Tag Archives: Anonymous Content

Out of this world

US cable channel TNT turned to Caleb Carr’s arresting novel The Alienist as the premise of its biggest ever drama series. The creative team behind the series, alongside star Luke Evans, discuss bringing the period piece from page to screen.

Adapted from military historian Caleb Carr’s first novel, The Alienist is set in the Gilded Age of New York City in 1896. When a series of haunting, gruesome murders of boy prostitutes grips the city, newly appointed police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt calls upon criminal psychologist (aka alienist) Dr Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Brühl) and newspaper reporter John Moore (Luke Evans) to conduct the investigation in secret.
They are aided by a makeshift crew of singular characters, among them the intrepid Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning), a young secretary on Roosevelt’s staff who is determined to become the first female police detective in the Big Apple. Here, the team behind the series – coproduced for TNT by Paramount Television and Studio T and debuting on January 22 – give DQ the inside track…

Rosalie Swedlin, producer, Anonymous Content: What made the book such a huge bestseller was the richness of the detail. It was set in such an extraordinary time and had similarities with the world we’re living in today. It never got made by Paramount as a feature film; I believe they had several screenplays and directors, but the project got put on the shelf.
Years later, when Paramount Features opted to start a television division, they decided it was time to maximise the assets of the Paramount feature library. This was the same time as Anonymous Content had just done True Detective. We were approached to do a first-look TV deal with Paramount and I asked if anyone had claimed The Alienist because I’d read the book and loved it.

Luke Evans plays reporter John Moore

Writer Hossein Amini (McMafia) was the first person on board and wrote the opening episode and series bible, before TNT picked up the project blind…
Swedlin: Then we had to find a place to shoot the series, which turned out to be a huge challenge because New York today looks nothing like New York in 1896. Just the complications of bringing carriages into New York streets and blocking them off to traffic proved extremely difficult, even though we scouted New York three times.
We scouted Montreal twice and various other places, before finally it was suggested we go to Budapest. Then we needed to find the director who would give shape and vision to the show, and all of us had seen London Spy and The Fall and absolutely loved Jakob Verbruggen’s work. After we all met, it was clear he was the right director for the series.
Jakob Verbruggen, lead director: The appeal of the series was the possibility to create a visual roller coaster, because that’s what the book is. I’ve done The Fall, so there was a connection with serial killers, but what made this series stand out was the unique setting. New York is a city in transformation. This is a world 100 years ago that is quite similar to ours – immigration, depression, how to we treat the weak, rich
and poor.
The series also has an unlikely group of heroes that guides us through this process, and having them come together to catch the greatest evil known to humankind – a serial killer or predator – was quite fascinating.
It’s called The Alienist and it’s about psychiatry, so of course all these guys have inner demons – and to come clean with themselves, to solve the quest, they have to confront their demons. All of the main characters, episode by episode, we peel off their layers and that was an interesting challenge.
Something else that stood out from the book and is very atypical was the killer’s victims – boy prostitutes. It allowed the series to say something about child trafficking and
child abuse.

To tell this story, Verbruggen wanted to cast “the finest of actors,” but he was also looking for some new faces unfamiliar on television…
Verbruggen: Kreizler is somebody who lives on the edge of the spectrum but he’s also a master puppeteer. He’s a foreigner in an America that is finding itself at the time, so [German actor] Daniel Brühl brings that strength and foreign flavour.
For Dakota Fanning’s character, we looked for someone with an enigmatic but strong gaze that carries a secret, which I think she does so well. For Moore, the book is written from his point of view and it’s a very dark world, but Luke Evans brings charm, wit and warmth to the character and he’s the one that takes the audience by the hand and helps them during this journey.
Luke Evans: I’d read the first five episodes but it was very difficult for me because I’d never done [a television series]. So I knew if I did it, it would have to completely pull me in – and it does within the first few pages of the
first episode.
Moore is a very complex character, much more than in the book. He’s massively flawed in so many aspects of his life and personality, but there’s something heartwarming about his struggle. He finds it very hard to hide his feelings and that’s why he’s very relatable for the audience.
Kreizler can be very cerebral, methodical and detached from human emotion because he’s not feeling it, he’s observing it and trying to work out why. Yet Moore is totally drawn into it. I just thought this was a very interesting journey, and the one magical gift television gives you is 10 hours’ worth of story.
I’d never experienced that, I’d only experienced two [on TV], or three in a movie. So it was a challenge to stay in a character and keep the character fresh for six months of shooting but also to go on this journey and see how he develops and changes, and how the people around him see him. It’s a big journey, so it was a wonderful gift. It was a no-brainer for me.

Daniel Brühl is the eponymous ‘alienist,’ another term for criminal psychologist

The biggest challenge on the series was to recreate 1896 New York, with settings ranging from Lower East Side tenements to the Gilded Age interiors, as well as populating one of the most crowded places in the world…
Chris Symes, executive producer and line producer: We wanted to tell these stories in a place you could smell and taste; where you could feel the grime, the texture and the overcrowding. As it happens, Budapest turned out to be pretty perfect for our needs: it’s a Gilded Age city built more or less in the same period.
There were one or two streets we could use, not as many as we would have liked, which meant we had to build six blocks of the Lower East Side. It was a huge undertaking throughout the middle of a Hungarian winter, but we ended up with a spectacular set we could redress and turn into different neighbourhoods. We also built it full height – it’s an 18 metre-high set – because extending it digitally would have been such a huge operation in terms of post-production and the VFX budget that it was deemed worth building it top to bottom, which of course gave us complete freedom to put the camera anywhere.
Evans: I’ve been very lucky in my career to work on some incredible sets, and The Hobbit was closest in size and detail to this. It was
like time-travelling every day. You couldn’t often see the ends of the streets. You were immersed, completely, which as an actor only benefits your ability to forget where you are and be present in the time period. Then you add the extras and the smell and the smoke – it was breathtaking.
Verbruggen: We were a bunch of lunatics and detail-obsessed madmen. We weren’t just building the streets but also putting dirt everywhere. If there was a market, there were real meats and the smells were terrible. There were horses everywhere, horse shit everywhere. The research we did was very detailed.

The production faced the major task of recreating 1890s New York City, eventually settling on Budapest as the filming location

With five directors working across the 10-part series, continuity between the cast and crew was imperative to ensure the style of the show carried across every episode…
Jamie Payne, producing director who helmed the final two episodes: It’s such a detail-rich world in terms of character, emotion, spectacle and scale that there needed to be a constant presence.
We had some of the best talent in the world so, beyond the first three episodes Jakob directed, there were lots of questions about episodes coming up. I was able to look ahead at the scripts so that when the directors came on board, there was already a toolkit for them to understand the style of the show. There was a very clear aesthetic but every director contributed something. You’re also there to give the cast constant support should they need it. They’re literally on set all day, every day and at some point we had two units going.
At one time they were jumping between storylines from five episodes. It helped that Luke, Daniel and Dakota were so close that, during a 10-hour story, they were able to support each other.

The Alienist was originally envisioned as a limited series, so the production decided not to go down the showrunner-led route…
Swedlin: We just chose brilliant individual writers – Hoss [Amini], E Max Frye [Band of Brothers], Gina Gionfriddo [Boardwalk Empire] and John Sayles. We had a very unconventional writers room. They assembled in New York, Hoss assigned the episodes and they wrote them.
When the time came to make the show, McMafia was happening so Hoss wasn’t available, and we didn’t have that creative voice we would have got had we hired a showrunner. Jamie played a significant role in providing an overview, story continuity, character content, and continuity for the aesthetics, so he was critical to making sure the whole show has a coherence.

With Netflix picking up rest-of-the-world rights, talks are already underway about a potential follow-up…
Swedlin: We’ve had early discussions about a second season and whether it would be based on Angel of Darkness, the follow-up novel, or whether we would take the characters on a completely original journey. It’s still to be determined.

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Dream on

Films including Blade Runner and Minority Report saw the work of acclaimed novelist Philip K Dick transformed for the big screen to great success. Now the late author’s writing is coming to television in an anthology series featuring 10 standalone stories based on his short stories.

Holliday Grainger, Richard Madden, Steve Buscemi, Bryan Cranston, Timothy Spall and Anna Paquin are among the stars in front of the camera, while writers and directors include Jack Thorne, Matthew Graham, Tony Grisoni and David Farr.

In this DQ TV interview, executive producers Michael Dinner and David Kanter discuss why Electric Dreams is more than a dystopian show but also a “very human show,” and how the programme was produced on both sides of the Atlantic.

They also explain why3 the deal to make the series took years to put together, with multiple producers attached to the project, which will air on Channel 4 in the UK and Amazon Prime in the US.

Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams is produced by Rooney McP Productions, Electric Shepherd Productions, Anonymous Content, Tall Ship Productions, Moonshot Entertainment and Left Bank Pictures in association with Sony Pictures Television. Sony is also the distributor.

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Eclectic dreams

The work of renowned author Philip K Dick has inspired a new anthology series heading to Channel 4 in the UK and Amazon. Michael Pickard takes a look at the 10 imaginative stories that make up Electric Dreams.

Since Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams was first announced in May last year, it seems not a week has passed without a new A-list actor, star writer or acclaimed director joining the anthology series.

Comprising 10 single films, each inspired by one of author Dick’s renowned short stories, a roster of leading British and American writers and directors have taken up the challenge to adapt the works for television.

Each story is set in a different and unique world, with some at the far reaches of the universe and others much closer to home. But while on the surface they may seem poles apart, they all focus on the importance and significance of humanity.

From Sony Pictures Television, Electric Dreams is executive produced by Michael Dinner of Rooney McP Productions alongside Isa Dick Hackett, Kalen Egan and Christopher Tricarico of Electric Shepherd Productions, David Kanter and Matt DeRoss of Anonymous Content, Ronald D. Moore and Maril Davis of Tall Ship Productions, Bryan Cranston and James Degus of Moonshot Entertainment, Lila Rawlings and Marigo Kehoe of Left Bank Pictures, plus Don Kurt and Kate DiMento. Sony is also handling international distribution.

Here, DQ takes a look at the details of all 10 episodes, which are due to air on Channel 4 in the UK and Amazon in the US later this year.

Crazy Diamond
Boardwalk Empire’s Steve Buscemi plays Ed Morris in what is described as “the ultimate Philip K Dick comic film-noir nightmare.” Inspired by the story of the same name, the story follows average man Ed, who is approached by a gorgeous synthetic woman with an illegal plan that could change his life completely. He agrees to help – and then his world begins to crumble.
Starring alongside Buscemi are Sidse Babett Knudsen (Westworld, Borgen), Julia Davis (Gavin & Stacy) and Joanna Scanlan (No Offence). The episode (pictured top) is written by Tony Grisoni and directed by Marc Munden.

Timothy Spall, pictured in The Enfield Haunting, stars in The Commuter

The Commuter
The morning commute is turned on its head in this mysterious tale from Bafta-winning writer Jack Thorne (National Treasure, This is England). Timothy Spall (The Enfield Haunting) stars as Ed Jacobson, an unassuming employee at a train station who is alarmed to discover that a number of daily commuters are taking the train to a town that shouldn’t exist. This one is directed by Tom Harper (War & Peace).

Impossible Planet
In an episode that promises two be out of this world, Jack Reynor (Free Fire) and Benedict Wong (Marco Polo) play two disillusioned, disenchanted and indifferent space tourism employees who agree to an elderly woman’s (Geraldine Chaplin, A Monster Calls) request for a trip back to Earth – the existence of which is a long-debunked myth. She appears easily confused, plus she’s rich – so, for the right payment, what’s the harm in indulging her fantasies? As the journey unfolds, however, their scam begins to eat away at them and they ultimately find themselves dealt a bittersweet surprise. Impossible Planet is written and directed by David Farr (The Night Manager) and based on the short story of the same name.

Human Is
Essie Davis (Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries) stars as a woman suffering in a loveless marriage who finds that her emotionally abusive husband (played by Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston) appears to be a different man upon his return from battle – in more ways than one. With a cast that also includes Liam Cunningham and Ruth Bradley, this episode is written by Jessica Mecklenburg and directed by Francesca Gregorini.

Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston (left) takes the lead in Human Is

Father Thing
The world is under attack in Father Thing as aliens quietly invade our homes. Charlie, played by Jack Gore (Billions), must make the most difficult decisions imaginable as he tries to protect his mother (Mireille Enos, The Catch) and the human race as he is among the first to realise that humans are being replaced by dangerous monsters. Greg Kinnear (As Good As It Gets) also stars in this instalment by writer and director Michael Dinner (Sneaky Pete).

Real Life
This future-set episode sees Anna Paquin (True Bloood) play Sarah, a police officer who shares ‘headspace’ with George (Terrence Howard, Empire), a brilliant game designer, with each pursuing violent killers whose plans could have shattering consequences. In a race against time, and sharing a bond that no one else can see, they learn that the very thing that connects them could also destroy them. Additional cast members include Rachelle Lefevre (Under the Dome), Lara Pulver (Sherlock), Jacob Vargas (Luke Cage), Sam Witwer (Once Upon A Time) and Guy Burnet (Hand of God). The episode is written by Ronald D Moore (Outlander, Battlestar Galactica) and directed by Jeffrey Reiner (The Affair).

The Hood Maker
Set in a world without advanced technology, mutant telepaths have become humanity’s only mechanism for long-distance communication. But their powers have unintended implications, and when the public begin to embrace mysterious, telepath-blocking hoods, two detectives with an entangled past are brought in to investigate. Richard Madden (Game of Thrones), Holliday Grainger (The Finest Hours) and Anneika Rose (Line of Fire) star in The Hood Maker, which is written by Matthew Graham (Life on Mars) and directed by Julian Jarrold (Becoming Jane).

True Blood’s Anna Paquin plays a police officer in Real Life

Kill All Others
A man hangs dead from a lamppost, apparently murdered and inexplicably ignored by passers-by, after a politician (Vera Farmiga, Bates Motel) makes a shocking statement encouraging violence. But when one man, the extraordinarily average Philbert Noyce (Mel Rodriguez, The Last Man on Earth), dares to question the situation, he becomes an instant target. Written and directed by Dee Rees (Bessie), this episode also stars Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton), Glenn Morshower (Aftermath) and Sarah Brown (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation).

Autofac
Set in a world where society has collapsed, a massive, automatic product-manufacturing factory continues to operate according to the principles of consumerism – humans consume products to be happy and, in order to consume continuously, they must be denied freedom of choice and free will. When a small band of rebels decide to shut down the factory, they discover they may actually be the perfect consumers after all. Juno Temple (Vinyl) stars as Emily, one of the rebels, alongside Janelle Monae (Hidden Figures) as Alexis, an Autofac representative. Jay Paulson and David Lyons also appear in the episode, which is written by Travis Beacham and directed by Peter Horton.

Safe and Sound
Annalise Basso (Captain Fantastic) stars as a small-town girl, already gripped with social anxiety, who moves to a big futuristic city with her mother, played by Maura Tierney (The Affair). Exposed for the first time to urban society’s emphasis on security and terrorist prevention, it isn’t long before her schooldays are consumed by fear and paranoia. However, soon finds guidance and companionship in the most unexpected of places. Safe and Sound is written by Kalen Egan and Travis Sentell and directed by Alan Taylor.

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Action Station

DQ speaks to the cast and creative team behind US spy drama Berlin Station, a modern-day thriller that draws parallels with the real-life case of whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Richard Armitage is a long way from the Shire. While the British actor might now be best known for his role as Thorin in Peter Jackson’s blockbuster film trilogy The Hobbit, the Spooks star’s new role sees him thrown back into the familiar world of espionage in 10-part drama Berlin Station.

The first original drama from US cable network Epix, the story follows Daniel Miller (Armitage) who has just arrived at the CIA foreign station in Berlin tasked with a clandestine mission to uncover the identity of an infamous whistleblower known as Thomas Shaw.

Olen Steinhauer
Olen Steinhauer

The cast also includes Michelle Forbes (The Killing), Richard Jenkins (Olive Kitteridge), Leland Orser (Ray Donovan) and Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill).

It was created by bestselling spy novelist Olen Steinhauer, who executive produces alongside showrunner Bradford Winters, director Michaël Roskam, Eric Roth, Steve Golin, Kerry Kohansky-Roberts, Keith Redmon and Luke Rivett.

“It’s one of my favourite genres,” Armitage says of his decision to star in the spy thriller. “When there’s a lot of stuff on the market, it’s the thing I get drawn to. It’s down to the Jason Bourne movies. I had a taste of it with Spooks and Strike Back and I was looking to do a really good television show. There’s so much out there in terms of scripts, so the criteria I put out were that I didn’t want anything that had a gimmick and that it had to feel contemporary. The spy drama seems to fit in that mould.”

Berlin Station, which debuted on October 16, doesn’t present a glamorous view of espionage, however, with the series focusing on the everyday as much as the extraordinary.

“We all agreed that a lot of the time in this genre, it tends to be a competence fetish,” Armitage explains. “Characters are either super intelligent or have this special skill set. We wanted this story to be about ordinary people doing extraordinary jobs, how far they’re stretched and how they are flawed and make mistakes. I’m sure that, for people on the front line, it’s got to be one of the most stressful jobs out there. You have to behave like a machine. But they cannot detach themselves emotionally from what’s going on.”

That the show, which is produced by Anonymous Content and distributor Paramount TV, should be grounded in reality was a concept that was quickly agreed upon by Winters and Steinhauer.

Berlin Station
Berlin Station stars Richard Armitage as a spy

“These are normal people who happen to work in the field of intelligence,” explains Winters, who came on board the series tasked with lifting Steinhauer’s story from page to screen. “They have lots of baggage. We wanted to humanise this cast of characters in a day and age that is filled with the more heroic or super-heroic side of people who are fighting the good fight. This show attempts to take a clear view of a system and the people who work within it, and to treat it respectfully in a character-based fashion. More than a desire to thrill or keep viewers on the edge of their seats was a hope to get people invested in the characters.”

The influence of the saga of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who leaked thousands of classified government documents to journalists in 2013, looms large over the central storylines as Armitage’s CIA operative tracks down the enigmatic Shaw.

“The idea itself was conceived post-Snowden so it was deliberate and intentional to deal with issues that are very of the moment,” Winters reveals. “There was definitely foresight and deliberation in our plot. Where this wasn’t the case was in how things in Europe leant themselves to the story after filming began. Unfortunately, because of those terrible incidents in Paris and Brussels, it’s an example where our story will have an even greater relevance.”

Coming from a career writing novels, Steinhauer admits he faced a learning curve moving into television. “As a novelist, you have this extreme level of ownership, but you have to let that go [in TV],” he says. “At first it’s difficult, but once I saw the necessity of it when you’re in production, I became more comfortable with it. A lot of great ideas come out of it – your mind goes in directions it wouldn’t have gone if you were writing alone, so that’s a great benefit. It takes you out of your box.

Berlin Station
The series also features Michelle Forbes, star of US drama The Killing

“When you spend so long looking at words on the page, to have an actor bring their own experiences and preferences and reinterpret those words, it’s quite powerful to see that happen. They take possession of those characters and it encourages me and other writers to work that much harder to make it perfect.”

Winters reveals that working alongside Steinhauer was “a very collaborative process,” adding: “Many of the ideas and structures in the series bible definitely stayed intact but everything was fluid and malleable to serve the evolving story that we set out to tell. What we ended up with was quite different from where it started but, at its core, it was true to that essence at the heart of it. It was a healthy process.”

Production encompassed five months filming in Berlin as well as a week in the Canary Islands, which doubled for scenes set in Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Panama. And while spy stories set in the German capital have traditionally focused on the Cold War period, it’s the modern-day, progressive Berlin that emerges as a central character in this drama.

“Berlin was wonderful,” Winters exclaims. “Coming from the US and given the quantity and quality of programming and cable programming in particular, you go overseas perhaps somewhat subconsciously with a sense of, ‘Let’s see how this goes.’ But it was such a delightful surprise to see the expertise of the crew and line producer who managed to get access to such wonderful locations.

Berlin Station
Hollywood’s Richard Jenkins is among the cast

“Shooting in Berlin was fantastic. It was a fun, friendly city on an admin and a creative level. The city, with its layers of history that are so visible everywhere you go, just plays wonderfully into the themes that run through the spy genre. Questions of human identity and the masks we wear were just amplified by the city – a place that has struggled with its own identity in the last century.”

Steinhauer adds: “Most people in the US have a picture of Berlin from the Cold War – grey and dilapidated. I wanted to counter that. This is an extremely colourful city and we needed to bring that out. A lot of shots are set out that way. I didn’t want some CSI thing or people devouring satellite photos. I wanted a more human element. The focus of the show is more on the job and the toll it takes. Spies are normal people who have an abnormal job. It’s hard to take for some people.”

Before production, Armitage worked with a German language coach and used Rosetta Stone recordings to perfect his German accent for lines that called for him to speak the language, while the British actor admits it was also a challenge to find the right American dialect for his character.

“I found it difficult to drop into and out of that voice so I tended to stay in it all day,” he reveals. “I stayed in character for five months! Most people I was talking to were either American or German so it just felt easier. But speaking fluent German in front of Germans was really challenging.

Bradford Winters
Bradford Winters

“Another challenge was shooting in sub-zero temperatures, as we filmed during the winter. In episode four there’s a flashback to Chechnya and it was minus 15 degrees. On The Hobbit, it was mostly too hot but this was different – your jaw freezes, so speaking in a foreign dialect is very difficult!”

Television is far from a new medium for Armitage, whose small-screen credits range from Hannibal to Cold Feet and The Vicar of Dibley, in addition to the aforementioned Spooks and Strike Back. “I want to do both TV and film,” he says, though his latest role is in the off-Broadway play Love, Love, Love. “I’ve done a lot of independent films since The Hobbit but there’s certainly some pleasure in taking something with a bit of job security, and the opportunity to develop a character over 10 episodes is really appealing. With a film of 120 minutes, there’s not enough meat on the bone. TV has changed so much. Most actors want a great TV show and then go and do a couple of movies or theatre during the break. It’s about keeping yourself visible.”

Steinhauer is also keen to do more television after landing his first show, for which he wrote three of the 10 episodes. But once the case of Thomas Shaw is unwrapped, will there be a return visit to Berlin Station?

“The characters are rich enough that you can keep them alive for years,” he says. “One of the engines of the show is that the focus is on one location, rather than one character. People can come and go. It could go on for 25 years.”

He adds: “I would like to do more TV. There are always a lot of ideas flowing around. This has showed me that I can do it and I’m not too bad at it. It’s certainly something I would try again at some point in the future.”

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Strengthening the content pipeline

xxxxx
Joel SIlver is working on two drama pilots

Hollywood producer Joel Silver has been given the go-ahead to develop scripted pilots for both CBS and Fox in the US. These will be developed via a division called Silver Pictures Television, within the framework of Silver’s new first-look deal with Lionsgate TV.

The Lionsgate deal is described as a multi-year partnership, which means it will continue beyond the first two announced projects.

For CBS, Silver is developing Bathory. Set in 17th century Budapest, the show is a new take on vampire mythology following Elizabeth Bathory, a Hungarian aristocrat who was also one of history’s most notorious female serial killers. Meanwhile, the Fox project, Soar, centres on a former NBA prodigy turned criminal who becomes the basketball coach at an upmarket high school after his release from prison.

Silver is one of the best-known names in the Hollywood film business, responsible for franchises such as Lethal Weapon, The Matrix and Die Hard. But he also has a track record in TV, with credits including Veronica Mars, Moonlight and Tales From the Crypt.

Commenting on the partnership with Lionsgate TV, he said: “Lionsgate has established a reputation for creating some of the most ground-breaking and memorable television brands in the world, and I look forward to contributing a roster of big, audience-pleasing event properties to their incredible pipeline.”

Explaining the appeal of the partnership from Lionsgate TV’s perspective, chairman Kevin Beggs said: “Joel has created some of the biggest franchises of all time and established an incredible network of relationships with top writers and creative talent.”

The Silver deal isn’t the only big news coming out of Lionsgate at the moment. The TV division has also announced that it is developing a one-hour drama series called The Rook with Twilight author Stephenie Meyer.

According to Lionsgate, the series, which is being produced out of the UK, will centre on a female protagonist with extraordinary powers who is employed by a mysterious British government agency responsible for defending Britain from supernatural threats.

Elizabeth Bathory is thought to be history's most prolific female murderer
Elizabeth Bathory is thought to be history’s most prolific female murderer

The series is being developed by Lionsgate for a major British broadcaster and Hulu in the US. It’s the latest in a line of shows that US content creators are producing in Europe, presumably to access tax breaks.

In addition, Liberty Global and Discovery Communications each intend to pay US$195m to acquire 3.4% stakes in Lionsgate. As a result, Discovery CEO David Zaslav and Liberty Global president and CEO Michael Fries will join the Lionsgate board. A key consequence of this is likely to be greater collaboration between the partners in content development and production.

Zaslav said: “As with all our creative partners, we look forward to telling world-class stories with the team at Lionsgate, and strengthening Discovery’s content pipeline across our platforms around the world.”

A big scripted TV distribution story this week saw BBC Worldwide strike a deal with NBC Universal International Networks that means sci-fi series Doctor Who will appear on the Syfy channel across Latin America next year.

Until now, the show has aired on the BBC-owned networks in the region. But from 2016, Syfy will show a re-run of season eight, followed by the exclusive regional premiere of season nine. Seasons five to seven have also been confirmed to be part of the offer of the network later in the year.

“More than 50 years and eight seasons on BBC’s own networks in Latin America helped Doctor Who develop a loyal following within the region, where the series has an exceptional number of fervent fans,” said Anna Gordon, executive VP and MD of BBC Worldwide Latin America/US Hispanic. “Our partnership with Syfy reintroduces one of our company’s most acclaimed shows to Latin America and brings it closer to dedicated science-fiction and fantasy fans.”

Doctor Who is on its way to Syfy
Doctor Who is on its way to Syfy in Latin America

Klaudia Bermudez-Key, senior VP and general manager of NBCU Networks International for Latin America, added: “Syfy is known for pushing the limits of imagination, and it is undoubtedly the perfect home for the iconic Doctor Who. The series is a perfect addition to the content found on Syfy, which appeals to audiences across the region. Our viewers continuously expect a high-quality standard for all programming content, and we are delivering accordingly.”

Still in the world of distribution, European pay TV broadcaster Sky has extended its content deal with US premium cable channel HBO to cover all five of its European territories (UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy). Under the terms of the deal, which runs until 2020, Sky will have exclusive first-run rights to HBO shows such as Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger’s music industry drama Vinyl and JJ Abrams’ reboot of sci-fi classic Westworld.

Significantly, given the growing competition from subscription VoD platforms such as Netflix and Amazon, the deal will also extend Sky’s VoD rights. More box sets of hit HBO shows such as Boardwalk Empire will be available on Sky’s digital platforms for longer periods, while episodes of current series will be available on catch-up as they air on linear TV.

Commenting on the deal, HBO president of programming sales Charles Schreger said Sky has “shined a spotlight on our original programming and treated the shows as preciously as if they were their own. This ongoing relationship has been rewarding and successful to both of us and this expansion is representative of the trust and admiration we have for them as well as a belief that we can elevate each other even further.”

Seen in totality, the above stories all demonstrate how the world’s leading pay TV providers (Liberty Global, Discovery, NBCU and Sky) are seeking tighter control over premium content.

In the UK, meanwhile, commercial broadcaster ITV (which also, incidentally, is 9.9% owned by Liberty Global) has ordered a second season of critically acclaimed crime drama Unforgotten.

Unforgotten will return to ITV for a second season
Unforgotten will return to ITV for a second season

Produced by Mainstreet Pictures, the six-parter focuses on a cold-case murder enquiry after the bones of a man are discovered beneath a demolished house. Recently finished, the show attracted a respectable audience of around four to five million.

The series was created and written by Chris Lang, who said: “I am immensely excited to be writing a second season of Unforgotten and relish the challenge of introducing a brand new story, where long-buried secrets will once again be slowly brought to light.”

ITV director of drama Steve November and controller of drama Victoria Fea commissioned the new series. The executive producers are Sally Haynes, Chris Lang and Laura Mackie.

Finally, Deadline is reporting another score for Scandinavian drama. According to a report last week, Anonymous Content and Paramount are developing an English-language version of TV4 Sweden’s hit series Torpederna, to be adapted by Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting).

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