Annecy, AVPSummit, International Insider, John Balson, NEM Dubrovnik, News, Television

International Insider: Animation Nation; Deadline Travels Around Europe; Remembering John Balson

Good afternoon Insiders. We’ve been all over Europe this week, so here’s Max Goldbart, back in the London-shaped saddle, to walk you through the major stories of the past seven days. Scroll on. And sign up here.

Animation Nation

Simon Otto, Richard Curtis

Annecy proves its place: The weather may have been unseasonably chilly and drizzly at France’s Annecy International Animation Film Festival this past week, but spirits weren’t dampened. With Despicable Me 4, which made its French premiere at the festival on Thursday night ahead of its July 3 launch in the U.S., predicted to hit a $100 million opening, animation is one of the bright spots at an ailing global box office right now. Annecy’s 16,000 attendees were treated to sneak peaks of some of the most anticipated animated studio movies and series of the year including Transformers One, The Lord Of The Rings: The War Of The Rohirrim and Moana 2, as well as preview screenings of Despicable Me 4 and Inside Out 2.

Star power: High-profile guests this year included honorees Terry Gilliam and Wes Anderson as well as Richard Curtis, who presented debut animation feature That Christmas. Zack Snyder was also present with upcoming series Twilight of the Gods while Jean-Paul Gaultier’s first foray into animation with an untitled fairy tale-like story about a moth with ambitions of working in the fashion world was in the spotlight. Outside of the studio scene, hot independent international titles in the main competition included Australian director Adam Elliott’s Memoir of a Snail and Gints Zilbalodis’s Flow, while Japanese cinema was out in force with four titles – Ghost Cat AnzuThe Colors Within, Totto-Chan: The Little Girl At The Window and The Imaginary. Anime’s global reach continues to grow and long may this be prolonged. Find all Mel’s coverage here.

Remembering John Balson

John Balson

Channel 4 investigating: The British TV production world was rocked by tragedy this week when we revealed the tragic news about John Balson, a producer on Channel 4’s In the Footsteps of Killers who took his own life on May 17. Channel 4 has instructed a law firm to examine the circumstances surrounding his death, and difficult questions will likely be asked. John had spent weeks experiencing intense physical pain and mental anguish in the run-up to his death, information that was explained to me by his family, who have been incredibly brave in wanting to get the news out there in order to fulfil John’s wishes and prevent a repeat. His widow, Yumeno Niimura, told me that John’s “life is now a legacy,” as she chided the industry for the way in which it failed her husband. She spoke of a “dedicated, loyal and hardworking” man, who was “my best friend and the love of my life it took me 32 years to find.” Her emotional words can be found here.

Industry kicks into gear: John’s death comes at a time of squeezed budgets, indies struggling and reams of freelancers leaving the industry. Individuals in the sector have repeatedly raised concerns down the years that this kind of perfect storm can lead to corner cutting, which has adverse impacts on the mental health of those at the coalface. Since we broke the news, the industry has kicked into gear. Groups including The Film & TV Charity, Bectu and the Association of True Crime Producers have re-signposted support and pledged action, with the latter urging broadcasters and indies to “recognise the additional burdens” placed on those making true crime. More on that in a feature Deadline published last month, which included anonymous sources speaking of suffering from “delayed trauma” and being threatened by contributors. Meanwhile, a Film and TV Welfare Association, which had been in the works for several months, was unveiled yesterday and will launch in a few weeks with a view to “supporting productions in delivering the highest possible standards of duty of care.” I’m also told that early-stage discussions are taking place between key players over how to better standardize duty of care, in what can sometimes be a febrile atmosphere in an industry populated by small companies with low staff numbers and little HR oversight. Industry stakeholders are desperate not to see a repeat of what happened to John, and there is a feeling that change is required. In working environments where there is immense pressure, buy-in from all sides appears the way forward to prevent a repeat of this week’s tragedy.

Making A NEM For Itself

Networking at NEM Dubrovnik

Streaming “cold war”: Back on the road and Stewart was in Croatia for NEM, the annual gathering of the great and the good from the intriguing world of CEE TV, which takes place in the glorious Hotel Dubrovnik Palace. Stewart’s primer from late last month is well worth a read for a look at highlights and trends from the region, featuring chatter about cosy crime, telenovelas and, of course, The Traitors. On the ground, the likes of SkyShowtime boss Monty Sarhan, Warner Bros. Discovery CEE chief Jamie Cooke and BBC Studios head honcho in the region were looking to the future. The latter talked up a “new chapter for us” and the other two pointed to the launch of Max and a doubling down on local originals from SkyShowtime. The region has always been an intriguing one when it comes to streaming take-up versus the strength of linear. It was notable that the producer doom and gloom that has infected many European territories of late was almost non-existent. Cooke, who was also at NEM last year, detailed a streaming “cold war,” in which “people are aligning, figuring out who they can work with.” “There is an acceptance that there is a need to come together more,” he added.

There’s A Good Sport

Motherwell FC fans at Fir Park and Wild Sheep Content founder Erik Barmack

Welcome to Motherwell?: The world of European sport M&A has skyrocketed since Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney bought Wrexham FC, birthing the Welcome to Wrexham series and leading a string of Hollywood stars to head over to these shores in support of their favorite ‘soccer’ teams. The latest this week was former Netflix and ESPN exec Erik Barmack confirming a bid for Scotland’s Motherwell FC, which is valued at a projected £1.95M ($2.48M) investment over a six-year period. “With our background in international film and television production, we see significant opportunities to boost MFC’s global visibility,” wrote Barmack and wife Courtney Barmack. This sentence uttered by high-profile U.S. execs would have felt unimaginable just a few years ago but now seems very much part of the norm. UTA, meanwhile, delved into the German sports agenting market with the acquisition of Representatives Of Outstanding Footballers (ROOF), which will sit within its sports portfolio. ROOF represents soccer stars including Virgil Van Dijk, Kai Havertz and Marc-Andre ter Stegen, and the move comes with sports representation playing a bigger role in the agenting landscape on both sides of the pond. The European football championships kick off in Germany of all places tonight and Hollywood types may be keeping a keen eye out for breakout stars.

Bella Italia

The White Lotus Season 2 trailer

Getting the credit: And finally to my whereabouts this week, which was Reggio Calabria, deep in the boot of Italy for some sun, sea, and tax credit legislation. Yes it could only be the Audio-Visual Producers Summit (AVPSummit), picking the best venues for the meatiest topics. In the spotlight were Hollywood stalwarts such as producer DeVon Franklin and WGA negotiator John August, while local streaming bosses attended in abundance. Italian film and TV of course has a rich heritage and tradition but is facing the same problems felt in territories the world over. Troubling the industry this year has been uncertainty surrounding the future of what was once a rather lucrative film and TV tax credit, with some projects placed on pause due to the confusion and others moving to nearby Spain, we’re told. The status of the credit was thrown up in the air by some rather worrying noises from Italy’s new right-wing PM Giorgia Meloni, and whispers from AVPSummit attendees confirmed the fears as Meloni’s party dominated at the European elections, with one local producer source branding the situation “nightmarish.” Minister Nicola Borrelli sought to calm waters on day three, stressing that plans for a slightly revised credit had now been submitted and should be active in a few weeks time, which should “save resources” and incentivize local Italian productions while not departing much from the previous credit. Borrelli also lashed out at “journalists who say our resources have not been used properly.” We are, indeed, the worst. Plenty more to get teeth into from AVPSummit, including Miracles of Heaven producer Franklin detailing how creating a marketing campaign for The Pursuit of Happyness led him to pioneer faith-based movies. All coverage can be found here.

The Essentials

Harriet Walter (left) and Margaret Thatcher

🌶️ Hot OneSuccession star Harriet Walter is playing Margaret Thatcher in a Channel 4 drama series from James Graham and Stephen Frears.

🌶️ More heat: Farah Pahlavi, the empress of Iran, is collaborating with Serendipity Group and John Powers Middleton on a documentary and a scripted project, per Rosy across the pond.

🕵️ Investigation: Jake’s latest revealed that BBC News anchor Clive Myrie made thousands delivering speeches to an investment company linked to Israeli arms suppliers.

🤝 Done deal: Beta took a stake in Living producer Number 9 Films’ new TV division.

🚛 For sale?: After emerging from bankruptcy in the U.S., Regal parent Cineworld is exploring options for its UK business that could include potential sale or restructure.

🏪 Setting up shop: Idris Elba has paired with former Pulse exec Diene Petterle on 22Summers.

📺 The big interview: Stewart sat down with We Are Lady Parts creator and Malala pal Nida Manzoor

🏕️ Festivals latest: Munich International Film Fest set a trio of world premieres.

🏕️ More festivals: The Indian Film Festival of LA unveiled partners.

🌓 First-look: Peter White was in Banff reporting on a tie-up between Letterkenny producer Sasha Leigh Henry and New Metric Media.

📜 Research: The streamers are set to comfortably overtake commercial broadcaster and pubcaster spend in Europe by the end of this year, Ampere research found.

🇺🇸 White House race: U.S. fundraisers hit Europe with rival London events for Trump and Biden hosted by Holly Valance and Anna Wintour respectively.

🍿 Box Office: Inside Out 2 got off to a joyful start at the international box office.

Melanie Goodfellow contributed to this week’s Insider

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