Tag Archives: Game of Silence

Scripted formats show writers’ double vision

Hardly a week goes by without some new development on the scripted format front. So here we explore 12 of the shows that have been adapted – successfully and unsuccessfully – for the US, and the writing teams behind them.

Where images have been included, the original series is on the left and its adaptation on the right.

Broadchurch-GracepointBroadchurch was a big hit for ITV in the UK when season one aired in 2013. It then sold around the world and was adapted by Fox in the US as Gracepoint, with the same lead actor (David Tennant). The UK version, which then had a moderately successful second season, was created and written by Chris Chibnall – who is now working on a third and final run before taking over on the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The 10-part US version was set up by Chibnall before being handed over to Anya Epstein and Dan Futterman, who wrote all of the remaining episodes except for number six (Jason Kim). Gracepoint was pretty well reviewed by critics and sold to other English-speaking markets. But it was not renewed after failing to secure a sizeable audience (average ratings were around 3.5 to four million).

Collision, created by UK writer Anthony Horowitz (Foyle’s War), attracted an audience of seven million when it aired on ITV in the UK during 2009. In November last year it was picked up by NBC as a 10-part series. Interestingly, Horowitz will be the showrunner for the US version, with CSI exec producer Carol Mendelsohn on board as partner. Mendelsohn is also exec producer of Game of Silence (see below), suggesting she is now regarded as a safe pair of hands for format adaptations after her many years working on CSI.

The original version of Collision comprised five episodes but Horowitz says he has no concerns about the project being extended because he believes the storyline will benefit from the extra episodes. Sometimes formats suffer from being stretched in this way.

Forbrydelsen-KillingForbrydelsen (The Killing) is a Danish series (DR/ZDF Enterprises) created by Soren Sveistrup. Active across three seasons, it became an international hit and made its star Sofie Gråbøl a household name. It was adapted by AMC in 2011 and has so far run to four seasons – despite being cancelled a couple of times along the way. It was saved by Netflix, which came on board as a partner for season three and then took over the show in its entirety for season four.

The US version was developed by Veena Sud, whose previous big credit was CBS procedural Cold Case. Sud shared writing duties with a large team, including the likes of Nic Pizzolatto (True Detective) and Jeremy Doner (Damages). She stayed with the show through season four, by which time writing duties were shared with Dan Nowak, Sean Whitesell, Nicole Yorkin and Dawn Prestwich (the latter two a writing team whose credits include Chicago Hope, FlashForward and The Education of Max Bickford).

Hatufim-HomelandHatufim, aka Prisoners of War, is perhaps the most celebrated example of a successful scripted format. Created in Israel by Gideon Raff, it was adapted as Homeland for Showtime in the US by Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa. Five seasons of the US show have aired so far, with a sixth ordered in December 2015.

As is common with US series, there is a big team involved in writing a show like Homeland. The latest season of 12 episodes involved 11 writers altogether. Key names include Chip Johannessen, who has been involved with the show since the start. A new name on the season six team sheet was David Fury, who has worked on an array of titles ranging from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Hannibal.

Janus is proof that US networks are looking further afield in search of great ideas. A crime story originated in Austria, it was picked up by ABC last autumn. Kevin O’Hare, who has written pilots for ABC and Syfy, is adapting the thriller and writing the pilot. The original version was written by Jacob Groll and Sarah Wassermair.

Prior to this seven-part serial, Groll was best known for documentary The Sound of Hollywood, while Wassermair’s credits include musicals for children’s theatre. However, the pair have also been working together on ORF’s popular crime series Soko Donau.

JanetheVirginJuana La Virgen is a Venezuelan telenovela that was adapted for The CW network in the US as Jane the Virgin. The original was created by Perla Farias and the US version by Jennie Snyder Urman, whose writing efforts are supported by a large team (the show has 22 episodes per season).

As evident from the titles above, a lot of adaptations don’t get further than the end of their first season. So the fact that this one has just been greenlit for a third run is a notable achievement. Although season two ratings are down compared with season one, the show has settled into a stable 0.9 to one million range.

Revenants-ReturnedLes Revenants was hailed as evidence that French TV drama had become a force to be reckoned with. A hit for Canal+ in 2012, the format was snapped up by A&E in the US – where it was remade as The Returned. The French version (based on a film) was created by Fabrice Gobert, who then wrote the screenplay for season one with Emmanuel Carrere and Fabien Adda (with writing credits also going to Camille Fontaine and Nathalie Saugeon).

A second season was aired at the end of 2015, with Audrey Fouche joining Gobert and Adda as a key writer (also credited on one episode was Coline Abert). Despite being led by showrunner Carlton Cuse alongside Raelle Tucker (True Blood), the US version failed to secure a second-season renewal following lacklustre ratings.

Øyevitne is a Norwegian crime thriller that is being adapted as Eyewitness for USA Network. In the US it has received a 10-episode, straight-to-series order. The US version comes from Shades of Blue creator Adi Hasak, who wrote it and will serve as showrunner. The original series creator is Jarl Emsell Larsen, who will executive produce the US version.

The series explores a grisly crime from the point of view of the eyewitnesses, two boys involved in a clandestine gay affair. While the Nordics have been getting a lot of attention in recent times, this is actually the first Norwegian scripted show to be adapted for the US.

Penoza-RedWidowPenoza is a popular Dutch drama created by Pieter Bart Korthuis and Diederik van Rooijen for KRO-NCRV. The show has run for four seasons (2010-2015), with a fifth, commissioned in February, set to air in September 2017. The format was acquired by ABC in the US in 2012 and ran for one season during 2013 with the name Red Widow.

The US version performed poorly and wasn’t renewed, dropping from 7.1 million at the start of its run to 3.47 million at the end. That was a rare blip for writer Melissa Rosenberg, whose credits include the entire Twilight saga of movies, Showtime’s Dexter and Netflix hit series Jessica Jones.

RakeRake is an Australian television series that centres on a brilliant but self-destructive lawyer. It was created by Peter Duncan, who then shared writing duties with Andrew Knight across the first three series. A fourth season will be broadcast this year on ABC Australia.

The show was adapted for Fox in the US in 2013, with Peter Duncan at the helm of a writing team of five. However, the show didn’t rate well and was moved around the schedule before being cancelled.

ShamelessShameless: Company Pictures produced Shameless for Channel 4 in the UK before it was picked up as a format by premium pay TV channel Showtime. The UK version was the brainchild of Paul Abbott, who also wrote a number of episodes. Other high-profile names involved included Danny Brocklehurst, who is now enjoying some success with Sky1’s The Five. Another prominent writer among many was Ed McCardie (Spotless).

Abbott was involved in setting up the US version, which may explain why the show has been a success, with six seasons already being aired. Key names in terms of transitioning the show included John Wells (ER, The West Wing) and Nancy Pimental – both of whom are still heavily involved, alongside a team of five writers for the latest season. Interestingly, the last season of the UK version also used a team approach, with eight writers penning 14 episodes.

Suskunlar-GameofSilenceSuskunlar is a Turkish drama that first aired on Show TV in 2012 and was then sold in its completed form to 30 countries. It was written by Pinar Bulut, who has also written a number of projects with her husband Kerem Deren, including fellow international hit Ezel.

The show was picked up by NBC in the US and has just started airing under the title Game of Silence. The pilot for the US version was written by David Hudgins, whose credits include Everwood and Parenthood. The second episode was penned by Wendy West (The Blacklist and Dexter). Hudgins has expressed a desire to take the show on into a second season, but early ratings suggest that it will need to do better for that to happen. After attracting 6.4 million viewers for episode one, it dropped 39% to 3.9 million for episode two.

tagged in: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Recap: What MipTV execs said about taking on Netflix

Now that MipTV 2016 has come to an end, DQ editor Michael Pickard looks back on a week where drama continued to reign supreme – and Netflix was again among the major talking points.

With its place in the events calendar so close to other major markets, buyers and distributors have become used to absence of the US studio giants from MipTV each spring.

Yet this year, in what perhaps is representative of the international television industry at large and the growth of the global drama market in particular, it didn’t seem to matter.

The sheer amount of content on display in Cannes – from the traditional posters and billboards lining La Croisette to the inaugural Mip Drama Screenings that presented 12 series from around the world – showcased the current strength of international storytelling that is rivalling US drama.

Private Eyes' Jason Priestley and Cindy Sampson strut their stuff in Cannes
Private Eyes’ Jason Priestley and Cindy Sampson strut their stuff in Cannes

Distributors selected for the screenings certainly felt the benefit, with several reporting a surge in interest in their shows following their presentations in front of more than 350 acquisitions executives on Sunday – none more so than Zodiak Rights, which is selling Belgian drama Public Enemy, the show that scooped the event’s top prize.

But despite the largely absent US studios, those who hoped Netflix might also take the week off were sorely disappointed when the SVoD platform flexed its financial muscles once again.

On Monday, it announced a deal that saw it pick up global rights outside the UK and Ireland for ITV drama Marcella, the first English-language series from The Bridge creator Hans Rosenfeldt.

It’s clear the scale of Netflix’s ambitions and depth of its pockets no longer surprise any of the executives found taking back-to-back meetings inside the Palais. Now that the service has established itself as a major player and rolled out in more than 190 countries, said execs are likely to be heard discussing the next challenge facing the industry – how to fight back against Netflix’s dominance.

In particular, this involves producers deciding whether to work with Netflix and attempt to hold on some of the rights, alternative licensing windows and future earnings from the series. As British producer Justin Thomson-Glover, MD of Artists Studio and a founding director of boutique financing service Far Moor, said during a drama financing panel on Wednesday: “Platforms like Netflix write a cheque and you make it (the series). But there’s no back end.”

For distributors, the question is whether global rights deals with the SVoD giant and its online competitors are preferable to piecing together deals with broadcasters on a territory-by-territory basis.

The Roots team pictured at MipTV this week
The Roots team pictured at MipTV this week

We’re also now seeing the emergence of local SVoD platforms targeting original content in a bid to win subscriptions and eyeballs from Netflix. During the same drama finance panel, About Premium Content’s Emmanuelle Guilbart revealed the distributor is working on a new drama with Swedish broadcaster SVT, with finance from a domestic SVoD player. “They are becoming real commissioners with real money,” she said.

Netflix’s influence, and that of its competitors, in the distribution of content around the world also posed an interesting question during the scripted formats panel that I hosted on Tuesday: If original series (in most cases the best versions) are available worldwide, what is the future of scripted formats?

It was clear from the presentations given by Eccho Rights, New Media Vision and Comarex that local remakes of international hits are still immensely popular and profitable across Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia, while New Media Vision’s ambitions to act as a “gateway to the US” is evidence that, despite the drop in adaptations ordered by the big networks this pilot season, the US is still keen on non-English-language formats. NBC, for example, is launching Game of Silence, based on Turkish series Suskunlar, on April 12.

One deal confirmed this week was for The Department of Time, which was announced as the first Spanish drama to be adapted in China.

The eponymous department is a secret government institution tasked with guarding the ‘gates of time’ and preventing intruders from travelling to the past to change the course of history for their own benefit.

Author Harlan Coben was in attendance to promote his forthcoming TV series The Five
Author Harlan Coben was in attendance to promote his forthcoming TV series The Five

The series was originally produced by Cliffhanger and Onza Entertainment for TVE in Spain and the format has been sold by Onza Distribution to China’s Guan Yue International.

Circling back to SVoD, one executive told DQ here in Cannes that Netflix, Amazon and the large number of increasingly confident local SVoD platforms could, in fact, turn to scripted formats in an effort to boost their original production slates.

Meanwhile, the digital revolution is also building in the form of shortform series that are throwing traditional broadcasting structures to the wind. That series with no set running time or episode order are being produced across publishing sites such as YouTube and Vimeo is nothing new – with the latter’s Sam Toles describing YouTube as WalMart compared with Vimeo’s Bloomingdales during a web series panel on Wednesday.

But the session, which also included executives from New Form Digital in the US and France’s Taronja Prod, posed a pertinent question – if a YouTube channel that has 30 million hits still isn’t in the mainstream, how do you measure success?

Canadian prodco Shaftesbury might have the answer. One of its original digital series, Carmilla, which is available on the KindaTV YouTube channel, will this month be shopped to US networks as a 13-hour drama on the back of its success online – three seasons and 41 million views. Showrunner Sandra Chwialkowska (Lost Girl) is attached to the series, which is based on J Sheridan Le Fanu’s novel about a young woman’s attraction to a female vampire.

With ready-made brands known to millions of fans, who participate in fan art, fiction, online debates and more, web series are primed to serve as ready-made pilots for traditional TV networks looking for their next big hit. Just don’t tell Netflix.

tagged in: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Remaking the grade: Getting remakes right

As remakes’ popularity among content commissioners continues to belie their very mixed success rate, what are the do’s and don’ts when it comes to remaking a hit drama from abroad – and has new NBC show Game of Silence got it right? Matt Graham, international content specialist at Attentional, reports.

A few years ago, US TV producer Phil Rosenthal’s efforts to remake his hit sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond in Russia proved so arduous that he turned the experience into a comedic documentary called Exporting Raymond.

The doc tracks the many challenges Rosenthal faced in reworking the show for a different culture, from costume disagreements to casting rows.

While the Russian version of Everybody Loves Raymond – The Voronins – did eventually become a success, Rosenthal’s is a cautionary tale for the TV industry, as the exec discovered in the wintry streets of Moscow that not everyone shared even the most basic comedic and dramatic principles he’d spent a lifetime following as a producer in the US. Getting a show ‘right’ is so difficult that not even seasoned industry pros can always achieve it.

What is not disputed, however, is that in today’s highly globalised TV drama world, remakes are big business and account for large amounts of global scripted drama. One of the newest is hard-hitting drama Game of Silence (pictured above), which has been given a series order at US broadcast network NBC.

The show is a remake of popular Turkish series Suskunlar, which aired in its homeland in 2012, and provides an example of just how big the remakes business is becoming.

Game of Silence is a remake of Turkish series Suskunlar, pictured
Game of Silence is a remake of Turkish series Suskunlar, pictured

One of the attractions of remakes is that international buyers feel safer adapting existing IP. This has become increasingly clear in the past few years: in US cable drama in 2009, only two of the top 15 shows were taken from existing IP; by 2014, this number had risen to 11.

Remaking means taking a show that’s successful in one market and reimagining it for a different local audience in another. The exact factors that make a show suitable for a remake are still being defined, but a basic premise that can appeal across cultures is an essential ingredient. Game of Silence, for example, explores a universal philosophical question: is revenge ever justified?

The show’s exploration of this universal issue could prove key to its success. Specifically, Game of Silence looks at the difference between social and legal justice. Civilised society is ideally meant to be fair – a value enshrined in a functioning legal system that guarantees justice for all. The problem is that things don’t always work out this way, and some people can afford more favourable ‘justice’ than others (and if you don’t believe that, just watch HBO’s The Jinx).

Game of Silence tackles this paradox head-on. It tells the story of rising lawyer Jackson Brooks, who lives in a prosperous part of Atlanta. After a surprise encounter with old friends, he is forced to re-examine a terrible childhood trauma he thought he’d long buried. During a stint in a juvenile detention centre as children, he and his friends were sexually assaulted by the warden and his guards. While Jackson has tried to move on with his life by throwing himself into a legal career, his friends have not been so lucky. They want revenge.

Revenge is a crude form of social justice without recourse to legal process. It is also subjective and often the cause of as much trouble as it tries to resolve. Revenge saw hundreds of thousands killed in the Rwandan Genocide, for example, where one group attempted to right perceived historical injustices, a ‘revenge’ of sorts. In other words, it is a problem almost any audience can understand.

AMC murder mystery The Killing...
AMC murder mystery The Killing…

In Game of Silence, for a lawyer like Jackson, revenge is the enemy, as it invalidates everything he holds sacred. However, revenge does have one advantage over legal justice: even the rich cannot escape it. One of the biggest problems for Jackson and his vengeful friends is the status of their abuser – the former warden has become a local politician, and exacting vengeance could draw unwanted, powerful focus on a life Jackson has worked hard to build, threatening everything he has.

There’s something else about Game of Silence that makes it really interesting as a remake. The Turkish show on which it is based is itself a remake of sorts – it was inspired by a 1996 US indie movie named Sleepers. The concept has travelled back and forth across the Atlantic, showing just how universally strong the story’s premise is.

Game of Silence is a product of today’s deeply interconnected television industry. While 20 years ago international programming was dominated mainly by US television, today’s TV drama world is intensely global, with regional markets being just as important. Everyone knows about the high quality of Nordic Noir, just as people now acknowledge Turkey’s rising power. Smaller markets like the Philippines are vitally important, as is the Ukrainian capital Kiev – a hotbed of new drama formats where creativity is the order of the day.

What this means is there are dozens of high-quality new TV dramas being created all around the world at any given time. While one used to look to the US as the home of quality drama, this is changing – and fast, because, as Game of Silence shows, even the Americans are now aggressively remaking shows from outside their borders. The US version of Ricky Gervais’s UK sitcom The Office was enormously successful, while cable network AMC’s The Killing, which was based on Nordic Noir hit Forbrydelsen, lasted three seasons on the channel, moving to Netflix for its fourth.

...which is a remake of Nordic Noir hit Forbrydelsen
…which is a remake of Nordic Noir hit Forbrydelsen

The best shows to remake are often little-known, simple ideas with universal themes that, as Game of Silence demonstrates, can be carefully packed up and re-assembled with minimal cultural reprogramming. But even here there’s no guarantee of success. The US version of Life on Mars, adapted from the wonderfully creative British show of the same name, failed to achieve the same success across the Atlantic, arguably because it failed to capture the original’s intriguing nihilist outlook. It ran for just one season.

In much the same way, the writers of Game of Silence will face challenges in translating what worked with Suskunlar for a US audience. There will also be practical hurdles for the writers to overcome. For example, while the Turkish show had a limited run, concluding after two seasons, the conflict at the centre of Game of Silence will need to continue almost indefinitely to satisfy the unique US demand for lengthy show lifecycles. If they can achieve this, and embrace the ‘remakability’ factor, the show stands a good chance of being on screen for years to come.

At Attentional, our expertise is global drama, and we’ve been researching for years the best way to first find and then remake shows from one part of the world and reassemble them in another. We compile what we know in a quarterly report called REMAKABLES. We’ve gone through hundreds of shows from all corners of the globe, and narrowed our list down to a small list of those we believe would make the strongest remakes. We’ve found them so you don’t have to.

tagged in: , , , , , ,

Room for improvement

Kerem Deren hopes his Writers Room initiative will give Turkish TV a boost
Kerem Deren hopes his Writers Room initiative will give Turkish TV a boost

On a recent trip to Istanbul in Turkey, I was fortunate enough to meet Kerem Deren, a leading TV screenwriter who, along with his wife Pinar Bulut Deren, has been responsible for some of the most groundbreaking Turkish dramas of recent years.

Passionate advocates of progressive and though-provoking TV, the pair recently launched an initiative called The Writers Room (Yazi Odasi), through which they are attempting to establish a new mode of practice for the Turkish business.

Explaining how he entered the business, Deren says he studied theatre at university, at which point he “never thought” he’d work in TV. “But in around 1999 I was goofing around with some actor friends and we managed to create a show,” he says. “It was then I realised that Turkish TV was going to be a big sector where it would be possible to earn money but also to do something creative.”

Deren started pitching stuff: “At first I was doing treatments and parts of scenes. But then in around 2007 I got my first show, a youth series called The Class. It only ran for about five or six episodes but it got good critical reviews and opened up some new opportunities. I met Kerem Catay at producer Ay Yapim and we started developing a show called Ezel, which was loosely based on the idea of The Count of Monte Cristo.”

Ezel has sold to around 80 countries
Ezel has sold to around 80 countries

Ezel was a hit both domestically and internationally, selling to around 80 countries worldwide. It also gave Deren the chance to formulate a new way of thinking regarding TV writing: “There were two things. Firstly Ezel was creative and progressive, which showed that this kind of show could be made within the structure of Turkish TV. Secondly, we spent a lot of time working on it because we loved what we were doing.

“Usually shows are created in a very short time in Turkey, but we developed it for around a year. I think that was a key reason why Ezel achieved such a huge international following.”

After Ezel, Deren started working on Ucurum (The Cliff), another tough, uncompromising programme – this time looking at the issue of human trafficking in Turkey. Deren is proud of the fact that it tackled a subject that was not well understood, “and I know for a fact that our telephones hotlines saved lives,” he says.

Deren and his wife work on a number of projects together but also have their own projects. Ezel was a collaboration, for example, whereas The Cliff was Kerem’s project. In parallel, Pinar worked with TIMS Productions on Suskunlar (Game of Silence), which is now being remade by NBC in the US. In 2013, the married team came together again for 20 Minutes.

Ucurum focuses on human trafficking
Ucurum focuses on human trafficking

It was after this that they decided to set up The Writers Room, a creative collective that inhabits a beautiful purpose-built building overlooking the Bosphorus Sea in Istanbul.

According to Deren, the Writers Room was set up (in July 2014) to achieve three things. Firstly, to give writers more time to develop great shows; secondly, to give them greater control over the rights to their projects; and, thirdly, to improve the dialogue between writers and other parts of the production process.

“The writers are often segregated from the rest of the system, which doesn’t seem like a good way of working to me,” he says. “You don’t get writers as showrunners, for example, as you often do in the US. What we want is to improve the craftsmanship of Turkish writing.”

Currently, the Derens’ Writers Room has six full-time writers “who are being paid whether they are working on a live show or not. Usually writers in Turkey aren’t paid during the preparation period so this is a way to introduce a kind of paid development. In addition to this, we bring writers in on a project-by-project basis to work with us on our shows.”

Deren admits things are unlikely to change overnight in a market where writers are often churning out 120-page scripts in four days to feed a voracious primetime production beast.

“This is kind of revolutionary, but it is a necessity,” he says of his project. “Turkey has had a lot of success because the people here are so ingenious – but we have to make the system sustainable. We have to find a way to avoid writers burning out after a few years.”

Pinar Bulut Deren's Suskunlar (Game of Silence) is now being remade by NBC in the US
Pinar Bulut Deren’s Suskunlar (Game of Silence) is now being remade by NBC in the US

The gruelling process is not the only challenge for Turkish writers, who also have to operate in a censorious environment. “There is a kind of self-censorship in the system that comes about because experienced writers and producers know what broadcasters will or won’t allow on air. So there are character types I can’t include in stories because it wouldn’t be allowed.”

Deren sees two possible solutions to this creative conundrum: “One is to work more closely with the international market, which might enable us to circumvent the system. The other is the internet. We are working on a project that is aimed at the web, where the system is freer. The main challenge here is that internet-based viewing is not well developed in Turkey yet.”

In the meantime, big-budget TV and film remains the best way for Deren to ply his trade, making a difference one project at a time. He recently directed a box-office movie and is working on a major series with O3 Media, the Turkey-based production division of MBC Broadcasting in the Middle East.

Completely fluent in English, Kerem Deren can be contacted via this link. Turkey is Mipcom’s Country of Honour this year, so look out for a lot of Turkish drama coverage in the trade press in the run up to October’s event.

tagged in: , , , , , ,