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End of Week Production Notes 9/18/20: The Batman Returns, Madonna Biopic and More Industry News


It’s been a fairly hectic and crazy week with the 72nd Creative Arts Emmy Awards taking place over the past four nights — you can read Below the Line’s full coverage here. There have been many big winners already despite the fully-televised virtual Emmy Awards not taking place until Sunday night.  Tragically, California may have bigger concerns with the horrific wildfires that have struck the entire state and nearby Oregon. Here at Below the Line, we wish the best to everyone who has been affected either directly or indirectly by the wildfires.

At the same time, there have been more productions rolling cameras again, more announcements about new projects than we’ve been getting over the past few months, and even a cool trailer or two.

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Robert Pattinson (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

We’ll begin with some recent happier news that actor Robert Pattinson was cleared and able to return to the set of Warner BrosThe Batman after testing for COVID-19 two weeks ago. Essentially, Pattinson was off-set while quarantining for the necessary two weeks until he no longer was testing positive. Presumably, director Matt Reeves found other ways of keeping the remaining cast and crew busy as the production has roughly three months of work to do at Leavesden Studios, just outside London.

Other notable productions that started up work again this week included The CW’s popular Riverdale show, which began production on Season 5 in Vancouver, with creator Robert Aguirre-Sacasa celebrating via a quick Insta-pic with some of his cast on Sunday night.

This week also saw the release of the first set photos from Sony Pictures’ long-in-development Uncharted movie, based on the popular Playstation game, which is now well into production in Berlin with Director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland, Venom) behind the camera, and Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg starring.

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Photo: Sire Records

At this point, there probably shouldn’t be too many surprises in Hollywood when it comes to the movies that get made. With the success of musical biopics like Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody, anyone could have have easily guessed it wouldn’t be too long before Madonna got into the biopic game. Sure enough, Universal Pictures announced that the pop diva herself will co-write and direct a movie based on her own untold story. Madonna is co-writing the project with Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody (Juno), and it will be produced by Oscar-nominee Amy Pascal, who now has her Pascal Pictures situated at Universal after her many years with Sony Pictures.

Last week, Below the Line reported on the insurance woes facing a number of television and movie productions, but a new Canadian producers’ survey shows that there may be as many as 214 camera-ready Canadian film and television projects, worth over a billion Canadian, that may be in jeopardy due to issues getting insurance. In June, two Canadian industry groups (Canadian Media Producers Assn. and Association québécoise de la production médiatique) submitted a proposal to the Canadian government to create a government-backed insurance initiative, but that has not shown any momentum. These projects in jeopardy could generate nearly 20,000 jobs for Canadians if they can get the necessary insurance.

Thailand is another region opening its doors and ramping up its production opportunities by revealing its COVID-19 film and television production protocols for international productions, the local crews that work on them, as well as for local productions. To date, Thailand has one of the lowest rates of infection and death for a country its size, although it has also kept its borders closed since April. Unfortunately, this comes at the same time as a report from Korea, specifically from the Korean Film Council, that feature film production in South Korea has dropped by nearly a fifth due to COVID. Although Korea was one of the first countries to be hit by the pandemic, it was also one of the countries that was able to defeat it due to testing, tracing and closed borders.  Korea was also one of three places where Netflix was able to resume production.

COVID-19 has done a lot of damage to the upcoming planned fall TV season, and one show that had already been renewed but now is instead being cancelled is ABC’s Stumptown with Cobie Smulders, as the network reversed course on the planned renewal and decided to take the show off its 2021 schedule due to timing and scheduling.

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Raised by Wolves (Photo: HBO Max)

In slightly brighter news, the Ridley Scott-produced sci-fi series, Raised by Wolves, which debuted on HBO Max a few weeks back, has been renewed for a second season.

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Tabitha Mason Elliot (Photo: Bark Bark)

The Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP) has announced its Equity & Inclusion Committee to be chaired by the Atlanta-based Tabitha Mason-Elliott, who is head of production and partner at the Bark Bark commercial production company, president of the AICP’s southeast chapter and a national board member. The creation of the committee is meant “to help the industry cast a wider net for talent, create opportunities for mentorship and advancement for people of color, and establish hiring practices that more easily facilitate a means of entry to the industry.”

New York Times best-selling cookbook author and lifestyle influencer, Ayesha Curry, has announced her new television and film production company, Sweet July Productions (sharing a name with her new lifestyle magazine), which has a first-look deal for unscripted television with eOne.

Amid multiple reports about the toxic workplace culture at shows like The Ellen Degeneres Show and TMZ on TVWarnerMedia CEOs Jason Kilar and Ann Sarnof issued separate memos that they were “concerned and disappointed” by said reports. With a full investigation to be published soon by The Hollywood Reporter, the company heads stated that WarnerMedia has hired a third party consultant to review its production business practices. (Neither memo specifically mentioned the accusations made by actor Ray Fisher against director Joss Whedon from the reshoots on Justice League in 2017.) They also have said that they may “terminate business relationships” that don’t live up to the company’s conduct standards. This is breaking news, and we can probably expect more changes and repercussions announced as more information about the conduct in question is revealed.

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Tatiana Maslany (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Tatiana Maslany, best known for her Emmy-nominated role in the BBC drama Orphan Black, has snagged the lead role in Disney+’s next series with Marvel Studios, playing lawyer Jennifer Walters and her gamma-powered alter-ego, She-Hulk.  Marvel Studios is moving quickly on the shows it’s producing for the Disney streaming service, gearing up to launch two or three per year.

Lizzy Caplan from Masters of Sex and Antony Starr from The Boys have been cast in as Lionsgate thriller, called Cobweb, being directed by Samuel Bodin from Chris Thomas Devlin’s Black List script. The movie is being produced by Roy Lee and Vertigo Entertainment. 

After making the boxing drama Southpaw together five years ago, actor Jake Gyllenhaal and Director Antoine Fuqua  will reteam for the thriller, The Guilty, based on the acclaimed Danish drama that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2018. The script was written by True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto, and it’s being produced by Gyllenhaal with his Nine Stories partner Riva Marker, Fuqua, as well as Bold Films and many more. The movie is already in preproduction.

You can learn more about projects like the ones above and more in Below the Line’s Production Listings.

Although Below the Line tries its best to be on the forefront of interviews with talented creatives, we were fairly impressed by Esquire’s piece on Costume Designer Emma Potter, who designed the outfits for Antonio Campos’ The Devil All the Time, which premiered on Netflix this week. We spoke to Campos himself, as well as Cinematographer Lol Crawley, but it’s great to see how the prolific designer came up with outfits for the Southern Gothic thriller.

Lastly, just a day before the streaming network Disney+ won its very first Emmys with the five technical awards it won for its first Stars Wars series, The Mandalorian, the streamer release the first trailer for the show’s second season, which will debut on October 30. From what we see in the trailer below, there’s a good chance The Mandalorian will continue the show following in the footsteps of HBO’s Game of Thrones in dominating the visual effects and sound categories at the Emmys.

Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas has written about movies for print and the internet for over 20 years, specializing in box office analysis, reviews, and interviews. Currently, he writes features for Below the Line and Above the Line, acting as Associate Editor for the former and Interim Editor for the latter.
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