Tag Archives: Vimeo

Creative heavyweights step up development


Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman

Fox in the US is developing a drama based on the 2015 Netflix movie Parallels.

Entitled The Building, it centres on a group of people who enter a skyscraper that transports them into parallel universes, which are similar to but not quite the same as our own. In one, for example, Russia has dropped a nuclear bomb on the US.

The idea is being adapted for TV by Neil Gaiman and Chris Leone (the latter wrote and directed the movie). Albert Kim, whose writing and production credits include Sleepy Hollow and Nikita, is the showrunner. The project caps off a busy year for Gaiman, who has also been adapting his novel American Gods for Starz.

Also in the news this week is Alan Ball, creator of HBO series Six Feet Under and True Blood. Ball is reported to be teaming up with HBO again on a series that will star Holly Hunter as the mother of a non-traditional progressive family.

According to Deadline: “Once a therapist in private practice, Hunter’s Audrey now reluctantly utilises her skills as a psychologist in the corporate world, balancing her more progressive personal philosophy with the need to make money. She is a smart, caring woman who believes she knows what’s best for everyone and has no problem telling them. But with her husband now fighting depression and her children mostly grown, she finds herself somewhat adrift.”

Holly Hunter
Holly Hunter

Other high-profile stories this week include the news that Sonar Entertainment has signed a first look deal with Robert Downey Jr and Susan Downey’s production outfit Team Downey. As part of the deal, Sonar and Team Downey are working on a project called Singularity. Also involved in the creation of the series is Anthony Michael Hall, who will star.

The deal is the latest link-up between Sonar and star talent. The company is also working with George Clooney and Tom Hardy, with the latter starring in upcoming period series Taboo.

Commenting on the new deal with Team Downey, Sonar CEO Thomas Lesinski said: “We are excited about Team Downey’s vision for developing and producing a broad scope of original premium content. [This] is another example of our commitment to forge creative collaborations with the most dynamic talent in the industry.”

In terms of commissioning news, US network NBC has renewed its military medical drama The Night Shift for a fourth season. The series, produced by Sony Pictures Television (SPT), follows the medical team at the fictional San Antonio Memorial Hospital. Season one of the show averaged around 6.5 million viewers, followed by 5.3 million for season two and five million for season three.

Night Shift
The Night Shift has been given a third season

At Fox, meanwhile, there are reports of a new dance drama being developed with director McG, who began his career in the music industry. The project, which sounds little bit like the Channing Tatum movie Step Up, is called The Cut and is set in a dance conservatory. It’s the latest in a line of Fox scripted projects with a musical theme – possibly inspired by the success of Empire. For example, Empire creator Lee Daniels has been working on a series called Star for the network, while last week we reported that Glee star Darren Criss was working with Fox on Royalties.

Also this week, it was announced that Phoebe Waller-Bridge, creator and star of BBC3’s Fleabag, is to write and star in a spy drama for BBC America. The network has ordered eight episodes of Killing Eve, a thriller about a psychopathic assassin and the woman hunting her. The show is based on a novella by Luke Jennings called Villanelle.

“[The show] is a brilliantly fresh take on the cat-and-mouse thriller from Phoebe Waller-Bridge, a major talent,” said Sarah Barnett, president of BBC America. “Underneath the deceptively simple and entertaining surface is a subversive, funny, obsessive relationship between two women, that plays out across some of the most and least glamorous locations imaginable.”

First-window rights to Bull in the UK have been taken by Fox Networks Group

It’s also been a busy week on the distribution front. Fox Networks Group (FNG) Europe and Asia, for example, has secured exclusive first-window rights to CBS legal drama Bull in the UK from CBS Studios International. This follows a previous deal that gave FNG rights to Bull in markets including Spain, Portugal, Turkey and Sweden.

Elsewhere, SPT has sold the much-anticipated new ITV period drama The Halcyon to broadcasters in Scandinavia, while Vimeo has continued its move into longform TV content. Among scripted titles that will now be available on its platform are All3Media International comedy Fresh Meat and seven seasons of Company Pictures’ cult youth series Skins, available globally excluding Australia.

Paul Corney, senior VP of global digital sales at All3Media International, commented: “Vimeo has a strong presence around the world with a great brand that reaches consumers in all key markets. Its team has a dynamic outlook on content delivery and we’re looking forward to working with them to bring more fantastic new shows to the Vimeo audience.”

Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag
Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag

In terms of new book rights deals, the big story this week is that BBC Worldwide-based indie producer Baby Cow has acquired the rights to Zadie Smith’s new novel Swing Time. Smith has been lined up to adapt the novel for TV alongside her husband Nick Laird.

Swing Time is Baby Cow’s first major acquisition since Christine Langan, ex-head of BBC Films, took over as CEO this month. She said: “Zadie Smith is the voice of a generation and Swing Time is a thrillingly ambitious story of friendship, rivalry and fame.”

Smith added: “I am absolutely delighted at the prospect of working with Baby Cow on an adaptation of Swing Time. Their extraordinary track record in both drama and comedy I have always admired from afar and it’s a thrill for me to get the chance to collaborate with [founder] Steve Coogan and Christine Langan.”

Smith burst onto the literary scene with her first novel White Teeth. Swing Time, only released this week, is her fifth novel.

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Is web the way forward?

Plenty of people are tuning into web series, but can digital ever replace television? As part of DQ’s Digital Drama Season, three industry insiders give their thoughts on the future of online drama.

Once derided for their poor production values, web series are now finding fans – and legitimacy – in the wider television landscape. Whether they are a source of new talent or offer creators a way to experiment with new characters or stories, the quality of many online series now rivals shows seen on broadcast and cable networks around the world.

But what are the challenges facing creators and producers online, and how can they turn a seven-minute clip into must-see viewing?

Earlier this year at industry meet-up MipTV, Kathleen Grace, chief creative officer at New Form Digital; Anne Santa Maria, a producer from France’s Taronja Prod; and Sam Toles, head of global content and distribution at Vimeo, discussed the potential of web series and whether they can ever overtake their terrestrial siblings.

Kathleen Grace
Kathleen Grace

Do you believe web series will be or can be the nouvelle vague in fiction?
KG: Definitely. In terms of production right now, people are shooting with smaller and faster cameras and there is definitely guerrilla shooting in many ways. But I also think about how audiences are discovering it and seeing it – it’s very different from traditional TV and film. A lot is based on your social media feed and the influence that algorithm programming has on your content. That changes how you produce and how you get your content marketed and discovered.

ST: The lines between web content and traditional content are blurring and we’re at the very beginning of something that’s a completely different paradigm in the content business. Traditionally, content is produced by a creator and then given over to a distribution network, whether that’s a channel, a distributor or some third party that then transmits it to the audience. What’s most interesting about digital is actually those three worlds have combined – the creator, the audience and the platform. If you don’t have punch points between the audience and the creator, where they feel an actual relationship or kinship with the person producing the content, the content will not be authentic and it will not be successful. That doesn’t matter if it’s in an ad context or a premium context. People wish to feel in this new social media world that they are connected personally with people who are delivering them content – and since they have infinite choice, the closer that personal connection, the more successful that content will be.

High Maintenance
High Maintenance airs on Vimeo

Do you think web series are only for young audiences, or can they compete for a larger audience or older demographics?
KG: Every morning, I spend the first 30 minutes of my day in bed consuming online video, through my Facebook feed, my Twitter feed and my email. And I don’t think I’m alone in my demographic in that; a lot of people do it, and a lot of people consume a ton of video on their phones. Do older demographics have a connection with YouTube talent or some other talent that the younger demographics do? No, but my sister-in-law is 42 and she’s obsessed with Horace and Pete[Louis CK’s web series, pictured top] – so it’s just about finding the passionate fans.

ST: YouTube’s white-hot core is the 13- to 14-year-old female demographic. Our platform [Vimeo] actually skews a little bit older. The average age is around 33 and is more heavily male. If you look at the kind of web series we’re producing, High Maintenance, for example, is the story of a marijuana dealer who deals with quirky New Yorkers and their eccentricities, and it’s somewhat X-rated. That was our first original programme and it’s now gone onto HBO.

Anne Santa-Maria
Anne Santa Maria

ASM: There’s a greater and greater appetite for fiction and I think the big audience for broadcast traditional content are older than 50 years old, at least in France. It started with YouTube for younger audiences but our job is to make them curious about new narratives and their taste for fiction in general.

Do web series provide a world where anything is possible?
ST: It depends. If you’re making content for advertisers, there is no freedom. If you’re selling soap, toothpaste or Coca-Cola, you’ve got to conform to the norms of those brands and the brands [in the web space] are less progressive in many ways than they are in the linear world. For us as an ad-free platform, we are 100% about total creative freedom. You have to know where the funding is coming from and what that universe looks like – and when you’re dealing with advertisers and ad-supported platforms, that freedom can be limited.

KG: If High Maintenance had been put out on YouTube, it would have been flagged incessantly by the community and taken down. So there’s lots of creative freedom. You don’t have people giving notes but you always are going to get an active voice from your audience online and they are going to tell you when they think you suck – very loudly, with lots of feeling, over and over again.

Are web series only an extension of the television landscape, or can they have an impact on TV itself?
ASM: Public broadcasters in France had the curiosity to explore what’s on the web and decided they had to be a part of it. So television is curious about how you make web series, how you get viewers and increase viewing numbers. They’re also aware that the market is more competitive than ever and new platforms are coming up, so they realise they have to be part of the new agenda and this is how they have to be. It’s a great challenge for them.

ST: It’s actually the opposite – is television relevant in an era of web series and web content? I watch broadcasters jump into ‘online’ and what they do is offer extra footage from a reality show – ‘tune in for the stuff that wasn’t good enough to put on television’ – that’s the mentality. It doesn’t feel natural.

The Outs
The Outs focuses on gay life in New York

What could go wrong? Do web series have a highway to success, or are there obstacles on the road?
ST: The biggest challenge is monetisation. Ad monetisation and the nature of pre-roll [advertising] is rapidly coming to an end. The reason shows are 22 minutes long [in television] is because linear channels had to programme slots and advertising. That has been torn away. We’re still trying to serve pre-roll advertising in a digital context and it becomes less and less effective, in the same way advertising itself in television is becoming less effective. Producers have got to figure out how to generate income to continue making their businesses work and to grow and ultimately yield return to the people investing in them. That is not an easy thing. I applaud anyone who has jumped into this world and is creating content for the digital medium because margins are tight and the content has to be produced on ridiculously low budgets – yet I still look at a show like Oscars or High Maintenance or The Outs and the quality is equal to or better than what you find on television. More importantly, it’s more interesting, it’s more dynamic and it will be the future. We just have to figure out how we make more money with it.

KG: The biggest challenge is we don’t know how to find a hit yet. What’s a hit when the world’s biggest YouTube personality has 47 million subscribers and nobody knows who he is and every 13-year-old boy is obsessed with him? It’s really hard to define a hit when audiences are so fragmented. Once we define a hit, monetisation will be much easier. You can be incredibly popular on Vimeo, you can be incredibly popular on these platforms and still feel like no-one knows who you are, even though you’re creatively successful and in some cases financially successful, you don’t feel like you have a hit. And it’s going to get tougher and tougher. There are lots of great shows on Netflix that people don’t watch.

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