Tag Archives: Dear Murderer

Williams brothers plot deceitful drama

The Williams brothers
The Williams brothers’ Liars is coming to ITV

Harry and Jack Williams burst onto the international drama scene in 2014 with The Missing, a compelling crime drama for the BBC in the UK. So successful was the show that the BBC ordered a second season of what has morphed into an anthology scripted series.

Now, the Williams brothers have been commissioned to write a series for UK commercial broadcaster ITV via their indie company Two Brothers Pictures.

The new six-part drama is called Liar and will explore the consequences of deceit. Starring Joanne Froggatt and Ioan Gruffudd, it tells the story of a teacher and a surgeon who start seeing each other, neither realising the consequences that their meeting will have for each other or their families.

Commenting on the show, ITV head of drama Polly Hill said Jack and Harry Williams “are brilliant storytellers who have written a gripping thriller that doesn’t shy away from exploring a powerful subject. I’m thrilled we’ve commissioned Liar for ITV.”

The Missing saw premium pay TV network Starz come on board as US partner, so it’s no real surprise to see that Liar has also managed to secure a US partner in the shape of AMC sister channel SundanceTV.

Das Boot is being adapted as a television series
Das Boot is being adapted as a television series

Sundance has previously come on board high-profile European dramas such as The Honourable Woman and The Last Panthers.

Joel Stillerman, president of original programming and development for AMC and SundanceTV, said: “Liar is that rare combination of a thoughtful and emotional exploration of the human condition, and a page-turner. The Williams brothers have created something relevant and compelling – attributes our audience respects and embraces.”

As for the brothers, they said: “This story deals with highly emotional and important subject matter, exploring gender politics through the lens of a character-driven emotional thriller. We couldn’t be happier with the calibre of the team working on this.”

All3Media International, which handled distribution on The Missing, did the SundanceTV deal and is handling TV sales on Liar.

Another high-profile US/European partnership to hit the headlines this week is Das Boot, a TV drama that will be a sequel to the classic 1981 movie (itself based on a 1973 novel).

Previously announced by Germany’s Bavaria Fernsehproduktion, the show has now added Sonar Entertainment as global distributor. The only territories Sonar will not manage are Germany, Austria, the UK, Ireland and Italy, since these have already been secured by pay-TV broadcaster Sky (a coproducer on the production).

The Heart Goes Last
Rights to The Heart Goes Last have been picked up by MGM Television

The eight-part, €25m (US$28m) series will be set in 1942 and will focus on Second World War submarine warfare, primarily from the point of view of the Germans.

David Ellender, president of global distribution and coproductions at Sonar, said: “This project reflects Sonar’s ongoing strategic commitment to pursue fully integrated creative and commercial collaborations with top tier global partners to develop and distribute high-end content. Das Boot is a property with broad-based appeal to networks and broadcasters worldwide and will play exceptionally well.”

Outside these two projects, it has been a busy and varied week in terms of scripted series development. US studio MGM Television, for example, has announced that it is extending its relationship with Canadian author Margaret Atwood by securing TV rights to her novel The Heart Goes Last. The book, published last year, tells the story of a young couple who have been hit by job losses and bankruptcy in the midst of a nationwide economic collapse.

MGM and Atwood have already worked together on a TV adaptation of the author’s classic novel The Handmaid’s Tale, which is set to launch on Hulu next year.

This show will also be part of MGM’s Mipcom line-up later this month, alongside new TV adaptations of classic movies Get Shorty and Three Days of the Condor. These join MGM’s ongoing movie-to-TV franchises Fargo and Vikings.

Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock’s works will be reimagined in Welcome to Hitchcock

Another interesting project to break cover this week is Welcome to Hitchcock, a new anthology series from Universal Cable Productions (UCP) that will reimagine Alfred Hitchcock classics.

The show was made possible following a deal between UCP and rights holder Alfred Hitchcock Estate. “Long after his death, Alfred Hitchcock continues to be one of the most celebrated directors and visionaries in the world, a master manipulator of the macabre,” said Dawn Olmstead, executive VP of development at UCP. “We’re honoured that The Hitchcock Estate has put its trust in our studio to pay homage to his work.”

Meanwhile, The scramble for rebootable franchises looks like it will also result in a new version of iconic TV series Dynasty. US network The CW has reportedly asked Gossip Girl creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage to breathe life back into the franchise.

The original series aired on ABC from 1981 to 1989 and was a hit for the network. There’s no guarantee the new version will catch fire, however. TNT’s recent reboot of fellow classic US glamour soap Dallas only managed three seasons before it was taken off air.

Another interesting link-up this week sees The Weinstein Company join forces with rapper Shawn ‘Jay-Z’ Carter to produce TV and film projects. Jay-Z has already been involved in films including the 2014 Annie remake and Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, while DQ also recently reported that he is involved in an HBO project centred on the US civil rights movement.

Dynasty is set to be reborn on The CW

Outside the US, DQ sister publication C21 reports that South African producer Ants Multimedia is developing a Zulu drama based on a 1986 novel by the late Kenneth Bhengu. The novel tells the story of a Zulu man who is sent to woo a princess on behalf of his king, but decides to court her for himself and so faces the wrath of the ruler. Bhengu was a prolific Zulu-language writer who published 18 novels and novellas.

This week also saw New Zealand pubcaster TVNZ unveil a broad-based slate of shows for 2017. On the drama front, it highlighted Screentime NZ’s five-part drama Dear Murderer, which stars Mark Mitchinson in a saga based on colourful, larger-than-life barrister Mike Bungay. Among TVNZ’s acquisitions for next year are dramas Victoria, Cold Feet and One of Us from the UK. US imports include Time After Time and 24: Legacy.

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NZ public funding supports Kiwi voices

New Zealand isn’t the most prolific TV drama-producing nation in the world. But it does have a good skills base and some fantastic locations (Jane Campion’s exquisite Top of the Lake miniseries was shot on the island, as were high-profile movies like the Lord of the Rings trilogy).

The country also has a decent level of funding support from the government. Media funding agency NZ On Air invests around NZ$80m (US$56m) a year in local TV shows, of which NZ$36m is allocated to drama and comedy. This money is accessed by applications from broadcasters.

Under the Broadcasting Act that guides NZ On Air’s investment decisions, priority is given to drama as a way to reflect and develop New Zealand culture and identity. The goal is to produce “high-quality local drama that competes with the best international programmes” says NZ On Air, with “most funds invested in programmes to be broadcast during prime time on the mainstream channels that reach the largest audiences.”

Recent high-profile examples of shows to have secured investment are outlined below. Some have already aired, some are coming soon:

filthyrichFilthy Rich, which aired earlier this year on TVNZ’s TV2, follows three illegitimate children who each discover they have a claim to the fortune of one of New Zealand’s wealthiest men, John Truebridge. It received more than NZ$8m of funding from NZ On Air, making it one of the most expensive dramas to come out of NZ. But it didn’t get a good response from critics and saw its ratings decline steadily from a 400,000 debut to around half that total. Nevertheless, the show has just been granted a second season, with NZ On Air stumping up another NZ$6.9m. TVNZ says it is not uncommon for domestically-produced shows to take time to build and is keen to give Filthy Rich another chance. To give a flavour of the opposing viewpoints over the show, NZ Herald critic Duncan Grieve called it “a caricature of New Zealand, with heartless wealth and plucky poverty and a cynical pimp and a conniving businesswoman,” while NZ On Air said: “The brilliantly made first series had an average five-plus audience of 250,000 and a total of more than 700,000 on-demand streams across the series, meeting NZ On Air’s objective of a bold local drama engaging its audience.”

Outrageous Fortune is a comedy drama that ran on TV3 from 2005 to 2010. The popular show followed the fortunes of a criminal family that decides to go straight. In 2014, TV3 greenlit a prequel called Westside, which also proved popular. Last year NZ On Air contributed NZ$7.5m towards a second season of the show. Both series are from South Pacific Pictures, which is one of the key players in the New Zealand business. It is owned by All3Media and also makes NZ’s iconic soap Shortland Street.

brokenwoodThe Brokenwood Mysteries is now into its third season on Prime. Comprised of two-hour murder mysteries set in small town New Zealand, the latest batch of four films received NZ$4m from NZ On Air. The franchise, produced by South Pacific Pictures, debuted in 2014 on Sunday nights and attracted 200,000 viewers, a strong performance for Prime. Dubbed as New Zealand’s answer to Midsomer Murders, it continues to do good business for Prime. Brokenwood has also been sold extensively on the international market by All3Media, rating well for public broadcaster France 3.

dirty-laundryDirty Laundry secured NZ$6.8m in July 2015. The 13-hour drama for TVNZ’s TV1 is produced by Filthy Productions, the same company that made Filthy Rich. The show centres on a middle-class family whose mother is jailed for money laundering. It is written and produced by Rachel Lang, Gavin Strawhan and Steven Zanoski. A trailer was released in April 2016, but Dirty Laundry is not due to launch until later this year. The show is sure to receive the same close scrutiny as Filthy Rich.

Hillary is the story of famous mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary, based on the biography by Tom Scott. Produced by Great South Television for TV1, the six-part series received NZ$6.4m in 2014. Given the subject matter, it stands a good chance of being picked up by broadcasters around the world. The show has already been acquired by Network Ten in Australia.

Dear Murderer was given the go-ahead by NZ On Air in May 2016, when it handed a NZ$4m award to TV1. The show is a five-part series based on the life and career of the late criminal lawyer Mike Bungay. Bungay died in 1993 and his wife wrote a book about him in 1997, from which the series takes its name. The show will be produced by Screentime NZ. NZOA boss Jane Wrightson said: “Audiences will delight in the Dear Murderer story about one of the most flamboyant and outrageous men in New Zealand legal history.”

Bombshell – The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior is a two-hour TV movie about the infamous sinking of a Greenpeace boat. It is from Screentime for TV1 and received NZ$2.8m in July 2015. TV movies based on true stories are an important part of the funding programme, with NZ On Air also backing Jean, about the NZ aviatrix Jean Batten. “Each of these is unique to New Zealand. Seeing our own stories on screen, whether they are fictional or bring our history to life, is crucial to our culture. Amid a sea of foreign content, this is New Zealand on air,” said Wrightson. Produced by Lippy Pictures, Jean secured NZ$3.2m.

The Cul De Sac is a dystopian teen drama about a world in which adults disappear. Produced by Greenstone TV for TV2, season one secured just over NZ$1m and season two was granted a further NZ$1.4m in May this year. The sci-fi themed show is a relatively new genre for NZ. Aired on Sunday nights at 18.00 from April 2016, it seems to have had a good first outing.

step_daveStep Dave is another South Pacific show. Season one received NZ$6.6m and season two got a further NZ$6.8m in 2015. It sees central character Dave, a 24-year-old Kiwi slacker, face major life changes when he falls in love with Cara, an older woman with three kids and “baggage.” In an interview with NZ On Air, series creator Kate McDermott said this about writing for Kiwis: “NZ audiences are made up of a lot of different types of people, all with diverse preferences and likes. (But) what I’ve noticed is that viewers seem to quite like spending time with down-to-earth Kiwi characters they can recognise or identify with. Humour also seems to be important. I don’t think we like to take ourselves too seriously, so even in moments of high drama, suspense, romance, danger, we always try to find room for a saccharine-cutter.” The TV2 show attracted 189,000 viewers to its finale in November and there is no decision yet on whether it will return.

Step Dave’s Kate McDermott also had this to say about the importance of local drama: “When I was little we all used to play make-believe using American accents, because that was what we heard on television. My daughters have grown up with their own accents on television five nights a week, on Shortland Street. They’ve watched Being Eve, graduated to Go Girls and are now quickly making their way through the box set of Outrageous Fortune. For this generation of young Kiwis, it is a given that they can turn on the television and hear their own voices, see their own cities and scenery and get to know characters that they can identify with. Pride in our own stories, characters, our talent, our music – that matters. And we should be proud because we are not the only ones watching – we get a lot of feedback from other countries where audiences are discovering New Zealand drama.”

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