Sanjay Patel's new series Ghee Happyhas been greenlit by Netflix. The animated show from director-animator-illustrator is a playful reimagining of the Hindu deities as little kids discovering their powers in a deity daycare appropriately called Ghee Happy.
An animated version of Sanjay Patel.Netflix
Patel's resume includes an array of iconic Pixar films including Monsters Inc., Ratatouille, Cars, Toy Story 2 as well as both installments of The Incredibles. Inspired by his own childhood, Sanjay helmed the short animated film Sanjay's Super Team, which was paired with The Good Dinosaur. The short was inspired by his own childhood was nominated for Best Animated Short Film at the 88th Academy Awards and for Best Animated Short Subject at the 43rd Annie Awards.
“For the past 25 years I've been working in kids and family entertainment without having kids of my own,” said Patel. “Having finally become a parent, I'm so excited and lucky to be able to create a preschool series that introduces the great pantheon of Hindu Deities, not just into a beautiful and colorful series that is truly entertaining and original to my kiddos, but to families around the world.”
Rachel Griffiths is best known for her long-running roles as masseuse Brenda Chenowith in HBO's Six Feet Under and Sarah Walker Laurent in ABC's Brothers & Sisters. But now, the Australian actor, writer and director is swapping Disney-owned ABC to Australian public broadcaster ABC with controversial political drama Black Bitch.
Deadline spoke to Griffiths about the show, which she has co-created and the way that a shift in Australian politics has informed the drama as well as the rise of populism around the world. She also discusses stepping out from in front of the camera as she lines up a raft of projects set down under.
Black Bitch follows an Alex Irving, played by Cleverman star Deborah Mailman, a charismatic and contradictory Indigenous woman who is thrust into the national limelight after a horrific shooting and is quickly chosen by Australia's embattled Prime MinisterRachel Anderson, played by Griffiths for a senate role. ButAlexwants to be more than just a political stunt: she wants to make a difference. So, when thePrime Minister's cynical calculations betray her,Alexsets out for revenge that will send the political establishment into meltdown.
Griffiths originally came up with the controversial title twenty years ago, when she was making a film about a woman who had 'black bitch' scrawled on her house. “I was working on a documentary that was covering an Indigenous land rights guy that was in a controversial mining lease in wealthy mining state and was narrating that and just became aware of the issue,” she said.
The story deals with gender and race and representation as well as how women of color have an extra barrier to deal with in a patriarchalsociety. “That title seems to encapsulate the vilification attempts to delegitimize and the extra barriers faced by woman of color participating in public life. It sort of feels like nothing has necessarily changed or certainly hasn't changed too much in that time,” she added.
“We haven't had a show in Australia that was quite serious political satire. It was not born of being particularly cynical. I mean it's a true drama and it's not a cynical look,” she added.
While the story is particularly Australian, the rise of populism around the world — from Donald Trump in the U.S. to Boris Johnson in the UK and beyond, means that the series should be welcomed outside of its home market. “I think this is an interesting thing that's happening around the world — the idea that I'm an outsider and I won't buy in any of that bullshit,” she said. “This virulent strain of anti-parliamentarianism is at its peak, I think, in the post-war period. So it's about the roles of the outsider and the populist. It asks who makes Parliament better, is it outsiders or is it better insiders and what happens when Parliament gets hijacked by people refusing to play by regular law. I think in the context we're in, it's an assault on our parliamentary democracy.”
Griffiths added that all over the world the ruling elite are under attack and political norms are being dismantled and even outsiders such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and The Squad in the U.S. can represent the people better than traditional politicians.
She said that Alex serves as the voice of her people, reinstating what democracy is supposed to be about rather than what it evolved to become, a system run on personal interests and driven by thirst for power.She believes that Mailman, who is one of Australia's most decorated local actors, is perfect for the role and that hopes that it will help her break out internationally. The two previously worked together on 1997 feature Radiance.
The title is controversial but Griffiths says that it is a deliberate reclamation of the derogatory racial slur, an act ofempowerment for the central characterAlex. In Australia, public broadcaster ABC is going to call it Total Control locally, but Keshet International is marketing it with its original title.
It is directed by Mystery Road director Rachel Perkins, who was raised in an activist household with her father being a veryactive player in progressing Indigenous rights in Australia. It is produced by Indigenous production company BlackfellaFilms, which previously produced Jimmy McGovern's Redfern Now for ABC.
Griffiths moved back to Australia in 2012, wanting to escape the 80-hour weeks of shows such as Six Feet Under and Brothers & Sisters. She admitted that the budget for the show was much lower than what she was used to in the States, but there were many positives. “The commissioning execs and executive producers have been extraordinary and supportive and you know you hear about getting vast amounts of kind of stupid notes from and I've never been a co-creator and never read those notes before but they've been fantastic and it's been a fruitful collaboration,” she said. “If one doesn't have that EP title, the television protocol is that you get the script and are told to shut up and say the line so I'm a girl who had a lot of thoughts and feelings and it's nice to have somewhere for them to end up.”
She hopes that she can bring some of the norms of the U.S. television system — such as the writers' room — back to Australia and wants to encourage producers to give writers and talent more “agency” to prevent losing them entirely to the Hollywood system.
Having said that, she is willing to go back to the States for work and in 2016 starred alongside Guy Pearce and Mary-Louise Parker in ABC miniseries When We Rise, which focused on LGBT rights. She also starred in Hacksaw Ridge.
“I continue to do work overseas such When We Rise and for me coming back, I've worked really hard to try and get my own content up. I have several other projects in development and I'm attached to direct other shows and as an exec producer so that's been exciting — just to be part of telling stories that I have a connection to.”
She believes now is the right time to tell local stories, particularly as they have more chance of traveling around the world than ever before. “Particularly now you know with streaming platforms, where we hope that the content we make will go back to the world. You know having a high-level attachment cut through somewhat.”
In terms of Black Bitch, Griffiths is already starting to break stories for a second season and has plotted out a third season. She now hopes that the rest of the world will get to see it.
Veteran UK casting director Priscilla John Logan has launched Casting Pictures Limited with fellow casting executive Orla Maxwell Red Joan.
The duo have worked together for more than 20 years as casting director and co-casting director/associate and the new firm will mark the beginning of their casting director partnership. They will be supported by associates Francesca Bradley and Andreya Lynham.
Emmy-nominee John’s dozens of major credits include Logan, Mamma Mia! and Captain America: The First Avenger. Recent productions include British feature Red Joan; Red Production's eight-part Harlan Coben thriller Safe for Netflix; and Krypton seasons one & two for Warner Horizon/SyFy.
Recent European castings have included Michael Bay's 6 Underground for Netflix/Skydance and UK casting on Amblin Entertainment's The Turning. Also on the slate have been Glen Mazzara's The Dark Tower for Amazon and Antoine Fuqua's feature Infinite for Paramount. The duo have just commenced casting on Spell, Mark Tonderai's feature for Paramount Players.
John commented, “Orla and I have been keen to form a company together for some time and Casting Pictures Limited can only reap the benefit of this efficient, fluent and dynamic team of casting directors and associates. We look forward to continuing and strengthening the working relationship we've built up over the years with our friends and colleagues in America, across Europe and of course UK.”
Maxwell added, “I feel lucky to have had one of the best trainings in the industry under Priscilla, one of the most prestigious and dynamic casting directors in the UK as her list of credits testify. Alongside Francesca and Andreya, Priscilla and I eagerly anticipate Casting Pictures Limited challenging us to explore the ever-changing global landscape that casting film or television now demands.”
When the creators reflect on the early success of Brassic, a frenetic British comedy that lit up the schedules of Sky, their minds turn to the man who started it all: actor Dominic West.
David Livingstone, the founder of Brassic producer Calamity Films, was making British indie film Pride when West approached him with an idea. During their time on set, West was dazzled by the wild stories of his co-star Joe Gilgun's misadventures, and told Livingstone that he should consider bringing them to the screen.
“Dominic West called me over and said, 'You should listen to these stories. Joe is the funniest person I've ever met, you should make it into a TV show,'” Livingstone recalls. “I said, 'I've never made a TV show, but I'll make it if you'll be in it.'”
West, who starred in The Wire and the BBC's recent adaptation of Les Misérables, agreed. So, armed with an actor for a yet-to-be-created role and a scattered series of stories from another actor with no writing experience, Calamity set about making its first foray into television. Livingstone's first job: find a writer. This is where The Driver creator Danny Brocklehurst came in.
Brocklehurst picks up the story: “I'd loved Joe from This Is England and Misfits, so I was really happy to meet him, but deep inside me a little bit of me did think, 'Oh god, this probably won't happen.' But actually, we just got on really well and some of the stuff he was saying was just hilarious.
“He clearly put a lot of thought into what the show could be. Joe would be the first to admit it was rough around the edges, but we soon discovered we could collaborate and work well together, and knock it into something that could be a really entertaining comedy drama. I was itching to do something in this space again.”
Calamity took it to Sky, which loved the story Brocklehurst and Gilgun had created about a working-class group of friends finding creative and often illegal ways to win at life in the northern British county of Lancashire. And so Brassic was born — and it's start to life was as frantic as the car chase that opens the first episode.
Danny-Brocklehurst left and David Livingstone ITV Studios
Before the show had even aired, Sky commissioned a second series. When it debuted, it became Sky One's biggest comedy launch in seven years with 1.7M viewers. And with Mipcom weeks away, distributor ITV Studios Global Entertainment is already striking deals with international broadcasters.
Deadline can reveal that the show has been sold to CBC Gem in Canada, France's Canal+, and ABC in Australia. Comunidad Film in Spain and New Zealand's Rialto have also picked it up.
Brassic is inviting inevitable comparisons with Shameless, the comedy drama that started life on Channel 4 and has run for 10 seasons on Showtime with William H. Macy. “I don't love the comparisons with Shameless, but clearly there is a tonal similarity,” admits Brocklehurst, who worked on the original Paul Abbott show. He adds that it would “be amazing” if Brassic could be remade in the U.S. with the same level of success.
Frank Gallagher-style calamities come thick and fast in the first episode, with Gilgun's bipolar character Dylan killing a pheasant while trying to escape the police, and stealing a blonde shetland pony and dyeing its hair black. West, who started the whole thing, features as a doctor who spends more time on dating apps than listening to Dylan's woes.
Gilgun would spitball these ideas, very often through rambling late-night WhatsApp voice messages, and Brocklehurst wrestled them into a lively, fast-paced narrative. This was very purposeful.
“You have to be much more aware of grabbing the audience quickly and flying in there. I've been guilty of winding myself into a show and it takes you a while to get going. I just don't think you can afford to that at the moment,” Brocklehurst says. “I just know how unforgiving audiences are these days. There's a tendency, particularly with the lack of concentration and social media, that people like to declare things as 'slow.'”
This is partly a symptom of so much choice, which Brocklehurst thinks is a blessing and a curse for writers. “There are so many places now making drama, which is obviously great,” he says, but he does worry there is just “too much material” for audiences.
Livingstone agrees: “There's a lot of similar product out there... you do need to have a point of difference. You look at Netflix, there is such a breadth and depth of material, and I often don't know where to start.”
This is where Sky helped. “There was an advantage for us at Sky in that there is a captive Sky audience, and when Sky decides to sell something, they're pretty good and focused. You go to the gateway of Sky material, and Brassic is plastered in front of you for a significant period of time. No one is going to miss it,” Livingstone explains.
The creators were staggered by the reaction from Sky viewers. “When I first heard it [was the biggest comedy in seven years], I thought I must have been misunderstanding something,” Livingstone says. Brocklehurst says the response was “very gratifying,” including messages from colleagues and viewers.
Work is underway on series two of Brassic, while Brocklehurst and Livingstone are spinning a number of other projects. Brocklehurst has written a pilot of his BBC show The Driver for FX, with Breaking Bad's Giancarlo Esposito lined up to star. He is also developing Amazon show Dirty with Sharon Horgan about a female cop who works at night policing the sex industry.
Livingstone's Calamity Films has just released Judy Garland biopic Judy, starring Renée Zellweger, and is preparing for the launch of Netflix movie Last Christmas with Emilia Clarke. Calamity was working with StudioCanal to develop an adaptation of Man on the Run, Tom Doyle's book on Paul McCartney's 1970s adventures, but it has “stalled” following the death of writer Neil Jaworski in June. Jaworski was co-writing with Matt Delargy.
Livingstone says he would be open to doing more TV. He might just be waiting for the next tip-off from Dominic West or another unlikely source.
UK genre sales firm Devilworks has added two titles to its slate for the upcoming American Film Market. Matteo Rolleri's outfit has boarded world sales rights to U.S. supernatural horror The Special by B. Harrison Smith D eath House about a young man who is offered a night of pleasure beyond his wildest imagination. Davy Raphaely Camp Dread, Dave Sheridan Sky Sharks and Sarah French Ouija House star. Alexander Bafer and Doug Henderson produce for Everything's Fire Productions, Jonathan Ilchert is executive producer for Brick Top Productions. Also on the slate is Canadian horror Welcome To The Circle,written and directed by David Fowler Born In China and starring Heather Doerksen Pacific Rim, Matthew MacCaull Tomorrowland and Taylor Dianne Robinson Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn. Pic tells the story of a young girl and her father who fall prey to a secluded, madman-worshiping cult situated deep in a wood. Michael Khazen produced for High Deaf Productions, alongside Andrew Francis and Jeff Renfroe. Sam Vincent executive produced.
The Favourite and Vikings backer Screen Ireland is getting a funding increase of€1M, bringing the agency's annual capital budget to €17.2M for 2020. Screen Ireland chair Dr. Annie Doona said, “This additional funding together with the introduction of the regional uplift to Section 481 of 5%, announced last year, is an example of successful government policy, in terms of attracting new productions to regional areas. The uplift has allowed Screen Ireland to work with regional stakeholders to develop training opportunities and enhance skills, supporting production activity in these areas. Last year, Screen Ireland established a new TV drama production fund aimed at supporting high-end episodic TV drama. New projects emerging from this fund include Normal People, The South Westerlies and a slate of pilot TV comedies in partnership with RTÉ. Recent Irish movies backed by Screen Ireland include Lee Cronin's Hole In The Groundstarring Seana Kerslake, Extra Ordinary staring Maeve Higgins and Greta directed by Neil Jordan. International projects to have filmed on location in Ireland include Fate: The Winx Saga, Vikings, Nightfliers, Into the Badlands, The Rhythm Sectionand The Green Knight.
Fremantle has completed deals with both BBC in the UK and Mediengruppe RTL in Germany for upcoming crime series The Investigation. Produced by Fremantle's Scandinavian drama producers, Miso Film, and written and directed by Tobias Lindholm A Hijacking, the six-part series follows the complex investigation carried out by Jens Møller, the Head of Homicide for the Copenhagen Police, surrounding the murder of Swedish journalist Kim Wall.Søren Malling A Hijacking leads the cast as Møller, alongside Pilou Asbæk Game of Thrones as the prosecutorJakob Buch-Jepsen and Pernilla August Star Wars and Rolf Lassgård Downsizing as Kim Wall's parents, Ingrid and Joachim Wall. The Investigation is produced by Fremantle's Miso Film and is currently in production in Denmark. The series was developed by Miso Film together with Tobias Lindholm. It's produced by Miso Film in co-production with Outline Film for TV 2 Danmark, SVT and Viaplay with support from The Danish Film Institute's Public Service Fund and Copenhagen Film Fund. Fremantle has international distribution rights.
Everest director Baltasar Kormákur is making a supernatural volcano drama for Netflix.
The Icelandic auteur has co-created Katla with Trapped showrunner Sigurjón Kjartansson. The eight-part series is set in Iceland and begins one year after the violent eruption of the subglacial volcano Katla, which dramatically disturbs the peace and tranquility of the small town of Vik.
As people evacuate the area, the ice near the volcano starts to melt. The few remaining people manage to provide necessary community service and despite its grand location the area turns out somewhat apocalyptic. Mysterious elements, that have been deeply frozen into the glacier from prehistoric times, start to emerge from the melting ice and cause consequences no one could have ever foreseen.
Production is set to start on the project, which is written by is written by Kjartansson, Lilja Sigurðardóttir and Davíð Már Stefánsson, in 2020.
Kormákur has been developing the series, which is produced by his own RVK Studios, for a number of years and took it to Berlinale in 2017, where a number of linear broadcasters were thought to have been interested.
Deadline understands it is one of two projects that Kormákur is working on for Netflix — the other is thought to be a feature film.
“It's an exciting challenge to embark on this journey on Katla with Netflix and we're honored to be the first Icelandic production team to be commissioned to deliver a full series. Katla is a unique and ambitious sci-fi project that has been in development within my company, RVK Studios for a few years and we're delighted that it now has been picked up by Netflix,” said Kormákur.
Tesha Crawford, Director Netflix International Originals Northern Europe, added, “Iceland has been the home for so many series and films over the years. We are excited to be able to feature it's breathtaking surroundings in a story that is so grounded in Icelandic themes. Working with such an acclaimed talent like Baltasar Kormákur makes this project a perfect set up for us. We can't wait to see this story come to life and bring it to our members all across the globe.”