Tag Archives: Jeff Davis

Writers dabble with the supernatural

Beyond the Walls (Au-delà Des Murs)
Beyond the Walls (Au-delà Des Murs)

AMC Networks has acquired a French supernatural drama from Newen Distribution for its horror streaming service Shudder. Three-part miniseries Beyond the Walls (Au-delà Des Murs) was originally commissioned by public broadcaster Arte in France and marked something of an editorial change of direction for the channel, focusing on a young woman who moves into an old uninhabited house that she inherits from a mystery benefactor. Already, that sounds like a mistake.

The show was created by Hervé Hadmar and Marc Herpoux, who have emerged as two of the best-known French TV auteurs on the international drama market, despite the fact neither of them really took a straightforward route into the scripted TV business.

Hadmar, for example, studied at business school and then spent 10 years as an art director at an ad agency before writing and directing his first short film, Steamed, in 1996. Two years later, in 1998, he wrote and directed his first feature.

Herpoux, a few years younger, started out in the film business, working on movies until around 2006. He then took the plunge into scripted TV, with the TV movie Catching Fire.

The two first worked together in 2008 on The Forgotten, a TV series for France 3. And from this point on it has been TV all the way. After The Forgotten, they created Pigalle, la nuit, (Canal + in 2009) and then Signature (France 2, 2011).

Sandra Winckler (Marie Dompnier) in Witnesses
Sandra Winckler (Marie Dompnier) in Witnesses

But their big breakthough on the international market was Witnesses, a crime series that followed up a strong domestic performance with widespread international sales (including Channel 4 in the UK and Netflix in the US). Then came Beyond the Walls.

Hadmar and Herpoux’s transition from film to TV reflects an important sea change in the French audiovisual business. For many years, French cinema was very much viewed as the appropriate medium for artistic auteurs. But the new wave of French TV, which includes series like Spiral, The Returned, Witnesses and Marseille, is a sign that the small screen is now regarded as a comparable creative challenge. Hadmar himself has said that TV is now more akin to literature than cinema.

In an interview with Channel 4, Hadmar explained that it was international scripted drama that influenced Witnesses, which may explain why the show has travelled so well. “The goal was to make a Nordic thriller – dark, strange and beautiful,” he said. “I loved shows like The Killing and The Bridge, as well as the British show The Fall. I wanted to write and direct a show like that, or at least try to. It’s a Nordic thriller with one question in it: does the ideal family exist?”

Asked why so many TV dramas are crossing borders these days, he said: “We all want to see great shows. As an audience we are becoming more and more curious. And the technology has meant the industry is in the middle of a revolution. Netflix, for example, is bringing new ways to watch your favourite shows. Netflix, Amazon, Channel 4, HBO, Canal+… everybody needs to take risks, to give the audience something different. So if a story is good, it will be shown all over the world.”

The Duffer brothers are behind Netflix hit Stranger Things
The Duffer brothers are behind Netflix’s 1980s-influenced hit Stranger Things

On French drama, he said the recent revival is partly explained by this creative risk-taking: “French dramas were incredibly good in the 60s and 70s. And then, for all kinds of reasons, in the 80s and 90s, until about six years ago, it was not so good. But again the industry is evolving, and now the broadcaster has no choice but to take risks. To make better shows, they have to trust the writers and directors and producers. That’s the difference today.”

Elsewhere, young US writing team the Duffer brothers seem to have reinforced their fast-won reputation with Stranger Things, the recently launched Netflix series. They first attracted the movie industry’s attention with the film Hidden, and soon after they were invited to join the writing team on M Night Shyamalan’s sci-fi TV series Wayward Pines.

Then came Stranger Things, a homage to 1980s pop culture that focuses on the disappearance of a young boy, and a girl with telekinetic powers who helps his friends in their search for him.

Jeff Davis (photo by Gage Skidmore)
Jeff Davis (photo by Gage Skidmore)

The show has been getting good reviews from critics and decent ratings on aggregators like Metacritic and IMDb. And now Symphony Advanced Media research has shown that Stranger Things is also one of the most watched shows on the SVoD platform.

Within the first 35 days of its July debut, the drama averaged 14.07 million adults age 18 to 49, putting it ahead of shows such as Making a Murderer and Daredevil. There has been no news of a second season yet, but a renewal seems likely.

A few weeks ago, we explored where some high-profile writers would go next following the conclusion of their latest hit drama series. One of these was Jeff Davis, who is finishing with Teen Wolf after six seasons. This week the industry found out what Davis is up to when US cablenet TNT announced that it has greenlit a pilot based on the Swedish vampire novel and feature film Let the Right One In. Davis wrote the script for the pilot and will executive produce alongside Marty Adelstein and Becky Clements of Tomorrow Studios and Simon Oakes of Hammer Films.

Let the Right One has already been remade in the US as a film called Let Me In. However, the pilot relies heavily on the original book written by John Ajvide Lindqvist. Keeping up this week’s supernatural theme, it follows a lonely young boy who makes friends with a charismatic female vampire who appears to be roughly his age.

The original Let the Right One In movie
The original Let the Right One In movie

Vampires, of course, are a heavily used subject in recent TV and film productions. But if anyone can manage to eke out a new franchise based in this mythology, it’s Davis, following his novel take on werewolves.

Commenting on the show, Sara Aubrey, executive VP of original programming for TNT, said: “Let the Right One In combines elements of horror, revenge thriller and adolescent romance into an unforgettable and truly unsettling tale.” The show is part of a broad-based revamp at TNT, which is trying to reach out to a younger demographic.

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Where next for in-demand US writers?

In 2016, several US shows have been killed off despite airing successfully for a number of seasons. This week, we look at the creators and writers behind these shows, many of whom will be in strong demand after the conclusion of their latest projects.

Carlton-Cuse-Official-880x1024Bates Motel has been a strong performer for cable network A&E but is due to end in 2017 after season five. The first script was written by Anthony Cipriano, and then Carlton Cuse (pictured) and Kerry Ehrin joined as head writers. Cuse and Ehrin continue to run the show and will be in charge of the last season – which is expected to be a retelling of Psycho, on which the series is based. Cuse is one of the busiest showrunners in Hollywood, so won’t be short of things to do. His other gigs include FX’s The Strain and a new project for Amazon based on Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels. Ehrin has been linked with a couple of projects over the last two years (a romantic comedy for NBC and a terrorism drama for CBS) but there’s no concrete news on her plans after Bates Motel.

black-sailsBlack Sails is a prequel to Treasure Island, in the same way Bates Motel is a prequel to Psycho. Created by Jonathan E. Steinberg and Robert Levine, it airs on Starz but will finish after its fourth season. Steinberg and Levine have written many of the episodes together and also include Human Target and Jericho among their previous credits. Their plans after Black Sails are yet to be revealed. Steinberg wrote a pilot for an updated version of Beauty and the Beast for ABC, but this appears to have gone quiet.

castleCastle rumbled along for eight seasons on ABC before being cancelled in May 2016 (though it was very nearly given a short-run ninth season). It was created by Andrew W. Marlowe who wrote a lot of episodes up until season eight before stepping back. The most prominent writers on the latest season were showrunners Alexi Hawley and Terence Paul Winter. The latest news regarding Marlowe is that he is writing a comedy crime series for Tandem Productions with his wife Terri Edda Miller. Called Take Two, the LA-based series centres on private investigator Eddie Valetik and former cop show actress Emma Swift, who come together to form an unlikely crime-busting partnership. Hawley and Winter have yet to reveal their plans following the show’s termination. Hawley’s credits include The Following and State of Affairs, while Winter worked on All of Us.

Michelle-King-and-Robert-King-2The Good Wife ran for seven seasons and 156 episodes on CBS, ending on May 8, 2016. The award-winning legal/political drama ended on a high, which is good news for its creators Robert King and Michelle King (pictured). The Kings have their own production company, King Size Productions, which they operate under a three-year overall deal they signed with CBS in late 2014. Key projects to have come out of this setup include political satire BrainDead, which debuted on June 13 on CBS. Ratings for the show have not been great, suggesting an early cancellation (though it may be saved thanks to a streaming rights deal with Amazon).

house-of-liesHouse of Lies was a Showtime comedy series that followed a group of unscrupulous management consultants. Its fifth and final season ended last month. The show was created by Matthew Carnahan, who also wrote a lot of its episodes. In 2014, he also found time to write a movie called Ride, which starred his partner Helen Hunt. Previously he wrote a novel called Serpent Girl. House of Lies made the news earlier this year when it filmed in Cuba. There are no details yet re Carnahan’s next project.

Jonathan_Nolan_2_croppedPerson of Interest was a CBS sci-fi drama that ran for five seasons and ended on June 21 this year. Created by Jonathan Nolan (pictured), it was well received by critics and fans, securing an 8.5 rating on IMDb. Nolan is never short of stuff to do, but is currently most closely associated with Westworld, his HBO reboot of the classic movie. He co-wrote the last episode of Person of Interest but a lot of the writing work in recent seasons has been done by Greg Plageman, Denise Thé and Tony Camerino. There’s no news yet on what any of these three are planning for their next projects.

Jeff_Davis_by_Gage_SkidmoreTeen Wolf will end after next year’s season six on MTV. Developed by Jeff Davis (pictured), it’s loosely based on the 1985 film of the same name. Davis has been the dominant writer throughout, typically writing around half of the scripts in each season. Less well known is that he also created CBS’s Criminal Minds, which has gone on to run for 11 seasons. With his track record and the fact he is just 41 years old, Davis is sure to secure another significant gig in the near future. However, the news about Teen Wolf only broke a few days ago, so there has been no word on his future plans.

Graeme Manson

Orphan Black is a Canadian sci-fi thriller that has built up a strong cult audience. The show has been greenlit for a fifth season by Space in Canada and BBC America but will end after that. There was a panel on the show at this month’s Comic-Con during which the creators Graeme Manson (writer, pictured) and John Fawcett (director) confirmed it was their decision to end the show. They didn’t discuss future plans except to say they’re open to the possibility of a spin-off series or feature film. For Manson, the series was his big breakthrough moment, so expect him to be in demand.

John Logan

Penny Dreadful, Sky/Showtime’s gothic horror series, will end after three seasons. Like Orphan Black, the decision to end the show came from its creator, John Logan (pictured), who said: “I created Penny Dreadful to tell the story of a woman grappling with her faith, and with the demons inside her,” he said. “For me, the character of Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) is the heart of this series. From the beginning, I imagined her story would unfold over a three-season arc, ending with Vanessa finding peace as she returns to her faith.” Logan, of course, is not short of work, having penned numerous movies including Gladiator, The Aviator, Skyfall and Spectre. His next announced film projects are Just Kids, The next James Bond film and Alien: Covenant. The big question, of course, is whether he’ll be tempted back to TV at any point in the near future.

Kevin Williamson

The Vampire Diaries is soon to end after clocking up eight seasons on The CW. Parting with the show has been made easier for the network by the success of its superhero series. Based on books by LJ Smith, The Vampire Diaries was developed by Kevin Williamson (pictured) and Julie Plec. The latter wrote a couple of episodes in season six but the major writing responsibilities in recent times have belonged to Caroline Dries and Brian Young. Williamson is now busy with a series for ABC called Time After Time and a paranormal project for The CW called Frequency. Williamson and Plec are also exec producers on Fox pilot Recon, which is written by Dries. This one is about an FBI agent who embeds herself in a suspected terrorist family.

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