You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Companies Fight to Get a Piece of TV Drama Action

Movie world folks are increasingly migrating into high-end television drama, and many of the new series on offer at MipTV are the progeny of this cross-pollination.

Babylon Berlin,” which is screening at the market, is produced by X Filme and creatively led by filmmaker Tom Tykwer. X Filme’s Stefan Arndt says the same production team that created the $100 million “Cloud Atlas” put together “Babylon Berlin,” and he’d be happy to screen it in theaters because the quality of the performances and the production values are as high as their films. At the end of the day, he adds, viewers don’t care whether it’s a movie or a TV show they are watching as long as they are entertained and “surprised.”

Riviera,” which also screens at MipTV, is the creation of Neil Jordan, who nabbed an Oscar for “The Crying Game,” and an Emmy nomination for TV series “The Borgias,” and is produced by Kris Thykier’s Archery Pictures. Thykier, whose movies include “Kick-Ass” and “Woman in Gold,” says changes in the TV market have made it a more attractive place for filmmakers. “Broadcasters have become more ambitious and viewers are expecting more,” he says. “We have the opportunity to tell smart adult stories through TV and broadcasters are supporting that, and pushing at the boundaries.”

Emile Sherman of See-Saw Films is producing “Top of the Lake: China Girl,” the second season of Jane Campion’s mystery miniseries. For a creatively ambitious filmmaker, television offers an opportunity to take a novelistic approach. “I can see for storytellers like Jane that’s really attractive because you have a bigger tableau on which to explore stories, the world and what interests you,” Sherman says.

Although television has traditionally been seen as a writer’s medium, that is changing, says Steve November, creative director of U.K. television at Lionsgate U.K. “It is becoming increasingly important to get a really strong directorial vision and authorship to complement the writer’s vision and authorship,” he says.

One such example is helmer Susanne Bier, who won an Emmy for “The Night Manager.” The thriller was produced by the Ink Factory, whose co-head Simon Cornwell says producing both TV and film allows it to choose the best route to adapt source material. With John le Carré’s novel, which “sprawls across the world and has got big characters who leap off the page, you need six hours to get to grips with those things,” he says.

One of the attractions of ramping up TV activity for Potboiler’s Andrea Calderwood and Gail Egan, best known for Oscar contenders “The Last King of Scotland” and “The Constant Gardener,” is the opportunity to take on global issues. They are developing David Simon’s timely series “Legacy of Ashes,” about the origins of the CIA and MI6. “The kind of subjects that we’ve always enjoyed doing are international-scale thrillers and intelligent drama, and that’s television’s sweet-spot at the moment,” Calderwood says.

Christophe Riandee, vice CEO of film and TV company Gaumont, which has a hit with “Narcos,” warns the TV market is so competitive companies must constantly push the boundaries. “So many shows are being produced, you need to deliver something new to the audience,” he says.

Christine Langan, former chief of BBC Films and now CEO of Baby Cow, is also developing both film and TV drama projects, including Zadie Smith’s TV adaptation of her novel “Swing Time.” Langan says the new fluidity between the two worlds gives writers opportunities to experiment with different forms of expression. “In my experience talent wants to refresh itself,” she says. “People want to try different things throughout their career, and get out of their comfort zone.”

Alison Owen of Monumental Television says as the films she and partner Debra Hayward worked on have been character-based fare, the transfer to TV series was fairly easy. Much of the writing talent they have employed on series have moved across from movies, such as Moira Buffini, who wrote their “Harlots,” and previously worked with Owen on films “Tamara Drewe” and “Jane Eyre.”

Liza Marshall, an executive producer on “Riviera” and former Channel 4 drama chief, says film skills are transferable to TV, but she warns there are important differences between the two realms, particularly on longer series: “It is about the storytelling, you need so much plot in 10 hours. You really have to plan your story.”

More TV

  • Series Mania: Q & A with

    Series Mania: ‘Hierro’ as ‘Southern Noir’ and an Industry Groundbreaker

    LILLE, France —  Banijay Rights-sold “Hierro” begins with sea, land, air and fire: Shots of the stunning volcanic isle of El Hierro, the most westerly point of Spain’s Canary Islands, with its black basalt rock, brown iron-rich gravel, white waves pummeling the coast, trees trunks twisted by wind and lava, a juniper bent double by [...]

  • Shekhar Kapur to Direct 'Ibis' Trilogy

    Shekhar Kapur to Direct 'Ibis' Trilogy for Endemol Shine (EXCLUSIVE)

    Acclaimed Indian director, Shekhar Kapur is to direct a TV series for Endemol Shine based on historical novels by Amitav Ghosh, known as the “Ibis Trilogy.” The deal was announced at Series Mania in Lille. The books “Sea of Poppies,” “River of Smoke,” and “Flood of Fire,” are set in mid-19th century Asia. They interweave [...]

  • ‘Lambs Of God’ To World Premiere

    Lingo Pictures, Endemol Shine’s ‘Lambs of God’ Set for Series Mania World Premiere

    LILLE, France — Lingo Pictures Productions and Endemol Shine’s new Australian limited series “Lambs of God,” based on the Australian novel of the same name by Marele Day, world premieres on Wednesday, March 27 in the main International Competition at this year’s Series Mania festival. The series follows three devout nuns, the last sisters of [...]

  • Bruno DEBRANDT (Florent) et Julie GAYET

    Federation Acquires Intl. Sales Rights on Series Mania French Competition Player ‘Torn’

    LILLE, France — Leading French independent production-finance-distribution sales company Federation Entertainment has secured international sales rights on upcoming French psychological thriller “Torn.” The series was created and written by director Lionel Bailliu (“Innocente”)and Yann Le Gal (“Léo Mattéï, Brigade des Mineurs”) and world premieres in the official French competition on March 25 at France’s Series [...]

  • About Premium Content Expands Scope, Rebrands

    About Premium Content Expands Scope, Rebrands as APC Studios (EXCLUSIVE)

    As it celebrates its fifth anniversary, the rising Paris-based TV production and distribution company About Premium Content is rebranding as APC Studios to reflect the expanded scope of its activities. APC Studios, which launched as a sales company in 2014, is now a producer, financier and distributor of upscale projects ranging from scripted to factual [...]

  • Win Rosenfeld, Jordan Peele and Simon

    'Star Trek: Discovery,' 'Twilight Zone' Bring Energy, Emotion to PaleyFest

    Both the CBS All Access shows “Star Trek: Discovery” and the upcoming “Twilight Zone” reboot held PaleyFest panels on Sunday, with both sets of cast and creators bringing energy, humor, and emotion to the stage. Both panels were moderated by Variety‘s executive editor of TV, Daniel Holloway. First up was “Discovery,” where series star Doug [...]

  • Marvel's Runaways Review

    'Marvel's Runaways' Renewed for Third Season at Hulu

    Hulu has renewed “Marvel’s Runaways” for a third season. Set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Runaways” stars Rhenzy Feliz, Lyrica Okano, Virginia Gardner, Ariela Barer, Gregg Sulkin, and Allegra Acosta as the Runaways, six teenagers from different backgrounds who unite against their parents, the Pride, portrayed by Angel Parker, Ryan Sands, Annie Wersching, Kip Pardue, Ever Carradine, James Marsters, Brigid Brannagh, Kevin Weisman, Brittany Ishibashi, and James Yaegashi. The new order is [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content