The number of big-ticket dramas coming to the international market continues to increase as viewers embrace shows from all corners and consume them on a dizzying range of channels and platforms.
In a cluttered landscape, movie-inspired shows and book adaptations have built-in marketing appeal and bring a fan base, which is one way to cut through. There are multiple examples of both at MipTV,
from “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “To Catch a Thief,” to Canneseries opener “Vernon Subutex,” based on the hip French novel.
“The Walking Dead” producer Channing Powell envisages a dystopian future about a technology embedded inside our heads, while other series tackle the populist politics taking hold in many parts of the world. Immigration tales from the past, but with a modern-day relevance are also to the fore.
As thousands of acquisitions execs land in Cannes with checkbooks at the ready, Variety highlights the scripted shows that will get them fired up.
(Distributor: ZDF Enterprises)
“My Brilliant Friend” proved the international appetite for Italian period drama while “Babylon Berlin” was among the shows to demonstrate an audience for German historical series. “Bella Germania” is at the nexus of the two and has both German and Italian homes with pubcasters ZDF and Rai. It will be coming to the wider international market at MipTV.
The multigenerational tale follows the fortunes of Italian immigrants arriving in Germany in the 1950s, tracing their lives and loves as they make their new homes.
“Italian immigration to Germany has been a success story and as today’s global societies become increasingly divergent ‘Bella Germania’ is a heartfelt plea for a Europe of shared past and future,” says series exec producer Ronald Muhlfellner.
“Das Boot” banner Bavaria Fiction produced the series, which ZDF Enterprises is selling. In Germany it ran as a miniseries comprising three feature-length installments. ZDFE is repurposing the show into more international-friendly one-hour episodes.
“Cold Courage” is the biggest drama project ever out of Finland. Based on Pekka Hiltunen’s series of novels, it follows two Finnish women in London: Mari, who runs an agency that covertly investigates and attempts to bring down powerful wrongdoers, and Lia, who is on the run from an abusive stalker.
The eight-part series is international in terms of story, cast, and ambition. The ongoing shoot has taken place in Antwerp, Dublin, Helsinki and London. Pihla Viitala (“Arctic Circle”) and Sofia Pekkari (“Wallander”) play the female leads. John Simm (“Life on Mars”) is Arthur Fried, a rabble-rousing populist politician who is in the sights of Mari’s Robin Hood operation. Caroline Goodall (“The Dressmaker”), Jakob Eklund (“Johan Falk”), Arsher Ali (“Line of Duty”), Peter Coonan (“Love/Hate”) and Matteo Simoni (“Call Boys”) also star.
“There are few simple goodies and baddies in the world of ‘Cold Courage,’ just lots of people on all sides who think they are the good guys,” says Brendan Foley, who co-wrote the series with David Joss Buckley. “Increasingly we live in a world where good people do bad things for good reasons, while even the biggest villain can believe they are on the right side of history.”
(Distributor: All3Media Intl.)
As aforementioned, “The Walking Dead” producer Powell’s new show is set in London in a near future in which people are hooked up to “The Feed,” allowing them to share emotions and memories. Based on the Nick Clark Windo novel, it will go out on Liberty Global’s channels and platforms, including Virgin Media in the U.K., and Amazon in North and Latin America.
Studio Lambert, reality TV bigwig Stephen Lambert’s shingle, is making the series as it dives into scripted programming. Liberty Global is also a relative newbie to original drama and this is its second effort following “The Rook.”
The drama follows the man who invented the omnipresent Feed and what happens after it goes wrong and users start to become violent.
“Its appeal for audiences is that it is so very credible,” says Maartje Horchner, All3Media Intl. executive vice president of content. “The Feed, a service we choose to join, it’s the next-generation upgrade, but there is a vulnerability here; it can be turned. Essentially, this is a drama about a fractured family, who invented the device, have grown rich, become statesmen — and have to stop the Feed from killing.”
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Broadcaster: Hulu (U.S.)
More than two decades after the British movie “Four Weddings and a Funeral” secured a place in rom-com folklore, the series of the same name is getting its international launch. MGM is hoping to get hitched to buyers in France.
As with the original, it is partly set in well-heeled west London, but also takes in less-affluent portions of the English capital to reflect the multicultural city as it is today. The new-school take on the story sees Jess travel from New York to London for a friend’s nuptials. She lands in the middle of a tangled series of relationship ups and downs, including her own.
Mindy Kaling is writing and executive producing with “The Mindy Project” collaborator Matt Warburton. “You are promising the audience four weddings and you want each one to really pop,” Warburton says. He adds that the series format allows the writers and producers to go deeper than in a film. “If you look at the movie it’s almost all at events directly surrounding weddings. … With 10 hours to play with we could add some stuff.”
The team looked at other movie-to-series adaptations such as “Fargo” for inspiration. “That is a great series with its own character, but inspired and infused with the spirit of the Coen brothers. We felt the same way about Richard Curtis and his movies,” he says.
“La Jauria” sees hot producer Fabula and star Daniela Vega (“A Fantastic Woman”) bring their talents to TV in a story about a group of female detectives solving a complex sex crime and disappearance case. Shot in Chile, the show will launch on free-TV net TVN locally. Fremantle, which has inked a first-look TV deal with Fabula, is distributing.
Lucia Puenzo (“Los Invisibles”), one of Latin America’s renowned women writers-directors helms the series alongside Sergio Castro (“La Mujer de Barro”), Marialy Rivas (“Young & Wild”) and Nicolas Puenzo (“Los Invisibles”).
The central case centers on a student leader organizing protests about an abuse case. She goes missing and is attacked, in scenes posted online.
“It is based in part on some real incidents, but more broadly on this movement of women in Latin America,” says Christian Vesper, executive vice president and creative director of global drama at Fremantle.
“It has the familiar trappings of a thriller, but is unique in its execution and the story it is trying to tell. It is visceral and angry, and I think there’s really something there for younger people, as well as the audience that typically exists for this type of show.”
The Master Butchers Singing Club
(Distributor: Global Screen)
Constantin Film, the German studio behind the “Resident Evil” movie franchise and Netflix series “Perfume” chased the rights to Louise Erdrich’s novel “The Master Butchers Singing Club” for more than decade before finally securing them. The resulting limited series has “Deutschland 83” star Jonas Nay in the lead role and Uli Edel (“Hotel Adlon”) directing, creating a strong package for Germany’s Global Screen to take to market.
It is one of several dramas about people moving to new lands that are coming to MipTV. Set between the world wars, “The Master Butchers Singing Club” follows a young German butcher as he sets out with his wife to build a new life in the U.S., traveling with little money and a suitcase of sausages he must trade in order to pay his way to the Midwest. Once settled, he creates the German singing club to tackle his homesickness.
“It’s an incredible novel about this journey and this cultural evolution of people moving from their own country to find a new and safer place to live,” says Constantin’s TV chief Oliver Berben. “This is an historical piece but very modern and tells us a lot about what’s going on in today’s world.”
To Catch a Thief
(Distributor: Viacom Intl. Media Networks)
“To Catch a Thief” is a Spanish-language drama inspired by the Hitchcock classic. Like the 1955 picture, it follows a brilliant cat burglar who has retired but is forced to try and clear his name when a series of robberies are carried out in his signature style.
The action has moved from France’s Cote d’Azur in the movie to Argentina and Spain. Pablo Echarri takes the role filled by Cary Grant in the film and will play Juan Garay, the former thief. Alexandra Jimenez plays Lola Garay, his wife and a police inspector. Spanish showrunner Javier Olivares is behind the 10-part adaptation.
Viacom-owned Paramount owns the film rights. The series comes as Viacom ramps up international TV production. “To Catch a Thief” will play on the Paramount cable channel in Spain, Italy and the Middle East.
Laura Abril, senior vice president of editorial, Iberia, VIMN Spain, says the team has “created a highly polished masterpiece of modern scripted drama and a jewel in the crown for the Paramount Network schedule.”
(Distributor: Entertainment One)
“Upright” follows a pair of misfits thrown together in the middle of the Australian desert and who join forces to transport a much-loved piano across the country.
Comedian, pianist, writer, and actor Tim Minchin plays Lucky Flynn, a gifted musician but damaged person. He is estranged from his family and penniless. The battered piano being transported across Australia is his only cherished possession. He bonds with tough teenager Meg, played by newcomer Milly Alcock.
It was commissioned by Sky in the U.K. and Australian pay-TV player Foxtel has it locally. Entertainment One is selling the eight-part series, which highlights “Minchin’s unique talents as a storyteller and his unique approach to showing the foibles and the absurdity of human nature,” says Noel Hedges, eOne’s executive vice president of acquisitions.
The Minchin-Alcock double act is central to the piece, he adds. “Australia is showing off its best assets in the series but also this massive landscape supports this story of two people on an emotional journey.”
“Vernon Subutex” is the curtain-raiser for the second edition of the Canneseries event.
French star Romain Duris (“All the Money in the World”) plays the titular character, once the owner of achingly hip record store Revolver, and now unemployed and down on his luck. When his friend, rock star and benefactor Alex Bleach dies he finds himself a wanted man, in a Gallic tale of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll.
Cathy Verney helms the half-hour French-language series, which is based on the book by Virginie Despentes.
Duris appears alongside a host of other French stars and Cesar nominees including Celine Sallette (“Rust and Bone”), Laurent Lucas (“Haut les Coeurs!”), Philippe Rebbot (“L’Amour Flou”), and Florence Thomassin (“A Matter of Taste”).
“Romain is a world-renowned French actor and this series is really cinematic so it makes sense it would star well-known movie actors,” says Studiocanal’s executive managing director of drama, Francoise Guyonnet. “It’s edgy and high-end so we will start by targeting pay-TV channels and online platforms.”
(Distributor: ITV Studios Global Entertainment)
Rob Lowe is a fish-out-of-water cop in small town England in “Wild Bill.” The “West Wing” star plays the titular Wild Bill Hixon, a U.S. lawman. Along with his 14-year-old daughter he relocates to the U.K. to take the helm of the East Lincolnshire police force.
The show has a narrative throughline, but also the story-of-the-week procedural elements that remains in high demand — and short supply — in the market. Add in Lowe’s starry presence and it is a strong international prospect amid a glut of serialized drama.
Speaking to buyers as they got a first glimpse at the series at a London event in February, Lowe confidently predicted that “Wild Bill” could follow in the footsteps of British crime dramas such as “Luther.” “This could be that next show,” he says. “This could be a good successor to those shows.”
(Distributor: Banijay Rights)
As well as getting a first look at Finland’s most ambitious ever drama at MipTV, buyers will also kick the tires of one of the biggest-ever scripted series out of Norway, “Wisting.”
Based on Jørn Lier Horst’s books, it follows detective William Wisting on the trail of an American serial killer in Norway. Sven Nordin (“Valkyrien”) plays the sleuth who, going against the tropes of the conflicted cop with a difficult relationships, has a happy home life. Carrie-Anne Moss (“The Matrix”) is an FBI agent who travels to Norway in pursuit of the killer. The drama is in Norwegian and English.
“We really like the idea of the fact he is trying to find an American serial killer who is making his home in Norway,” says Caroline Torrance, head of scripted at Banijay Rights. She adds that crime pays — in viewing terms — on different types of services: “There is an appetite among the linear broadcasters for good crime thrillers as much as on pay-TV.”