There’s yet another success story to come out of the writers strike as more Hollywood talent tries to get out from under the studio and network system. But it’s been a long time coming. Finally, Reveille last Thursday has signed a deal with Machinima.com, an entertainment network for the gaming generation. It’s to executive produce and secure sponsorship for the Machinima Comedy Lab, a collaboration with 15 leading episodic television writers from popular TV series like The Simpsons, Futurama, SNL, Seinfeld, to develop original episodic comedy pilots for the Machinima.com network. One of those writers happens to be WGA West President and animation writer Patric Verrone. By securing sponsors for the Lab, Reveille and Machinima.com claim to be creating “a cost-effective way to incubate episodic series that can migrate from the Internet to TV with Reveille packaging the most successful series as pilots for broadcast and cable TV”. (Machinima.com is the 7th most subscribed YouTube channel. It became widely known in the entertainment industry in 2006 when the creators of South Park released the Emmy Award-winning episode Make Love, Not Warcraft.) “This partnership [can] create original online content that’s highly attractive to advertisers, while allowing us to make the television pilot process more affordable and effective,” Todd Cohen, Vice President of Scripted Programming at Reveille, said in the press release. Commented Bill Oakley, an Emmy-winning writer and past showrunner for The Simpsons: “Machinima.com lets us put our work in front of an audience that already enjoys our style of comedy and is embracing new forms of digital entertainment.”

Now I have more info on this venture: Sources tell me that the 15 writers or teams have each come up with an idea and written a treatment that can be made into five 4 1/2-minute Internet shorts which can then be sewn into a 22-minute pilot. Machinima.com is still working out the rights from the videogame companies so people are reluctant to give me specifics of any of the show ideas. But they’re all comedies, and the subjects include “prison breaks, paramilitary assault teams, Japanese schoolgirls, alien invasion rock star wannabes, medieval warriors in psychoanalysis, forbidden human/robot love, incompatible cop roommates, a neverending heist, a cuddly Cujo, and avatars gone wild”. Writing these pilots should take the next few weeks, then casting can begin. (Hear that, actors?)

Writers on the Machinima Comedy Lab pilots include: Ken Keeler, Stacie Lipp, Bill Oakley, Max Pross & Tom Gammill, Patric Verrone, Maiya Williams, Chris Cluess, Bill Freiberger, Eric Horsted, Christina Lynch, Peggy Nicoll, Mike Rowe, Loren Segan.

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