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International Insider: Berlinale U-Turn; MIP London Talks; Promotions & Exits

Good afternoon, it’s been a huge week in international TV and Max Goldbart is here to guide you through. Read on.

Berlinale Controversy

Berlin Film Festival
Berlin Film Festival

Dramatic yet unsurprising: Andreas and Zac have penned a string of exclusives over the past few days that concluded with the Berlin Film Festival’s high-profile u-turn Thursday afternoon, disinviting members of Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) to the opening ceremony after initially sending invitations to five politicians from the party. The move felt simultaneously dramatic yet unsurprising. The industry outcry over the AfD’s presence at the Berlinale opening ceremony had been extensive, and anger was also growing among Berlinale staff. “Over the past few days, there has been an intense discussion in the cultural sector, in the press, and on social media as well as within the Berlinale team about the invitations of AfD politicians, a right-wing extremist party, to the opening of the Berlinale,” the festival’s statement read Thursday.

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“The reputation of the industry”: Festival sources told us the decision to disinvite AfD representatives was finalized late Thursday afternoon following heated discussions between Berlinale co-heads Carlo Chatrian and Mariette Rissenbeek, and German Culture Minister Claudia Roth, who sources told us was against the move. We hear the decision was largely influenced by the growing number of industry professionals who had said they would not attend the opening with AfD representatives present. Earlier that day, an alliance of film trade organizations, including the German Film Academy, and unions representing producers and writers, published a new open letter in protest against the invitation. “Our concern is the reputation of our industry and our country,” the letter said of the invites. “We stand for a diverse society and artistic freedom. The officials of this party are therefore not welcome at our events.” After catching wind that we were about to break the news about deliberations over whether to disinvite the politicians, the festival brought forward its announcement, at which point over a week of the internal furor ended.

Diving deeper: Sources said internal discussions over a u-turn began last Wednesday, three days before the open letter was first reported by Deadline. Multiple sources told us festival staffers warned Rissenbeek and Chatrian that the invitation would be divisive if publicized and ultimately align the festival with the AfD’s far-right agenda. However, festival management maintained internally, and in local media interviews, that they had no real influence over invitations and were bound by federal mandates to invite democratically-elected politicians from all parties to the festival. It’s unclear how strong this mandate was, but we heard the internal pressure from staff was so strong that Chatrian and Rissenbeek had no choice but to retract. While AfD representatives are no longer welcome at the festival’s opening ceremony, the party will still have a presence at the Berlinale. Several AfD members have been extended invitations to a reception of local politicians hosted by the festival and the Berlin state legislature. “It’s a general symptom of Germany and how it deals with the AfD. They’re not taking them seriously,” a source told us. “We are experiencing pre-fascist times.” The AfD is currently polling second in Germany. Its ideology has been classified as anti-Islam, anti-immigration, German nationalist, Eurosceptic and denying of human-caused climate change.

Hot packages: Away from the political controversy, the festival market has been heating up, with high-profile packages hitting the block. Margot Robbie and Colin Farrell have jumped on After Yang director Kogonada’s next pic, A Big Bold Beautiful Journey. Imperative Entertainment is producing, with an original script by The Menu scribe Seth Reiss, and 30West is financing. Black Bear and CAA Media Finance are bringing post-apocalyptic adventure story Afterburn to the EFM, with Dave Bautista and Samuel L. Jackson attached to star. And A24 is heading to the market with Past Lives filmmaker Celine Song’s second feature, a romcom titled The Materialists, with Dakota Johnson in talks and Chris Evans and Pedro Pascal circling. We’re hearing positive things about the early shape of this year’s EFM, with buyers saying it looks like the most robust market since the pandemic. Check back in with us for news on all the biggest deals. The 74th Berlin International Film Festival runs February 15-25.

Mip London Talks

No Cannes do: Reports of the death of MIPTV have often been greatly exaggerated, but not this time. In news that will surprise some in program distribution circles and feel like the inevitable to others, Stewart’s exclusive report yesterday revealed that the organizers of the annual Cannes confab are in advanced talks over setting up a new event, MIP London, which would bring the curtain down on MIPTV. Bigger brother Mipcom will continue in Cannes, but owner RX France is understood to have been holding top-level talks with stakeholders about setting up in London with a view to creating a new market aligned with the popular London TV Screenings that take place each February with buy-in from all the major TV sales houses. Plans are understood to be well advanced. Talk of the decline of MIPTV has been constant over the past few years, exacerbated by the growth of the London Screenings and the fact that hardly any of the biggest European distributors now exhibit fully in Cannes in April, preferring to wait until Mipcom. RX should be praised for moving MIPTV towards a co-production and funding model, but sources we’ve spoken with have previously queried whether the modern TV market now really requires two Mips per year, and there has been something of a malaise around the April event in recent times. RX has been quick to say that no decision has been rubberstamped.

Paramount+ Cull

The Killing Kind - Season 1
The Killing Kind - Season 1

‘No Escape’: Paramount+ subscribers were left perplexed last week when a raft of international originals were yanked from their beloved streamer overnight, and many took to X to complain. Stewart collated the numerous English-language originals that disappeared in a puff of smoke. They comprise big-budget offerings including Samantha Morton-starrer The Burning GirlsOne Night, the Australia-set drama with Doctor Who star Jodie Whittaker; Eleventh Hour Films’ The Killing Kind; and thriller No Escape. In effect, as Stewart wrote, subs were seeing the U.S. conglom’s strategy shift in real time. Big boss Bob Bakish has made clear his intention to pivot to focus on Hollywood and our story dropped a few days after Paramount revealed that Maria Kyriacou, its President of International Markets, would be exiting. These are tough times for the international TV market and producers will be desperately hoping Paramount’s rivals don’t follow its lead and hunker down with Stateside content.

“Rogue” Agent

Archie Purnell, founder of Bodhi Talent
Archie Purnell, founder of Bodhi Talent

Faking tapes: Jake’s latest investigation into UK agency Bodhi Talent dropped Thursday and, if you haven’t checked it out, it’s well worth a read. Bodhi was founded by Archie Purnell, who has worked with top soap stars and supplied actors to major productions for Netflix, the BBC and ITV. Jake uncovered a series of allegations about the agent, including that he has sent actors illegitimate briefs for self-tape auditions, broke regulations on payment deadlines, and failed to observe industry best practice in contracts. The former child actor, who once said that he considers his relationships with clients to be a “sexless marriage,” had the legitimacy of the self-tape audition invitations he was sending clients brought into question, while others complained about issues securing payment for acting jobs. Purnell said he was “absolutely stunned” by the “totally incorrect” allegations, claiming they were part of a “witch hunt” being pursued by actors and a rival agent. He did not respond to any specific allegations against him and deleted his social media accounts soon after being contacted for comment, but sent an email to clients yesterday saying he was “heartbroken” about the allegations. Still, several actors announced on X that they are leaving his agency after reading Deadline’s story.

Promotions & Exits

Sky’s the limit: Big day for big jobs on Thursday with reshuffles at two of the most senior TV production roles outside the U.S. The news that Cécile Frot-Coutaz had landed a big promotion at Sky preceded Ralph Lee’s departure as BBC Studios Productions CEO by around an hour, and they certainly had the chattering classes chattering. Frot-Coutaz takes on both studios and content at Sky and now has many more reporting lines, as the Comcast outfit looks to simplify things in the wake of the exit of UK and Ireland CEO Stephen van Rooyen. It comes nearly a year after our Sky deep dive, which uncovered industry confusion over Sky Studios and the way in which it was fitting in with the broader Sky structure. Lee, meanwhile, has been helming the BBC Studios production juggernaut for six years, and has set off to “pursue a new challenge outside the organisation.” His vacancy opens up one of the most lucrative roles in non-U.S. production and the search for his successor begins now.

The Essentials

Cillian Murphy Alan Moloney Big Things Films
Cillian Murphy Alan Moloney Big Things Films

🌶️ Hot One: Cillian Murphy has set his next movie and launched a production outfit. Nancy with the scoop.

🌶️ More of the same: Steve Coogan’s beloved Alan Partridge is returning to the BBC for a comedy doc series, while buzzy breakout Dreaming Whilst Black has landed a second series.

🌶️ Another: Sheryl Sandberg is fronting an Israeli documentary series about sexual atrocities committed by Hamas.

🪓 Breaking Baz: Our roving International Editor-At-Large brought news of a production deal for Teachers Lounge producer Ingo Fliess and then spoke with man-of-the-moment Colman Domingo.

👊 Snapped: Saltburn star Jacob Elordi was reported to have been involved in an alleged altercation with an Australian breakfast radio show producer.

🐦 Tweet tweet: Gary Lineker, the host whose social media message led to dozens of BBC staffers downing tools last year, said he barely uses X/Twitter any more.

🏕️ Festival latest: Apples Never Fall and Hotel Cocaine will compete in the main competition at Series Mania.

🤝 Done deal: Fremantle acquired Asian major Beach House Pictures from Blue Ant.

🚀 Launch:  Eurovision Sport, a free streamer helmed by the European Broadcasting Union.

🛡️ Traitor or faithful?: A BBC gameshow titled Traitor from 20 years ago that bears striking resemblance to smash hit The Traitors emerged online.

🚪 Exiting: Simone Baumann, MD of German Films.

🍿 Box office: Argylle weaved a $35M global bow, per Nancy’s latest.

📋 New slate: Netflix in Korea confirmed some of the projects that will come from its mega $2.5B content pot. Sara Merican with more.

🌎 Global Breakout: Jesse spoke with the team behind Polish war drama The Bay of Spies.

🎥 Trail: For Disney+’s Shardlake starring Arthur Hughes and Sean Bean.

Zac Ntim contributed to this week’s Insider

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