Tag Archives: TV Globo

The Cannes selection

Andy Fry casts his eye over this year’s selection for the MipTV Drama Screenings and finds an eclectic mix vying for the awards on offer.

In 2016, MipTV organiser Reed Midem decided to celebrate the global boom in scripted TV by launching its own drama awards. Dubbed the MipDrama Screenings, the first year was such a hit with buyers that the event has been brought back for 2017.

Just like last year, 12 finalists have been pre-selected for the awards in Cannes by an advisory board made up of experienced buyers. These shows will now compete for three awards – one decided by a jury of producers, another by critics and a third by buyers, who get to vote for their favourite show after screenings.

There are a couple of points about the MipDrama Screenings that make them particularly interesting. The first is that they focus on non-US titles, meaning that producers from less high-profile markets get a better chance to stand out from the crowd.

This year’s 12 comprise dramas from the UK (three), Germany (two), Russia (two), Canada, France, Denmark, Norway and Brazil. This echoes the story last year when Public Enemy, a drama from Belgium, was selected as the event’s top drama.

Expectations are high for forthcoming German series Babylon Berlin

The second is that they are all new titles, which means many of them haven’t had much market exposure until now. A couple, like Babylon Berlin and Ride Upon the Storm, have been flagged up for a while – but this is not an awards programme for endlessly returning series like Game of Thrones or American Horror Story. In fact, around half the series being showcased are still in the middle of production.

So what can we learn from the 12 finalists? Well, in terms of subject matter, several deal with themes that have been pretty prominent in film and TV drama recently. Federation Entertainment’s Bad Banks, for example, is a new look at the world of big finance, while Sky Vision’s Bad Blood is a gangster series based on a true story.

All Media Company’s Russian drama Better Than Us (pictured top) is an exploration of AI’s role in our lives, while TV Globo’s Jailers is a new take on prison drama – this time from the point of view of guards, rather than inmates.

There are also a couple of cop shows, though perhaps not the kind we’re used to. The Territory, for example, is an eight-part drama from Sreda Production in Russia. The story is set in a town where a series of ritualistic murders take place. As a result, a pugnacious detective is called in to deal with the situation.

The Ride Upon the Storm main cast (L-R): Lars Mikkelsen, Ann Eleonora Jørgensen, Simon Sears and Morten Hee Andersen

There is also Germany’s Babylon Berlin, a high-end drama series based on the thrillers by Volker Kutscher. Set in 1920s Berlin with Tom Tykwer as showrunner, this could be one of the landmark series of the year if it lives up to the hype.

The rest of the finalists tackle an eclectic and unusual range of subjects. For example, Missions, distributed by AB International, is a futuristic thriller focused on a Mars mission that goes wrong. While we’ve seen Mars as the focus of films and documentary series, this is the first recent TV drama to come to market (though others are in the pipeline).

Ride Upon the Storm is another leftfield drama. From Borgen creator Adam Price and produced by DR Drama in coproduction with Arte France and SAM le Francais, this is a story about faith, both in the traditional religious sense and in the wider context of what it is that guides us through our existence. It centres on an alcoholic, abusive priest and his two sons.

Faith may seem like a tough subject for a TV drama, but after Borgen (politics) and Follow the Money (finance), DR Drama is as likely as any to pull it off. Speaking about the series, Price says: “Despite the fact the Danes might not see themselves as a religious nation, we are surrounded by faith in our daily life. Faith fills the public debate – when atheists encourage people to leave the church, when we discuss integration, the refugee crisis, terrorism or the US presidential election. But also when we nurture mindfulness, ‘hipster Buddhism’ or the familiar blend of superstition and spirituality.”

Russia’s The Territory follows the investigation into a set of ritualistic murders

Interestingly, the other Scandi finalist goes to the other end of the moral spectrum. Produced by HandsUp Stockholm for Viaplay Nordic, Veni Vidi Vici tells the story of a failing movie director who attempts to revive his career by working in the adult entertainment industry. However, this suspect career move forces him into a double life that threatens his family.

The show is part of Viaplay’s push into original drama. Explaining why his company backed the show, Viaplay CEO Jonas Karlén says: “We are convinced combining acquired TV dramas such as Empire and Blacklist with original Nordic drama is our future. Viaplay will take the lead on original productions in the Nordics, with 50 projects in the pipeline until 2020 with great stories that also have the potential to travel.”

A strong UK pool consists of ITV’s Fearless, Channel 4’s Gap Year and the BBC’s Clique – projects that all benefit from having strong writers at the tiller. Fearless, for example, is from Patrick Harbinson (Homeland). Starring Helen McCrory (Peaky Blinders), it tells the story of a solicitor who gets caught up in a political mystery while investigating the killing of a schoolgirl.

“Fearless is a legal thriller, but one that’s written in the crash zone where law and politics collide,” says Harbinson. “The so-called War on Terror has put serious stress on the workings of the law. National security justifies all sorts of police and state over-reach, and the majority of us accept this. So I wanted to create a character who challenges these assumptions.”

Missions is about a voyage to the red planet gone awry

The other two UK entries are novel attempts to appeal to a younger audience – something TV drama desperately needs to do. Gap Year, written by Tom Basden (Fresh Meat) and distributed by Entertainment One, tells the story of a group of young travellers heading off on a three-month trip around Asia.

All3Media International’s Clique, created by Jess Brittain (Skins), is about two best friends drawn into an elite circle of alpha girls led by lecturer Jude McDermid in their first few weeks at university in Edinburgh. “It is about the different ways ambition plays out in young women at university,” says Brittain. “It’s a heightened version of a certain type of uni experience, pulled from my time at uni, then ramped up a few notches into a psychological thriller.”

In terms of the mechanics of the above shows, a few have been set up as coproductions, but for the most part they are centred around a strong central vision that originates in one territory. The impression is that the advisory board favoured shows that seek to tell local stories with universal themes. It’s also noticeable that most of them have a limited series feel to them. While this doesn’t preclude them from returning, it confirms the impression that the scripted sector outside the US is most comfortable in the six-to-10-episode range, working with season-long narratives rather than story-of-the-week projects.

Fearless stars Peaky Blinders’ Helen McCrory

Some of the talent involved is well established: Tykwer, Harbinson, Basden and Price, for example. But the overall list looks like a serious attempt to give buyers some interesting new angles,rather than simply showcasing big MipTV clients.

Public Enemy’s victory last year proves it’s hard to predict which show will come out on top. But the three-pronged winner selection process means the shows will be scrutinised pretty rigorously. Expert judges include Filmlance International MD Lars Blomgren (The Bridge), showrunner Simon Mirren (Versailles), screenwriter Virginie Brac (Cannabis, Spiral), Mediapro head of international content development Ran Tellem (Prisoners of War) and Big Light Productions founder Frank Spotnitz (The X-Files). That’s an impressive line-up of global drama talent with a good eye for spotting winning projects.

Finally, of course, it’s worth asking: is entering worth the effort? Well, the experience of Public Enemy would suggest so. Barely known before MipTV last year, the show was later sold by Banijay Rights to a wide range of broadcasters including TF1 and Sky Atlantic. So the message seems to be that creative recognition at the awards can have a financial pay-off.

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Above and beyond

Writer Manuela Dias tells DQ about Justiça (Above Justice), a Brazilian drama that follows the fate of four people arrested on a single night.

Brazilian miniseries Justiça (Above Justice) follows the interconnected stories of four people who are arrested on the same night.

Vincent (Jesuíta Barbosa) murders his fiancée Isabela (Marina Ruy Barbosa) after walking in on her with a former boyfriend; housewife Fátima (Adriana Esteves) is set up for drug trafficking after killing policeman Douglas (Enrique Díaz)’s dog; Rose (Jéssica Ellen) is arrested for possessing drugs at a party; and Mauricio (Cauã Reymond) is held on suspicion of murder after assisting in the suicide of his dancer fiancée Beatriz (Marjorie Estiano).

In each strand of the story, the central characters either face or fight for justice after the as the drama unfolds over several time periods.

Creator and writer Manuela Dias tells DQ more about the 20-part series, which was produced for TV Globo and is distributed by Globo.

Manuela Dias

Where did the idea for the show come from?
Manuela Dias: Above Justice was inspired by a real story. My house cleaner asked for my help because her husband was arrested for killing their neighbour’s dog. The neighbour was a police officer and her husband subsequently spent more than two months in jail. I thought of her sleeping alone in an empty bed, and the series was born from that emptiness. There is an intimate side of our lives governed by law. It’s not a story about courts; it’s a story about people affected by the law. They commit acts that are considered crimes and go to jail; they serve their time in prison and then return to their lives. But their lives are completely torn apart. Above Justice is a series about what happens after you pay your dues to the justice system. On the one hand, we have forgiveness; on the other, there is revenge.

How was the story developed for Globo?
After the idea came to me, I wrote a project and showed it to Globo. Zé [José Luiz Villamarim, director] read the project because he was on another show with our art director Moa Batsow, and he fell in love with it. We didn’t even know each other at the time. Globo approved its development and I started working on it.

How would you describe the writing process?
It took me one year to write the 20 episodes, with the help of two collaborators. They helped me create the tone and structure the story – in this case, four stories. But I always write all the dialogue by myself. My partnership with Zé is also key to the creative process. We read everything together, build the atmosphere and we talk about everything from characters to plots, locations and actors.

How did you work with the director to develop the show’s look?
Just like Zé has his share in my work, I also give some input to his work. I imagine the scene while I’m writing it and we discuss every element. Moa also collaborated with us in several areas.

Above Justice centres on four people arrested on the same night

Who are the lead cast members and what do they bring to the series?
The cast was selected through an intense brainstorming process between the authors, the artistic directors and the casting directors. But the main characters are then developed based on each actor. I think about the actors a lot when I’m writing – how to use their strengths in a subversive and challenging way. The performances of Enrique Diaz [Happily Ever After?/Felizes Para Sempre?] and Leandra Leal [Império/Empire], playing Douglas and Kellen respectively, are perfect examples of two actors who were taken outside their comfort zone. Zé is very good at subverting the actors.

Where was the series filmed and how were locations used in the script?
Years ago, I wrote a movie called Deserto Feliz, directed by Paulo Caldas, which took place in Recife and in the backlands of the state of Pernambuco. This made me go on some research trips, and a lot of things caught my attention there. Recife was already on my mind when I had the idea for Above Justice. The storyline called for that urgent atmosphere of Pernambuco. Zé also liked the idea, and so we went for it. I usually travel to check the locations because it is an inspiring experience, but I couldn’t join the team for the Above Justice process because I was in the late months of my pregnancy. But they sent me photos and we discussed our opinions. After choosing the locations, I rewrote some things, allowing the scenery to merge into the drama.

What were the biggest challenges during production?
Above Justice tells four stories that divide a city. The narratives are connected in space, but they don’t necessarily share the same drama. In fact, it is quite the contrary: the same event triggers independent dramas. We also have what we  call ‘joint scenes’ – sequences that appear in all four stories. They serve as basis for the series’ format. Accomplishing this was a great challenge in terms of concept and execution – not to mention having to deal with fires, a storm, and boat and helicopter scenes. It almost sounds like an action story!

L-R: Actors João Baldasserini, Enrique Diaz and João Miguel in Felizes para sempre? (Happily Ever After?)

What do you hope viewers take away from the series?
I hope people will open up to the great dramas that hide behind the unknown faces we come across every day. Empathy is a fascinating social tool. Being able to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes is a complex and necessary part of civilisation. And I believe emotion allows us to relate to others. The transforming power of emotion trumps reason in all aspects. For example, we’re able to coexist with poverty in our day-to-day lives because we develop tools to dehumanise beggars and devoid ourselves of any emotion in that sense. Experiencing any kind of resentment towards injustice is not just a mental process; it’s more than that. Love can accomplish things that are so unlikely, they can even sound miraculous. While we can’t change the world, perhaps we can influence people through drama.

How would you describe the state of Brazilian TV drama and how is the industry evolving in 2017?
Brazilian TV production is huge and diverse. I see a melting pot of screenwriters and directors – on both broadcast and cable TV. We have a strong tradition in television drama, with work from the likes of Gilberto Braga, Silvio de Abreu, Aguinaldo Silva, Walcyr Carrasco and João Emmanuel Carneiro reaching millions of viewers in Brazil. The industry has lots to offer to people who, like me, are just starting. Globo, in particular, has been investing a lot. There are writers with 10 or 20 years’ of experience in the market who have built their brands. It’s a very consistent process that I believe will bring something new.

What are you working on next?
I’m developing a telenovela. As someone who works with television drama in Brazil – cinema and theatre as well, but mostly television drama – writing a novela with 170 episodes has long been a dream for me. It will be a great challenge.

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