Tag Archives: McG

Creative heavyweights step up development

 

Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman

Fox in the US is developing a drama based on the 2015 Netflix movie Parallels.

Entitled The Building, it centres on a group of people who enter a skyscraper that transports them into parallel universes, which are similar to but not quite the same as our own. In one, for example, Russia has dropped a nuclear bomb on the US.

The idea is being adapted for TV by Neil Gaiman and Chris Leone (the latter wrote and directed the movie). Albert Kim, whose writing and production credits include Sleepy Hollow and Nikita, is the showrunner. The project caps off a busy year for Gaiman, who has also been adapting his novel American Gods for Starz.

Also in the news this week is Alan Ball, creator of HBO series Six Feet Under and True Blood. Ball is reported to be teaming up with HBO again on a series that will star Holly Hunter as the mother of a non-traditional progressive family.

According to Deadline: “Once a therapist in private practice, Hunter’s Audrey now reluctantly utilises her skills as a psychologist in the corporate world, balancing her more progressive personal philosophy with the need to make money. She is a smart, caring woman who believes she knows what’s best for everyone and has no problem telling them. But with her husband now fighting depression and her children mostly grown, she finds herself somewhat adrift.”

Holly Hunter
Holly Hunter

Other high-profile stories this week include the news that Sonar Entertainment has signed a first look deal with Robert Downey Jr and Susan Downey’s production outfit Team Downey. As part of the deal, Sonar and Team Downey are working on a project called Singularity. Also involved in the creation of the series is Anthony Michael Hall, who will star.

The deal is the latest link-up between Sonar and star talent. The company is also working with George Clooney and Tom Hardy, with the latter starring in upcoming period series Taboo.

Commenting on the new deal with Team Downey, Sonar CEO Thomas Lesinski said: “We are excited about Team Downey’s vision for developing and producing a broad scope of original premium content. [This] is another example of our commitment to forge creative collaborations with the most dynamic talent in the industry.”

In terms of commissioning news, US network NBC has renewed its military medical drama The Night Shift for a fourth season. The series, produced by Sony Pictures Television (SPT), follows the medical team at the fictional San Antonio Memorial Hospital. Season one of the show averaged around 6.5 million viewers, followed by 5.3 million for season two and five million for season three.

Night Shift
The Night Shift has been given a third season

At Fox, meanwhile, there are reports of a new dance drama being developed with director McG, who began his career in the music industry. The project, which sounds little bit like the Channing Tatum movie Step Up, is called The Cut and is set in a dance conservatory. It’s the latest in a line of Fox scripted projects with a musical theme – possibly inspired by the success of Empire. For example, Empire creator Lee Daniels has been working on a series called Star for the network, while last week we reported that Glee star Darren Criss was working with Fox on Royalties.

Also this week, it was announced that Phoebe Waller-Bridge, creator and star of BBC3’s Fleabag, is to write and star in a spy drama for BBC America. The network has ordered eight episodes of Killing Eve, a thriller about a psychopathic assassin and the woman hunting her. The show is based on a novella by Luke Jennings called Villanelle.

“[The show] is a brilliantly fresh take on the cat-and-mouse thriller from Phoebe Waller-Bridge, a major talent,” said Sarah Barnett, president of BBC America. “Underneath the deceptively simple and entertaining surface is a subversive, funny, obsessive relationship between two women, that plays out across some of the most and least glamorous locations imaginable.”

Bull
First-window rights to Bull in the UK have been taken by Fox Networks Group

It’s also been a busy week on the distribution front. Fox Networks Group (FNG) Europe and Asia, for example, has secured exclusive first-window rights to CBS legal drama Bull in the UK from CBS Studios International. This follows a previous deal that gave FNG rights to Bull in markets including Spain, Portugal, Turkey and Sweden.

Elsewhere, SPT has sold the much-anticipated new ITV period drama The Halcyon to broadcasters in Scandinavia, while Vimeo has continued its move into longform TV content. Among scripted titles that will now be available on its platform are All3Media International comedy Fresh Meat and seven seasons of Company Pictures’ cult youth series Skins, available globally excluding Australia.

Paul Corney, senior VP of global digital sales at All3Media International, commented: “Vimeo has a strong presence around the world with a great brand that reaches consumers in all key markets. Its team has a dynamic outlook on content delivery and we’re looking forward to working with them to bring more fantastic new shows to the Vimeo audience.”

Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag
Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag

In terms of new book rights deals, the big story this week is that BBC Worldwide-based indie producer Baby Cow has acquired the rights to Zadie Smith’s new novel Swing Time. Smith has been lined up to adapt the novel for TV alongside her husband Nick Laird.

Swing Time is Baby Cow’s first major acquisition since Christine Langan, ex-head of BBC Films, took over as CEO this month. She said: “Zadie Smith is the voice of a generation and Swing Time is a thrillingly ambitious story of friendship, rivalry and fame.”

Smith added: “I am absolutely delighted at the prospect of working with Baby Cow on an adaptation of Swing Time. Their extraordinary track record in both drama and comedy I have always admired from afar and it’s a thrill for me to get the chance to collaborate with [founder] Steve Coogan and Christine Langan.”

Smith burst onto the literary scene with her first novel White Teeth. Swing Time, only released this week, is her fifth novel.

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Stepping out of the big screen’s shadow

If a feature film fails to meet expectations on the big screen, could it successfully transition to television? Shadowhunters shines a light on this new trend.

When BBC1 last year unveiled plans to adapt Philip Pullman’s celebrated novel trilogy His Dark Materials, it was not forgotten that this was once a series that had big-screen ambitions.

The Golden Compass, based on Northern Lights – the first book in Pullman’s trilogy – received mixed reviews when it was released in 2007 and failed to set the box office alight. The sequels never materialised.

However, announcing the BBC project and his partnership with producer Bad Wolf, Pullman himself noted the promise TV now offers to complex stories that film often cannot. “In recent years we’ve seen the way that long stories on television, whether adaptations or originals, can reach depths of characterisation and heights of suspense by taking the time for events to make their proper impact and for consequences to unravel.”

Gary Marenzi
Gary Marenzi

The path of Pullman’s novels to TV follows that of Shadowhunters, a new fantasy drama now showing on Freeform, the US cable channel recently rebranded from ABC Family.

Opening on January 12 to 1.82 million total viewers – marking the channel’s biggest series debut for two years – Shadowhunters is based on the bestselling young-adult book series The Mortal Instruments, which is written by Cassandra Clare and once also had a future on the big screen. A movie called The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, based on the first of six books in the series, was released in 2013, with plans for a sequel based on the second book, City of Ashes, widely reported.

That too failed to materialise, allowing Freeform to develop its own version of the story, which follows 18-year-old Clary Fray, who discovers she comes from a long line of Shadowhunters – human-angel hybrids who hunt down demons.

When her mother Jocelyn is kidnapped, Clary is thrown into the world of demon hunting with the mysterious Jace and her best friend, Simon. Now living among faeries, warlocks, vampires and werewolves, she begins a journey of self-discovery as she learns about her past and how it will shape her future.

Shadowhunters is produced by Constantin Film and executive produced by Ed Decter and McG, who also directed the first episode.

It stars Katherine McNamara as Clary, with Dominic Sherwood as Jace and Alberto Rosende as Simon. The cast also includes Emeraude Toubia, Matthew Daddario, Isaiah and Harry Shum Jr.

“Constantin had owned the rights to the IP and developed the film. It did OK,” explains Gary Marenzi, who has been working as an adviser to the production company for the last two years. “But we sat down and said it’s perfect for a TV series because it’s a huge ecosystem. You have the shadow world, the shadowhunters and the demons, and in between you have warlocks, werewolves and other myths and legends.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, the big-screen adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s work

“It’s set in an urban setting where people look real. It’s not some complete fantasy world so it’s really that urban realism this show brings. We were fortunate enough to find Ed Decter as a showrunner. He had read the books and was passionate about the project. However, the protagonist is only 15 in the books so we had to age that up. Ed and his team outlined stories that we liked and, based on the first draft of Ed’s first script, Karey Burke (exec VP of programming and development) at ABC Family – who knew Ed and the books –  said, ‘We’re rebranding, this is perfect. Can you come in?’ So they went in and, boom, we got a 13-episode order right away.”

Any fans of the film who are expecting the show to continue where it left off will be disappointed, however, as the first episode of Shadowhunters serves as a fresh entry point into Clary’s world.

“It will follow book one and zig and zag, plus there’s new characters and situations created that are inspired by the books,” Marenzi says. “Then when we brought in McG to direct the first episode; he brought a whole new level of energy to the proceedings.

“The combination of Ed, his talented writers room, McG and the guys at Constantin, who know the IP, was great. We were very comfortable with our line producer, Don Carmody, and we set up in Toronto. The sets and locations are perfect for urban drama.”

Marenzi is keen to stress that the big-budget series is not a kids' show
Marenzi is keen to stress that the big-budget series is not a kids’ show

With Shadowhunters’ budget coming in at a hefty US$3.5m an hour, Marenzi stresses “this a big show, it’s not a kids’ show.”

He continues: “The interesting challenge is that when you tell people it’s based on The Mortal Instruments and it’s for ABC Family, people automatically assume it’s a kids’ show. It’s not – it’s a 21.00 show.”

In terms of Shadowhunters’ visual style, Marenzi says the creative team wanted it to have a modern look, “not gothic like Harry Potter.” He adds: “We wanted to make it look like these guys are going out to a club every night, just with vampires and werewolves.

“I was also involved in MTV’s Teen Wolf. It’s a much smaller show but it succeeded because people loved those characters – and they’ll love these characters too. They’re going to root for them every week and that’s the heart of a good TV show. Then it’s just a question of scale. This is bigger; there’s more drama, more jeopardy.”

While Freeform will be hoping Shadowhunters can join its roster of young-adult hits including Pretty Little Liars and Stitchers, other producers will be keen to see whether this former big-screen franchise can successfully transition to television.

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