Magazine article Screen International

MIPCOM: Blurred Lines between Film, TV Industries

Magazine article Screen International

MIPCOM: Blurred Lines between Film, TV Industries

Article excerpt

With US demand for scripted drama series at an all-time high due to competition between premium cable outlets, basic cable and broadcast channels and SVoD players, US TV producers and networks are increasingly looking to the film world for material - with mixed results. And with sophisticated adult drama migrating from the big screen to the small, film actors, directors and producers are following in growing numbers.

Features that have already morphed into hit series include Friday Night Lights, Fargo, School Of Rock, 12 Monkeys and Animal Kingdom (among the misses have been TV takes on Limitless, Minority Report, Uncle Buck, Friday The 13th and Rush Hour). Those film creatives making successful transitions have included David Fincher, executive producer of the US version of House Of Cards; Guillermo del Toro, co-creator and executive producer of The Strain; and Susanne Bier, Emmy-winning director of The Night Manager. Film names that have had a tougher time include Martin Scorsese, co-creator of high-profile TV flop Vinyl.

For film-makers, the US industry's increasing adoption of the limited series format that has been commonplace in Europe for years (as opposed to the US's traditional 22-episode run) has made TV a more attractive proposition. "That format has become really appealing to high-end talent because it's inherently cinematic," says Chris Rice, a partner at US agency WME who oversees international TV (WME packaged and sold The Night Manager). "Combine that with bigger budgets, which allow premium film talent to work at a quality level they might previously have found in film, and it creates really fertile ground."

FRESH INGREDIENTS

For TV producers and networks, using a theatrical feature as the basis for a series can create built-in awareness and a valuable marketing hook, and provide a stockpile of character and narrative material. But it also creates expectations, in audiences and critics. "If something exists in people's minds already, you've made it that much easier to break through," says Sarah Aubrey, EVP of original programming at TNT, US home to the series version of Australian feature Animal Kingdom, which was recently renewed for a second season. "But you have to be incredibly respectful of people's passion for the previous incarnation, and that can be a little treacherous to navigate."

The key, argues Aubrey - who, as a producer, worked on both the film and TV versions of Friday Night Lights - is to add something fresh to the foundations already laid by the original feature. "I'm not very interested in literal adaptations," she says, "especially of excellent original product. It's always about what we are bringing that's new, that's going to make it worthwhile to show to an audience again."

The latest crop of crossover series - most of them being touted to international buyers at this month's Mipcom market in Cannes - suggests some of the ways in which crossovers can be enticing but also challenging. Among series making their debuts as part of the US broadcast networks' 2016-17 line-ups are small-screen spins on Taken, The Exorcist, Training Day, Frequency and Lethal Weapon, as well as Designated Survivor, an original political thriller executive-produced by Mark Gordon (of Saving Private Ryan and Criminal Minds fame) and starring Kiefer Sutherland.

Lethal Weapon, posits executive producer Dan Lin (also an executive producer of Frequency and known in the film world as producer on the Sherlock Holmes and Lego Movie franchises), could benefit from both its connection to and separation from the four-film series (1987-98) starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. "We felt enough time had passed since the movies," says Lin. "There's a generation of people who think fondly of the movies, but there's also a generation of younger people who don't even know them, so we can use that as a launching point."

Designated Survivor, says John Morayniss, CEO of eOne Television, worldwide distributor of the series - and part owner of The Mark Gordon Company - illustrates how, in theory at least, an independent can benefit from investing in premium content. …

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