, the UK’s Shinfield Studios revealed it had been given planning permission to build 18 sound stages, with Disney set as its first client, and Versa Studios London opened its doors earlier this week. Britain clearly is the place to be.

HETV > film: The detailed stats also spotlighted how HETV has overtaken film as the nation’s dominant cultural force. Around 70% of this year’s overall HETV/film spend has gone towards the former. Compare that with 2017, when the percentage was reversed in favor of film. While spend on film had been plateauing even prior to the pandemic, it is HETV that has thrived in line with modern viewing habits and the influx of new players. Given the continued shifts we are seeing in production habits and the detrimental impact the pandemic is having on global cinema, Insider can only imagine this gap will continue to grow.

Covid: And Now For The Bad News… 

New variant wreaks havoc: Buckle up because we’ve been here before. The world is reeling from the impact of Omicron and the international screen sector is not immune. Deadline hears focus is once again turning to production schedules, postponements, cancellations and travel as countries around the world bring in fresh restrictions. One commissioner at a UK broadcaster said his main focus of the past week has been managing productions against Omicron, as cases soar, leading to mass isolations. Tom Grater reported Tuesday that Warner Bros’ Colin Firth WW2 pic Operation Mincemeat (pictured) has pushed back release due to rising cases and Eddie Redmayne’s West End Cabaret production had to cancel shows the following day. One TV series pushing on is the BBC’s Race Across the World, one of  the highest-profile early casualties of the pandemic, which I revealed has commenced casting and wants to get back into production “as soon as possible” despite Omicron. But moving talent and contributors around the world looks set to become significantly harder, which can be hugely detrimental to big scripted productions especially. As International Insider writes, France is about to close its borders to the UK…

Party poopers: While focus in the UK press has been on Boris Johnson’s Conservatives’ 2020 Christmas Party antics, production houses looking forward to celebrating the holidays in style have swiftly had to pull the plug. UK indie trade body Pact’s big 30th anniversary bash was due to take place today but has been pushed back to the middle of next year. That do would have brought together the great and the good of the British production sector. One party that did go ahead was Don’t Fuck With Cats producer Raw TV’s Xmas gathering but it was a cautionary tale, with Deadline understanding several people tested positive for Covid-19 in its immediate aftermath and have been isolating.

Netflix Makes Aggressive India Play

Discounted: Netflix made a bold move in India this week by slashing prices across its four subscription tiers, Tom reports. Particularly notable was the streamer cutting the ‘Basic’ plan, seen as the most widely appealing, by a huge 60%, reducing it from $6.58 (499 rupees) a month to just $2.62 (199 rupees). Netflix didn’t state a reason for the move, but industry analysts see it as an aggressive play for eyeballs in the burgeoning Indian market by prioritizing subscriber growth over revenue, at least in the short term. “We have observed how subscriber numbers drive the psyche of Wall Street investors,” noted Datta Dave, partner at Mumbai and Los Angeles-based talent agency and production company Tulsea.

Breaking new ground: Also out of India this week, Tom caught up with actress Vaani Kapoor to discuss her latest film, which has been causing a stir in the nation. Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui is a romantic drama in which Kapoor plays a transgender character, a first for the country. The actress walked us through her motivations for taking the part, and her response to a small backlash that suggested a transgender actor should have been cast in the role. Read the full interview.

Big Banijay Bonanza 

Double Dutch: In major people news announced Wednesday, BBC vet Patrick Holland revealed he is joining Banijay as Executive Chair. The BBC Factual boss’s shock switch came as incumbent Peter Salmon (Holland’s former BBC colleague) announced his decision to step down after six years with the global production house. Holland is a hugely popular BBC figure who ran BBC2 up until last year’s commissioning restructure, ordering a  string of acclaimed docs and factual-entertainment hits, some of which have moved to primetime BBC1. His role at the Shine, Kudos and Tiger Aspect owner will be different, more focused on label management and less on the creative. One member of his commissioning team said the decision came as a “huge surprise” and the majority of his unit only found out a couple of hours before the press was notified. 

Next steps: Deadline revealed exclusively that Holland’s place commissioning factual, arts and classical music shows will be taken temporarily by BBC3 controller Fiona Campbell on top of her BBC3 duties. Holland will stay until April but only focus on “special projects,” a shift  likely driven by the desire to avoid conflict of interest, as he gears up to move to a major BBC supplier. BBC3 will seek a Channel Editor to help Campbell with the day-to-day.

Bye Bye Berry

“Loyal and outstanding”: BAFTA CEO Amanda Berry is calling time on a 25-year tenure with the awards body, which she has led for 21 years. The figurehead will be remembered for being an instrumental part of the body’s £34M ($45M) London HQ development along with opening branches around the world and overseeing a huge diversity push to improve its annual awards. Berry isn’t going anywhere just yet and will leave in 2023, shortly after COO Kevin Price, who also revealed he is to exit. Read more here as BAFTA Chair Krishnendu Majumdar hailed a “loyal and outstanding Chief Executive.”

Essentials 

🌶️ Hot one of the week: Beatles manager movie Midas Man, which Deadline has been keeping a close eye on, won’t restart filming until January as new director Sara Sugarman gets acclimatized. 

🌶️ Another one: Amazon’s Mirzapur star Rasika Dugal is leading the cast of Spike (working title), a Hindi-language sports drama.

🚚 On the move: All3Media Deutschland label Tower Productions has signed industry vet Kirstin Benthaus-Gebauer as MD.

🏆 Awards latest: The 2022 Berlin Film Festival unveiled its first titles, seven pics for the Berlinale Special program, while Isabelle Huppert will receive the Golden Bear.

🏆 More Awards: Oscar hopeful Belfast creator Kenneth Brannagh spoke to Deadline awards guru Pete Hammond for The Actor’s Side.

🤝🏿 Deal-making: Amazon has struck its first licensing deal with an African production company after closing a multi-year agreement with Nigeria’s Inkblot Studios.

🍿 Box office: From Korea to Mexico, Spider Man: No Way Home has been breaking records.

📷 First look: Netlix’s The Strays, the debut feature from Nathanial Martello-White starring County Lines’ Ashley Madekwe.

Tom Grater contributed to this week’s International Insider.

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