Screen editor Matt Mueller on preparing for Cannes and catching up on top TV drama.
After a politically charged Oscar night brought the curtain down on awards season (and saw the upset win for Spotlight spicing up the ceremony even further), and with Sundance and Berlin behind us, it feels like the film industry takes a brief pause to reset — catching its breath before ramping up again for Cannes and the rest of the year.
Personally, I have been using this momentary lull to make a dent in some of the top-flight TV drama I’ve missed in recent months, through catch-up, on-demand and streaming. The new series of Netflix’s political powerhouse House Of Cards, naturally, and I’m still hooked on HBO’s Game Of Thrones with season six launching imminently.
While UK cinemas have also had plenty to keep me occupied in the last few weeks (including the Coens’ Hail, Caesar!, Anomalisa, nifty UK thriller The Ones Below and Austrian horror Goodnight Mommy), the most mesmerising screen production I’ve watched this year is something that originally showed at the Berlinale — but with the small screen its ultimate destination.
Susanne Bier’s adaptation of John le Carré’s The Night Manager, starring Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie and Elizabeth Debicki, had me hooked from the outset, proving a gripping reminder of what a hugely exciting, creative space high-end TV drama is these days, able to attract seriously high-calibre film talent.
With actors and film-makers predominantly known for their big-screen work segueing so effortlessly into the world of television, and appearing right at home in it, it further cements the notion that the barriers between film and television have all but dissolved, and the extended narrative and character arcs that TV is capable of exploring in ways that film can’t are only going to be increasingly embraced by big-screen talent.
That’s exciting for them, but does pose hardships for the independent film world — the producers, sales agents and distributors who found, nurtured and launched much of this talent in the first place, and who will bear the brunt if everyone is suddenly rushing off to the TV sphere. One leading sales agent I spoke to recently said that attaching actors with the ability to secure finance for his projects is getting more and more difficult because of TV.
While we’re all consuming content in so many more varied ways than we did even five or six years ago (yes, I can get stuck into a film during the morning commute), the purity of the cinematic experience is second to none — and exhibitors are working hard to ensure that it remains so, as we report this issue on the eve of the US’s annual exhibition conference CinemaCon.
As much as I’ve been enjoying Hiddleston’s performance in The Night Manager, it also served as a timely nudge to go see him on the big screen too in Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise (and watching Hiddleston getting up to some crazy stuff in a JG Ballard adaptation on a 25-foot-high screen is a sight to behold).
On the eve of MIPTV, and following on from Berlin’s inaugural TV strand, we ask key industry people whether film festivals should be adding in or expanding on high-end TV drama strands. This issue also contains Screen’s annual training guide exploring the hot topics of VFX, e-learning, diversity and EMBAs.
And in a very heartening recent result for the UK film industry, Film4’s 2016 budget has been ramped up substantially from $21m to $35m (£15m to £25m). While a chunk of this has initially been earmarked for a couple of commercially focused deals for the company (see my interview with Film4’s executive team), it’s a boost to their continuing mission to find and foster distinctive British and Irish (for the most part) film-making voices.
Whatever happens to Channel 4 regarding its supposedly impending privatisation, let’s hope — as David Kosse and his team do — this increase remains in place for the long term. A UK industry without a dynamic and well-funded Film4 would be a far poorer place.