AFM Trends; Climate Content Pledge – Deadline

Afternoon International Insiders, Max Goldbart here. It’s been another busy week but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with all the latest news and analysis. To get this sent to your inbox every Friday, sign up here.

American Film Market Trends

Solid packages: It’s hard to recall an AFM that had as many solid packages as this one. The emergence from Covid lockdowns and the lack of a market in Toronto this year have helped boost the offering. Since we were last in your inbox, we’ve also broken news of buzzy new projects from Martin McDonagh, Daisy Ridley (pictured) and Mathieu Kassovitz, and Guy Ritchie and Jake Gyllenhaal. Yesterday, we announced a new UK road trip from arthouse director Carol Morley which has Jane Campion aboard as an exec-producer. AFM has traditionally been known for its brawn, and while that is available this market (projects like Ballerina, The Interpreter and Role Play are in-demand), what stands out is the number of prestige dramas. Buyers we’ve spoken to have been particularly high on the scripts for movies like Firebrand and Lee.

Who runs the world?: As the market draws to a close, that leads us to another interesting – and positive – trend, which also counters the AFM norm: the number of strong female-fronted packages. Between Lee, Firebrand, MindFall, Ballerina, Role Play, Beth And Don, Everything Everywhere All At Once, and Mamma Mafia, rarely can there have been as many female-fronted projects leading the slates of the major sellers. Now we wait for the deals to drop.

Climate Content Pledge 

Attenborough's Life in Colour

Attenborough's Life in Colour

Cop-in: David Attenborough may have been appearing on TV screens for nigh on seven decades, but until now the question of what television can do to help combat global warming was on the fringes. That all changed at this week’s COP 26 in Glasgow, as 12 UK networks signed up to a Climate Content Pledge, which includes an uprooting of commissioning processes to consider climate themes and a doubling down on shows that help audiences understand how the world can reach net zero. 

‘Collective responsibility’: Signatories to the pledge include the heads of the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 along with Discovery and Sky in the UK. Speaking at Cop, C4 CEO Alex Mahon said broadcasters have a “collective responsibility” and can use their different programming strengths to reach more audiences. Those strengths equate to quiz shows and entertainment for ITV, sport for Sky and, according to former scientist Mahon, Celebrity Trash Monsters for C4. UK TV truly is the home of plurality. 

Middle Eastern In The Spotlight

Jeremy Irons Tobin Bell

Jeremy Irons Tobin Bell

Strike while the Irons is hot: Andreas had the exclusive on production wrapping on Cello this week, a Jeremy Irons and Tobin Bell horror that is the first in a new wave of English-language projects looking to film in Saudi Arabia, which has been ramping up its film and TV ambitions. Only a handful of sizeable English-language movies have shot in the country in recent decades. The Russo Brothers’ Cherry was the biggest back in 2019 but the number of productions is growing as investment increasingly flows in and out of the controversial state, which remains a lightning rod for debate due to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and human rights abuses. Oh and something about a UK football team. 

Growing interest: Among productions to shoot in the country recently are a Discovery Channel documentary on the AlUla region, narrated by Irons, and an AlUla brand campaign commercial directed by Bruno Aveillan. National Geographic is due to film two programs on the region and the area has seen multiple travel programs. This month, production is due to get underway on the Gerard Butler action-thriller Kandahar from Thunder Road, which will be one of, if not the biggest, English-language movies to shoot in the country. It’s all happening. At the Cannes Film Festival this year, Saudi officials were touting the striking AlUla valley, new production facilities and the country’s film and TV tax rebate of 35%. The nation is due to host its first major film festival next month, the Red Sea International Film Festival. Definitely one to keep an eye on.

Midas Man on ice 

Midas Man

Midas Man

Help!: Another hot one from Andreas this week, who had the scoop on one of the most talked about films of the moment, Midas Man, pausing production, with director Jonas Åkerlund unlikely to continue. Åkerlund is “taking a break”, according to the production, with sources indicating he is unlikely to return. More likely to come on this one as the Brian Epstein biopic seeks a new director.

New Look BBC Comedy Team

Jon Petrie

Jon Petrie

Petrie Dish: BBC Comedy Director Jon Petrie (pictured), the most powerful person in UK comedy commissioning, unveiled his new-look team this week, picking producers from some of the nation’s biggest shows in his first major intervention since taking over from Shane Allen in September. In comes Trying’s Emma Lawson, E4’s Navi Lamba and Stath Lets Flats producer Seb Barwell (temporarily), as the seven-strong team is firmed up. Petrie’s move reassembles a team that was decimated last year with a spate of departures, as his predecessor Allen, Head of Comedy Kate Daughton and Commissioning Editors Sarah Asante and Alex Moody all departed within a few weeks of each other.

Russian Out Of Space 

The Challenge: Don’t miss Diana Lodderhose’s exclusive sit-down with Russian director Klim Shipenko and actor Yuliya Peresild, who last month became the first film crew to shoot scenes in Outer Space for upcoming film The Challenge. Well worth your time. 


Villeneueve and Pironi

Villeneueve and Pironi

🌶️  Hot one of the week: Noah Media Group and Sky Studios unveiled their debut project – a Formula 1 doc about Gilles Villeneuve and Dider Pironi’s ‘Betrayal’ for Sky UK, Italy and Germany.

🌶️  Another one: Keshet Productions’ rebranded Interstellar is forging a dance pilot for ITV.

​​🚚  On the move: Former RTL Group CEO Bert Habets has re-emerged at global media outfit Antenna Group.

🚚  On the move: BBC Newsnight Editor Esme Wren heads the same way as her predecessor Ian Katz, moving to Channel 4 to become Head of News.

🛒 Setting up Shop: UK indie industry veteran Jago Lee and former Goldman Sachs banker John Fothergill have launched transatlantic ‘audio-first’ factual indie Telltale.

🍿 Box Office: Dune crossed the global $300M mark earlier this week.

🎦 Trailer: We dropped Bahman Ghobadi feature Four Walls’ trailer exclusively.

First Look



British broadcasting legend Sir Trevor McDonald looking rather terrifying as the new host of E4’s GamesMaster revival.

And finally… 

Afghan Girls School

Afghan Girls School

Check out the latest in Hollie McKay’s series of special features on Afghanistan as she dives deep into the future of female education in the embattled nation.

Andreas Wiseman contributed to this week’s International Insider 

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