Thursday, July 23, 2009

Telly Jobs For The Toon?

Independent producers are to be invited to pitch for up to three million pounds in development and production grants from a new content fund to encourage long-term sustainable productions in the North East. Northern Film and Media plans to hand out almost a million of grants to productions in all genres, with a particular focus on entertainment and drama, in the first wave in September. A further two million is earmarked for next April if the scheme proves to be a success. The fund is intended as a lifeline to a region that has been hit hard in recent months - both within the industry and outside. NFM calculates that production staff numbers have dropped by a third to two hundred, following job cuts in ITV's Tyne Tees newsroom and the axe falling on Coastal Productions' ITV drama Wire in the Blood. Not to mention all the lay-offs after they stopped building Hadrian's Waal, of course. Massive unemployed, that caused. The pot has been drawn up in the same spirit as the £10.2m four-year fund set up by Screen Yorkshire in 2006, which has driven a boom in the region's production base. Half of that investment has gone directly into production on dramas such as Channel 4's Red Riding trilogy, BBC1's Survivors and ITV's Wuthering Heights. Screen Yorkshire is negotiating with regional development agencies about the next phase of investment. The North East fund, which was compiled through donations from agencies in the region, including One North East, will be used to invest up to £200,000 a time in new series with returning potential. Up to fifty thousand pounds will be given out to projects for development. On top of the cash, the agency will provide funding for companies wishing to recce the region, as wells as a free location service. It is open to producers working in TV, film, video games, interactive or music across the country, who want to bring productions to the North East. NFM chief executive Tom Harvey hoped the fund would reverse the region's fortunes by bringing talent back to the area and building on children's BBC drama Tracy Beaker, which is filming in Newcastle for thirteen weeks from this summer. Harvey said: 'It is unbelievable that shows like George Gently, which are meant to be based in the region, are filmed in Ireland because of access to development money. We want to invest in talent and projects that are going to make a real impact on national and international screens, not only emulating the success of TV and film productions such as This is England, Spooks and Hustle and games such as Grand Theft Auto or Guitar Hero, but also building on the North East's own voice and individuality.'

Assault charges brought against actor Kiefer Sutherland after he allegedly head-butted a fashion designer in May have been dropped. A New York district attorney office spokeswoman said it would not pursue criminal charges against the 24 star. Sutherland turned himself in to police after claims that he attacked Jack McCollough in a Manhattan nightclub. He and McCollough subsequently released a joint statement saying they had 'settled their differences.' McCollough had previously claimed that Sutherland broke his nose at nightclub SubMercer in the early hours of 5 May. According to the district attorney's spokeswoman, however, the case could not continue because the actor's alleged victim would not co-operate with prosecutors.

The BBC is planning a new drama village in Cardiff Bay that is likely to become the cornerstone of a 'Salford for Wales.' The waterfront Roath Basin location is the BBC's preferred option for a site that is intended to house Casualty's new studios when they move from Bristol in 2011, plus production on all dramas made out of BBC Wales such as Doctor Who and Torchwood. It has already held talks with indies, thought to include Indus and RDF-owned Presentable, about moving to the site. A senior Wales-based BBC exec told Broadcast: 'This is a significant proposition and a long-term plan. If I were setting up an indie, I’d seriously consider Cardiff Bay.' The BBC will confirm whether the drama village will go ahead in the next few months. In time, the site could house all of BBC Wales, including its current Llandaff HQ, which dates back to the 1960s and is too small to house future production capacity.

Kudos Film & Television has teamed up with Northern Ireland independent Generator Entertainment to form a new joint venture TV production company in Belfast. Kudos Generator Television, the Spooks and Ashes to Ashes producer's first base outside London, will develop original scripted TV projects across a number of genres including drama, children's and comedy. Projects will be filmed in Northern Ireland with local crews and talent, with the aim of establishing a sustainable TV drama production infrastructure. BBC Northern Ireland is backing the joint venture through the corporation's regional development initiative. Kudos managing director Dan Isaacs said discussions had been going on for around a year, building during the production of NI Screen-backed BBC1 drama Occupation. 'To build an infrastructure you need returnable series, so BBC NI asked if we would help,' he said. 'We thought it was a good idea but wanted to find a local partner. Generator benefits from our experience and we benefit from its local knowledge. We don't have a regional base so it also helps us meet broadcasters' regional quotas.'

The vision that is Katherine Heigl has branded the schedule of Grey's Anatomy 'cruel and mean' because it requires the cast to work very long hours. The actress, who plays Izzie Stevens in the cult medical drama, told The Late Show With David Letterman that she had just endured a mammoth day of filming for the upcoming season. 'Our first day back was Wednesday and I'm going to keep saying this because I hope it embarrasses them, it was a seventeen-hour day,' she said. 'It was actually kind of great to be back. All my friends are there and at this point, they're sort of like family but it was a little weird because [TR Knight is] not there anymore.' The star added that she hopes Grey's will continue to be successful, saying: 'We have another two years, I think, at least in the contract. Hopefully the show goes into ER time, which would be cool.;

The audience for BBC1's Who Do You Think You Are? profiling DJ Chris Moyles took a hefty knock last night as 4.7m people tuned in - the show's third worst performance ever. The hour-long factual programme did manage to build its audience from 4.5m to 5m in the concluding quarter hour. The series, now in its seventh run, can normally be expected to gain bumper ratings for the show and the latest series kicked off last Wednesday with 6.4m watching Davina McCall investigating her family history. Must be down to Mr Moyles's delightful personality, then.

The Czech Republic has announced it is quitting the Eurovision Song Contest, saying there is a lack of interest at home in the musical event. The country, which made its debut in 2007, came last with no points in one of the semi-finals in May. Its previous two attempts failed to reach the final, with rock band Kabat also coming last in the qualifying round two years ago. A spokesman for Czech Television told the BBC's Rob Cameron in Prague that poor viewing figures for the show also prompted the decision. This year's Czech entry was performed by Roma group Gipsy.cz, with its lead singer dressed as comic character Supergipsy. It was the first time in five years that a country had failed to make a mark on the scoreboard.

Coronation Street producers have announced that they are recasting Gail Platt's eldest son Nick Tilsley. The character, who was previously played by Adam Rickett, will return later in the year as a new actor takes on the role. Following a relationship with Leanne Battersby (Jane Danson), Nick left for Canada in 2002 though he briefly returned for his mother Gail's wedding to Richard Hillman. His next return came in in September 2003, during which Todd Grimshaw (Bruno Langley) attempted to kiss him in what was Coronation Street's first almost-gay-snog. When his on-off relationship with Maria (Samia Smith) broke down, Nick was last seen leaving the Street in a taxi to start a new life and job in Nottingham. Since his departure, he has been referenced in scripts by his family on numerous occasions. A Corrie spokesperson said: 'It will be great to see the return of Nick, he has so many links with the street - both with his family and also with the various women he has had relationships with.' They added: 'It will be interesting to see how Leanne and Maria will react to his return and of course David has never really got on with his stepbrother so there will be some fireworks there.' Rickett himself can currently be seen in New Zealand-based soap Shortland Street. He previously embarked on a brief pop career before being approved as a prospective candidate of the Conservative Party.

Husky-voiced Sky Sports News temptress and babe Georgie Thompson will appear as a panellist on a new Sky1 sports quiz, say reports. According to the Sun, the presenter and girlfriend of Declan Donnelly has signed up to star on the show, which is being developed by Objective Productions. The programme, which has a ten-episode order, will apparently be a similar format to the BBC1 show They Think It's All Over. 'Georgie's profile has rocketed since she started seeing Dec,' said a source. 'But it has only highlighted what her fans have known all along - she has the looks and the talent to move away from sports into the big time.'

Nip/Tuck star Joely Richardson has been tapped to guest in the fourth and final season of The Tudors, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The actress, who plays Julia McNamara in the FX drama, has reportedly signed on to play Catherine Parr, the sixth and final wife of King Henry VIII (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). Richardson will appear in a five-episode arc on the Showtime historical drama, which is currently filming in Dublin. It was recently reported that David O'Hara has been cast as the Earl of Surrey, the son the Duke of Norfolk. The fourth season, which will document the King's marriages to Parr and Catherine Howard, will premiere in 2010.

Contestant Kenneth Tong has walked out of the house on Channel 4 show Big Brother - less than a week after entering as one of five new housemates. Tong entered the house on Friday night, minutes before his girlfriend, the glamour model Karly Ashworth, was evicted after losing the public vote. Tong scaled a wall in the garden to exit the show. Friday night's eviction has, as a consequence, been cancelled. Details of refunds for phone voters are on the Big Brother website. Before he left the house, businessman Tong told housemate Marcus Akin: 'I came in as a legend and I will go out as one.' Whilst in the house, Tong received an official warning for swearing at fellow housemate Bea Hammill.

Five has picked up ABC drama FlashForward, it has been announced. The thirteen-episode series, starring British actors Joseph Fiennes and Jack Davenport, has been acquired by the channel with exclusive UK terrestrial and digital rights for Fiver and Five USA. 'I am delighted we will be the UK broadcaster of this gripping new series,' said Five's managing director Jeff Ford. 'When we saw the pilot at the LA screenings this year, we knew it would be perfect for our channels and make a fantastic addition to our autumn lineup.' ABC's Catherine Powell added: 'The buzz surrounding FlashForward has been rapidly growing internationally and from our very early discussions, Five shared the same excitement and enthusiasm. "They also have an impressive track record of breaking US shows in the UK and will be an energetic and creative marketing partner to ensure we make the most of FlashForward's clear appeal to British viewers.'

On a related note, ITV has acquired the rights to new drama The Vampire Diaries, it has been announced. The Twilight-style series follows two vampire brothers - one good, one evil - who vie for the souls of a high school girl, her friends and family. The cast includes Lost's Ian Somerhalder and Nina Dobrev of Degrassi: The Next Generation. Diaries will premiere on US network The CW in September and air on ITV2 in the UK from early 2010. Under the deal with Warner Bros, ITV has also secured the rights to the fifth movie in the Harry Potter franchise and a slew of other film titles, including Happy Feet and the Batman, Oceans and The Matrix franchises. ITV2 has also acquired the rights to the upcoming third season of cult drama Gossip Girl.

EW.com's Michael Ausiello's regular spoiler blog Ask Ausiello has revealed a few potential nuggets from the forthcoming US drama series. According to CSI producer Naren Shankar 'We're going to launch a new season-long serial killer arc. Starting at the end of our premiere, a brand new nemesis [will emerge] who has a very unique way of killing.' And Bones are looking for an actress in her late teens to play Cam's adopted daughter, Michelle. Which presumably means that Dana Davis who played the character in two episodes last season won't be returning given her recurring role on the sitcom 10 Things I Hate About You.

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