International Insider: ‘Baby Reindeer’s Unexpected Rise; Canadian Strike Nears; Bollywood & Politics

TV

Good afternoon Insiders, Jesse Whittock back again.  Lots to take you through from around the world this week, buckle up.

Baby Reign-deer

Richard Gadd in Baby Reindeer

Crown of antlers: Baby Reindeer, Netflix’s lightly fictionalized story of a comedian being pursued by a creepy stalker, has reigned over the cultural conversation in the UK and beyond this week. Created by Richard Gadd, the series has wowed critics with its sharp dialogue and gripping story. Viewers have agreed with the verdict. The drama from The End of the F***ing World producer Clerkenwell Films cemented its sleeper hit status by growing its audience by 64% in its second week on Netflix, meaning Episode 1 has been watched by nearly 5 million people in the UK. It’s a similar story elsewhere: Baby Reindeer surged to the top of Netflix’s English-language TV chart, racking up 13.3 million views in the week to April 21.

Unintended consequences: Baby Reindeer has sparked conversations about complex relationships and sexual violence, but its success has also had an unwelcome by-product. As fans have been transfixed by Martha (Jessica Gunning) plaguing Donny (Gadd) with idiosyncratic emails and unexpected visits, they have also been speculating wildly on social media about the characters’ real identities. The frenzied amateur detective work led to false accusations being made, including about Gadd’s friend Sean Foley, an Olivier Award-winning actor, writer and director, who was wrongly accused of being sexual predator Darrien. Gadd and Gunning implored fans to stop speculating, with both saying that it was not the point of the show. The response from some has been: well, what did you expect? In an op-ed for the i newspaper, journalist Julia Raeside put it like this: “Netflix and its new star have some serious questions to answer about the apparent lack of due diligence when it comes to protecting people.”

The Baby blossoms: For all its foibles, Baby Reindeer looks set to be the making of Gadd and Gunning. Gadd has drawn inevitable comparisons with ​​Phoebe Waller-Bridge given the series, like Fleabag, started life as a one-person show at the Edinburgh Festival. The series has also been compared to Michaela Coel’s BBC/HBO drama I May Destroy You, which also dealt with themes of sexual violence. Gadd this week signed with UTA for representation in the U.S. as his star ascends. Gunning, meanwhile, entered the writers’ room for Season 3 of BBC/Amazon series The Outlaws, in which she stars. She created quite the buzz during an appearance at this week’s Creative Cities Convention in the UK (more below). Expect to hear more from both.

Canada Nears Strike Precipice

The Writers Guild of Canada has voted to approve strike action

On the edge: You might have thought the devastating dual strikes in Hollywood last year would have dissuaded other global guilds from taking action, but that is certainly not the case north of the U.S. border. In fact, it appears to have emboldened the Writers Guild of Canada (WGC). Yesterday, WGC members voted “overwhelmingly” to authorize strike action should the union not soon reach an agreement with the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA). “While a strong strike mandate does not necessarily mean we will strike, it tells the producers we are ready to defend ourselves if necessary,” said WGC Executive Director Victoria Shen, who is on the union’s negotiating team. In response, the CMPA’s Sean Porter said industrial action would be “extremely damaging” and added the body was “committed to a negotiated settlement with the WGC.”

The background: So how have we reached this point? Well, six months of fruitless discussions, really. The previous Independent Production Agreement ran out on December 31, 2023, and an interim one was brought in. Disagreements over AI provisions, writer compensation (especially those working in animation) and mini-rooms are central to the current impasse — sound familiar? The WGC claims its members’ aggregate earnings have fallen by over 20% over the past five and a half years when adjusted for inflation. Compounding that, Canada’s half-implemented streamer regulation has led to a slowdown in streamer commissions and only pubcaster the CBC and Bell Media can really be relied upon to commission at any significant volume. All these issues impact both writers and producers, and the streaming situation won’t be resolved until it is decided how Netflix and co are legally required to spend under the Online Streaming Act, which has technically been law for some time now but is unlikely to be resolved until 2025. More context can be found in this long-read from January. The egg timer has been turned over and seconds are slipping away for the WGC and CMPA. Resolution is needed.

Getting Creative In Bristol

Screw

Bristol descent: Max was in the West of England city of Bristol this week as some of the British TV industry’s finest descended on the home of natural history for a buzzy Creative Cities Convention (CCC) – the UK fest celebrating the country’s nations and regions (read ‘anywhere out of London’) that switches venue each year. In the hotseat was Netflix UK boss Anne Mensah, who spoke bullishly about how the streamer will not change commissioning course despite its new profit drive, and under-fire Channel 4 boss Alex Mahon, who bowed to industry pressure by vowing to make more shows out of England. With the tricky market conditions and worldwide contraction inevitably in the spotlight, execs both on stage and whispering in the corridors painted a mixed picture. Plimsoll Productions boss Grant Mansfield said the opportunities come outside the UK – stressing that “most British producers are very welcome in America” – but BBC natural history boss Sreya Biswas cautioned that, within her genre, costs are shooting up and opportunities in a “saturated market” are becoming more scarce.

‘Mr Strong vs the Post Office’: Creatives were as well represented at CCC as execs and one such helmer was James Strong, the director behind ITV’s smash campaigning drama Mr Bates vs the Post Office. Strong urged a “mechanism” for British broadcasters to make future shows on scandals that don’t necessarily appeal to an international audience. His remarks came almost at the exact same time as ITV programs boss Kevin Lygo revealed during a London conference that the hit show has made a loss of £1M ($1.25M), neatly demonstrating the challenged nature of the British campaigning drama sub-genre. Check out the full report on Strong’s panel to get a feel for how the hit show was made, and read all of our CCC coverage here.

Bollywood & Politics

Narendra Modi

Modi in spotlight: A six-week election period in India, the world’s largest democracy, is well underway, and this week Hannah Abraham spotlighted how this relates to Bollywood and the nation’s other movie sectors. The postponement of The Sabarmati Report, a film that looks into at the disputed 2002 Gujarat riots, has been linked by local reports to the elections, in which Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking a third term. Dev Patel’s action flick Monkey Man, which not-so-subtly looks at what happens when a populist political leader weaponizes religion in India, has no release date in the country. Since Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party took control of India in 2014, he has been perceived by many to have explicit biases against religious minorities, and in particular Muslims. A number of films that have been accused of stoking communal tensions and distorting history have released in recent years, and questions are incoming over what happens if Modi wins another term as is widely expected. Hannah’s article is a sombre, serious and essential read, get it here.

99 To Beat‘s Winning Formula

99 to Beat

Move over Squid Game: Our latest Global Breakout came from mainland Europe. 99 to Beat is a sweet, funny gameshow from Belgium in which normal people are challenged to complete simple, everyday tasks and, crucially, to not lose. Max spoke with the creator, VRT exec Jo Dehennin, who calls his show an “antidote for all the bad news out there.” Sticking with the cheeky nature of the show, the exec notes 99 to Beat aired before Netflix’s Squid Game, making it the real progenitor of shows based around ‘regular’ games. In fact, it was the old party favorite Musical Chairs that inspired the format, said Dehennin. A British version on ITV has been ordered. Though Belgium’s formats biz is regularly overshadowed by neighbor the Netherlands, 99 to Beat sits alongside upcoming BBC and NBC survival format Destination X in a growing suite of entertainment shows emerging from its creatives. Read on

The Essentials

Chris Columbus, Steven Spielberg and 'The Thursday Murder Club' by Richard Osman (inset)

🌶️ Hot One: Netflix has boarded the Chris Columbus and Steven Spielberg adaptation of Richard Osman’s novel The Thursday Murder Club.

🌶️ Also Hot: Joe Cole and Teagan Croft will lead Natasha Merkulova and Alexey Chupov’s English-language debut Override, as Diana revealed.

🌶️ More heat: Vanessa Kirby, David Oyelowo and Sofie Gråbøl lead cast in The Strange Case, an audio drama from John Wick creator Derek Kolstad.

🌶️ Another one: Charades and New Europe Film Sales will sell Laszlo Nemes’ long-awaited feature Orphan, which has begun shooting. Mel with the scoop.

🤝 New job: For industry veteran Negeen Yazdi at Tom Harper’s Popcorn Storm Pictures. Nancy with the news.

👨🏻👨🏽 New team: Thomas Drachkovitch and Jason Hafford will lead UK-based producer/agency Dream Bay Entertainment.

🚦 Red light, green light: Channel 4 made renewal decisions on two major 2023 entertainment launches.

🚪 Exiting: Sony Pictures Television global scripted chief Nina Lederman, as Max revealed

🎡 Rollercoaster ride: Wheelhouse and attractions company Merlin Entertainments teamed to create unscripted shows.

💰 In the money: South African director Mandla Dube secured backing for his next six pictures.

🍿 Box office: The Roundup: Punishment, the latest in the Korean blockbuster franchise, set an all-time opening day presales record at home.

🕯️ RIP: Palme d’Or winning director Laurent Cantent passed away aged 63.

Jake Kanter and Max Goldbart contributed to this week’s Insider

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