Tag Archives: Charles Randolph

Oscar winner goes to war with Amazon

Charles Randolph
Charles Randolph

Oscar-wining writer Charles Randolph (The Big Short) has signed a development deal with Amazon Studios. His first project will be a 10×60’ drama series that will explore what it would take to create a present-day civil war in the US.

There are no further details on the project yet, but presumably Randolph will be able to draw inspiration from the current US presidential election process. Prior to The Big Short, the writer was best known for movies including Love & Other Drugs and The Life of David Gale. But he has written for TV before, with pilots for HBO and ABC.

Another writer in the news this week is Sam Catlin, who is getting rave reviews for his work on AMC’s forthcoming supernatural series Preacher. Deadline, for example, is predicting that the show has the potential to be the channel’s next The Walking Dead (though that accolade maybe should already have gone to Fear the Walking Dead or Into the Badlands).

The latest show in the ongoing comic-based series trend, Preacher revolves around a reformed criminal called Jesse Custer who is scratching out an existence as a preacher in a dusty Texas town. Jesse is visited by a higher spiritual power that gives him the power to make people obey him just by speaking to them.

Preacher
Preacher is exec produced by Sam Catlin, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg

Caitlin’s main credit to date is AMC’s Breaking Bad, of which he wrote 10 episodes. However, he did also pen an episode of Fox’s Rake, the US adaptation of an Australian show of the same name. That series (created by Peter Duncan) followed a criminal defence lawyer whose personal problems and self-destructive behaviour have him owing money to everyone around him. Catlin is also an executive producer on Preacher alongside Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.

Also in the news this week is WGN’s Outsiders, which has just been greenlit for a second season. Set in the Appalachian Mountains, Outsiders centres on a family called the Farrells who have turned their back on society and live by their own rules.

The show, which has been a hit for WGN, was created by Peter Mattei and is executive produced by Peter Tolan. While Tolan has extensive writing credits (including long-running drama Rescue Me), Outsiders is a breakthrough project for Mattei, whose only other writing credits are Love in the Time of Money (2002) and Clarissa Explains It All (1991). Other writers credited with working on season one of Outsiders include Ryan Farley and William Schmidt.

While the international TV market is still dominated by US shows, an increasing number of European-originated series are selling well around the world. An interesting case in point is Spotless, which was this week picked up by Globosat Brazil.

Outsiders
Peter Mattei’s Outsiders has been given a second season on WGN America

An unusual production, Spotless was made by StudioCanal-owned Tandem Productions for Canal+ in France. However, it was shot in English and filmed on location in London. Adding to the intrigue, it stars French actors Marc-André Grondin and Denis Ménochet as a pair of brothers – one a criminal, the other the owner of a crime scene cleaning business.

Prior to Globosat, the show was picked up by Esquire Network in the US and has also sold to DirecTV Latin America and M-Net South Africa. The goal behind the series was to give it European roots but enough of a sheen to resemble a fast-paced US drama. To achieve this, Tandem used a writer/creator team of UK-based Bafta winner Ed McCardie and Academy Award winner Corinne Marrinan.

This combination drew on two distinct schools of creativity. While McCardie’s writing credits before Spotless included London’s Burning, The Last Detective and Shameless, Marrinan’s background is as a US-based writer-producer on CSI. The Spotless setup resembles that of Red Production Company’s The Five, where the US talent (Harlan Coben) constructed the idea and was involved in story development while the UK talent (Danny Brocklehurst) did the actual writing. In the case of Spotless, McCardie was responsible for the writing while Marrinan is cited as the show’s creator.

Spotless
Spotless follows a criminal and his brother who runs a crime scene cleaning business

Interestingly, Tandem took a slightly different route with its other key procedural-type thriller, Crossing Lines, now in its third season. In this case, the show was set up with Ed Bernero as a US-style showrunner – though it still centred on European locations. The show then employed a US writers-room model involving a number of different writers – including Marrinan. Overall showrunning responsibility for the show shifted in season three to Frank Spotnitz, but the writers-room model has been retained. Both seem to work, however, with Crossing Lines being aired on Sat1 in Germany, NBC in the US, Canada’s CBC and TF1 in France, among others.

In other stories this week, Australian broadcaster Network 10 has acquired a high-end drama about adventurer Sir Edmund Hillary that is billed as the most ambitious and expensive series to ever come out of New Zealand. Entitled Hillary, the TVNZ series has been written by Tom Scott. In NZ, Scott is quite a celebrity, having established himself as a leading satirical cartoonist before writing several films, books and TV screenplays.

The new series is based on a biography of Hillary that Scott wrote in 1996 and involved a lengthy shoot in Nepal. It’s a six-part series that will air this year.

Finally, Fox International Channels has set a date for the launch of Outcast, an exorcism drama from The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman and based on the Skybound/Image comic by Kirkman and artist Paul Azaceta. The 10-episode series will debut on June 3 on Fox channels in more than 125 countries as part of a day-and-date launch outside the US. Within the US it will air on HBO-owned channel Cinemax.

Outcast, which has already been greenlit for a second season, is exec produced by Kirkman, Chris Black, David Alpert, Sharon Tal Yguado and Sue Naegle. The showrunner is Chris Black, who has a string of high-profile writer/producer credits including Red Widow, Mad Men, Ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives and Star Trek: Enterprise.

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Putting the Spotlight on Oscar winners

Spotlight
Spotlight’s Oscar-winning screenplay was by Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy

Let’s start this week by congratulating this year’s Oscar-winning writers.

The prize for Best Original Screenplay went to Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy for Spotlight, a film about The Boston Globe’s investigation into child sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests. Meanwhile, Best Adapted Screenplay was claimed by Adam McKay and Charles Randolph for their financial comedy-drama The Big Short, based on the best-selling non-fiction book by Michael Lewis.

Singer’s credits to date have pretty much all been in TV and include The West Wing, Law & Order and Lie to Me.

McCarthy is more of an actor/writer/director type. Although he has acted in TV series (such as The Wire, Boston Public and Law & Order), his writing has generally been in the film arena. High-profile credits include Up, with Bob Peterson and Pete Docter, and Million Dollar Arm. He was also nominated in the director category for Spotlight.

Steve Carrell and Ryan Gosling in Oscar winner The Big Short
Steve Carrell and Ryan Gosling in The Big Short

Turning to The Big Short duo, Adam McKay is a director, producer, screenwriter, comedian and actor who has a long-standing creative partnership with Will Ferrell, with whom he usually writes films. His TV credits include two seasons as head writer on NBC’s acclaimed sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live.

Randolph, meanwhile, is a writer/producer whose credits include The Life of David Gale, The Interpreter and Love & Other Drugs. Randolph was also the writer of an ABC drama pilot called Exposed, based upon the books by best-selling Swedish author Liza Marklund. This show was doing the rounds in 2014 with a lot of high-profile acting talent attached but has since gone pretty quiet.

Outside the Oscars, the big writing story of the week is that the new showrunners for season five of Netflix’s House of Cards have been named. They are Melissa James Gibson and Frank Pugliese, who have both been working on the drama since season three.

Gibson’s credits to date cover various media. She has written plays including Placebo, What Rhymes with America, This, Suitcase or Those that Resemble Flies from a Distance and Brooklyn Bridge. She has taught playwriting at Princeton University and is an alumnus of the Yale School of Drama. She wrote the film All is Bright (Tribeca Film Festival). In addition to House of Cards, her television work includes The Americans (FX), for which she received a Writers’ Guild Awards nomination.

House of Cards' fourth season hits Netflix on March 4
House of Cards’ fourth season debuts on March 4

Pugliese’s work in theatre includes Aven’U Boys, The King of Connecticut, The Talk, The Alarm, The Democracy Project, The Summer Winds, Hope is the Thing with Feathers and KAOS. His TV credits include Homicide, for which he won a Writers’ Guild Award, Law & Order, Borgias and Copper. Film credits include Shot in the Heart, Undefeated and the upcoming Border Crossing. Pugliese is associate professor of TV writing at the Columbia University Graduate Film Department and is the co-director of the television writing programme at La Femis in Paris.

Gibson and Pugliese replace Beau Willimon, whose last series as showrunner of House of Cards will be released on this Friday. They received a polite vote of approval from star and executive producer Kevin Spacey, who said: “I welcome Frank and Melissa in their new roles on House of Cards and look forward to collaborating with them and our creative team on season five.”

Elsewhere, CBS has announced that it’s renewing its procedural juggernaut NCIS for another two seasons. Already in season 13, the show regularly draws an audience of 20 million (including time-shifted viewing) – making it one of the top programmes in the US. It is also licensed to around 200 countries worldwide.

The ever-reliable NCIS
The ever-reliable NCIS

CBS Entertainment president Glen Geller said: “It’s extraordinary that in its 13th season and with more than 300 episodes to its credit, NCIS continues to excel at such a high level on a global scale. It is testimony to an amazing cast, led on and off the screen by the exceptional Mark Harmon, for skillfully bringing this appealing team of heroes to life; and to Gary Glasberg and his writers for crafting compelling stories that feature NCIS’s blend of mystery, quirk, drama and comedy every single week.”

As Geller says, the success of the show is inextricably linked with the involvement of Harmon, its star and executive producer, and Glasberg, who heads the writing team on NCIS and was also the creator of NCIS: New Orleans.

Glasberg’s career actually began on animated shows such as Rugrats before progressing via series such as Crossing Jordan, Bones and The Mentalist. His name first popped up as a writer in the middle of NCIS season seven (2009-10). Starting from season eight, he took on the responsibility of writing the first and last episode of each season and also penning another two or three episodes per run. He also wrote the set-up episodes for NCIS: New Orleans but has since handed primary writing duties to a separate team. In terms of influences, Glasberg is reported to be a big fan of TV series M*A*S*H.

Sharon Horgan (centre) in Pulling
Sharon Horgan (centre) in Pulling

In the UK, meanwhile, Sky Vision, the distribution and production arm of Sky, has signed a three-script development deal with UK-based indie producer Merman. Sky will have first-look access to projects from Merman, which was founded in 2014 by Sharon Horgan and Clelia Mountford, plus the option to distribute.

While Mountford is a producer, Horgan has established herself as an in-demand actor, writer and director. Her key credits in the UK are Pulling and Catastrophe, though she is also making a name for herself in the US. After Pulling went to pilot in the US, she created a series for HBO called Divorce. Starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Thomas Hayden Church, Divorce is due to premier in 2016.

Kylie Munnich, Sky Vision director of drama and comedy, said Merman “is a creative force to be reckoned with. Its high-quality scripts attract some of the industry’s leading names and we’re excited to be working with them on future projects.”

On a less happy note, Amazon will not be renewing Mad Dogs, which was adapted for the platform by Shawn Ryan from the UK version of the show that aired on Sky1 in 2011.

Ryan worked with the UK show’s creator Cris Cole on the Amazon version, which consisted of 10 episodes. Ryan wrote on Twitter that he and Cole “laid out a story for season two we believed in. Ultimately, Amazon didn’t want to make that story and we didn’t want to make the kind of story they wanted us to make, so…”

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