September 24, 2020
In this week's edition:
• Gillian Flynn, Sharon Levy Talk Utopia
In the news
HBO took home 11 wins at the 72nd Emmy Awards, which saw the comedy Schitt's Creek score a record-setting sweep with seven trophies. Apple ordered High Desert, a new series that will reunite Patricia Arquette with her Escape at Dannemora director Ben Stiller. Personnel shakeups in the industry include Paul Zilk exiting his role as president and CEO of Reed MIDEM, with Michel Filzi named as his successor. Tim Pastore is to depart All3Media America, while Mark and Carl Fennessy are stepping down from their roles at Endemol Shine Australia. Following Banijay’s acquisition of Endemol Shine Group, Banijay Rights set up its new sales structure and revealed its brand-new catalog. Due to COVID-19, Asia TV Forum & Market 2020 will be taking place online this December.
Gillian Flynn, Sharon Levy Talk Utopia
By Mansha Daswani
Broadcast on Channel 4 in the U.K. from 2013 to 2014, Kudos’ Utopia, a black-comedy conspiracy thriller, became a cult hit, earning rave reviews, an International Emmy and a raft of BAFTA nominations. Tomorrow, Amazon Prime Video premieres a new spin on the show, penned by celebrated author Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl, Sharp Objects, Dark Places) and produced by Endemol Shine North America, Kudos and Amazon Studios.
The project, about a group of comic book fans who are drawn into a mission to save the world, had initially been set at HBO. When that deal fell apart Sharon Levy, president of unscripted and scripted television at Endemol Shine North America, together with her team, set out to find a new partner. “In the many years that Gillian had been at this show, so many new players in the streaming world had emerged,” Levy tells World Screen Weekly. “Gillian, myself, Karen Wilson from Kudos and [executive producer] Sharon Hall went back out with the scripts, looking for the right home, one that would understand why it’s so special. One of the things that makes it so special is Gillian’s voice. There’s a reason she’s one of the greatest novelists of all time. She just has a way of weaving humor into crazy situations.”
At the heart of the show, Levy says, is a group of characters who are “complicated, nuanced, complex—and they are unlikely superheroes. You will root for them—and we can all relate to unlikely heroes right now. That’s what will cut through. For anyone who loves a good conspiracy, loves Easter eggs, loves guessing and intrigue, this is for you.”
World Screen Weekly caught up with Flynn to hear about her long quest to make her own version of Channel 4’s beloved show, the process of wrapping postproduction after the COVID-19 shutdown and her multifaceted career as a writer and showrunner.
WS: I understand you’ve had a long journey with Utopia. Take me back to the beginning.
FLYNN: It’s very strange. I started writing it for David Fincher. He was going to direct every episode and I was going to write every episode. He was still shooting Gone Girl, and he said, Let’s get the band back together! I had such an amazing experience working with him on Gone Girl, so I said, Let’s do it! I can trace how long it’s taken because I started writing and immediately got pregnant with my daughter, and she is today in her first-grade online class. She’s a walking chronology of how long it’s taken to get this thing finally made. It came down to pure stubbornness on my part. These episodes will be made! If I have to get out my iPhone and do it, we’ll do it that way. It started at HBO and it fell apart there, for budget reasons, and ultimately found a home at Amazon. I was really grateful.
The interview with Flynn continues here.
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