EXCLUSIVE: Last month, I reported that Entertainment One Television had picked up the format rights to Israeli drama Reaching For Heaven from Tal Shaked and Einat Shamier’s local outfit A-Cappella. EOne has now partnered with Sundance Channel to co-develop the series based on the format that was originally created by Norma Productions’ Assaf Amir. The U.S. version of the show about what happens to a marriage and family when one parent suddenly becomes religious, will be written by Mike Seid, who will transfer the story to Las Vegas. The original Reaching For Heaven was based on Ora Morag’s novel One Hundred New Apples. It followed a secular Israeli family whose patriarch turns to ultra-Orthodox Judaism. All members of the family do their best to preserve unity, but none are willing to join the father on his new journey to a religious life. The series ran locally for two seasons on Keshet.
EOne EVP of global productions Carrie Stein tells me that Seid, a modern orthodox Jew living in LA, pitched the transfer to Vegas and eOne was hooked. “His position was that it doesn’t really matter if you’re exploring” any religion, “it’s the premise of somebody breaking the marriage and family contract.” Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Sundance Channel has recruited some unusual contributors for the awards campaign in support of its original series Rectify. Works of incarcerated artists are included in The Rectify Project: Visions from Inside via the Safe Streets Arts Foundation, part of the nonprofit Prisons Foundation which publishes books and poetry written in prison as free downloads. The unorthodox campaign ties thematically into the series about Daniel Holden (Aden Young), a man who turns to literature during his two decades on death row before being released from prison. The full collection can be seen online here. Rectify is Sundance Channel’s first original series and is set to return for a second season in 2014. Check out an exclusive image from the campaign by recently released Georgia artist Curtis Anthony Dye:
Sundance Channel has acquired U.S. broadcast rights to the eight-part French supernatural drama The Returned from Music Box Films. The series, created by Fabrice Gobert and distributed by Zodiak Rights, is based on the feature film Les Revenants by Robin Campillo. It will premiere on Sundance Channel on Halloween, October 31, and air every Thursday night at 9 PM. “We decided to take zombies to a new and utterly original level — we made them French!” stated Sarah Barnett, President of Sundance Channel. In an idyllic French mountain town, a seemingly random collection of people find themselves in a state of confusion as they attempt to return to their homes. What they don’t know yet is that they have been dead for several years, and no one is expecting them back. Their arrival also coincides with a series of gruesome murders which bear a chilling resemblance to the work of a serial killer from the past. The Returned was a breakout hit for France’s Canal Plus when it premiered last fall and also did very well on UK’s Channel 4, drawing an average of 1.5 viewers. A second season of eight episodes goes into production in France in early 2014. The Sundance acquisition comes on the heels of Zodiak selling The Returned‘s U.S. rights to Music Box, which announced a VOD/DVD release set for January. There also is an English-language adaptation in the works.
Related: … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Tom Sizemore has joined the cast of Sundance Channel‘s second original scripted series The Red Road, which has a straight-to-series six-episode order. It’s described as a hard-hitting drama that revolves around a local cop (Martin Henderson) struggling to keep his family together while simultaneously policing two clashing communities: the small town where he grew up and the neighboring mountains, home of a Native American tribe. After a terrible tragedy and coverup occurs involving the cop’s wife (Julianne Nicholson), an unholy alliance is forged between the cop and ex-cop Phillip Kopus (Jason Momoa), a dangerous member of the tribe that will come back to haunt all involved. Sizemore, repped by APA and Polimedia, plays Phillip’s father Jack Kopus, a terrifying and unpredictable drug dealer. Phillip returns home to run Jack’s small-town drug ring. Writer Aaron Guzikowski and Sarah Condon are exec producing and Bridget Carpenter serves as executive producer/showrunner. James Gray will direct the first episode. The first Sundance original series, Rectify, returns for a second season next year.
Jason Momoa, who toplined 2011′s Conan reboot and appeared on HBO’s Game Of Thrones, has been cast in Sundance Channel‘s second original scripted series The Red Road. The project, formerly known as The Descendants, has a straight-to-series six-episode order. It’s described as a hard-hitting drama that revolves around Harold Jensen, a sheriff struggling to keep his family together while simultaneously policing two clashing communities: the small town where he grew up and the neighboring Ramapo Mountains, home of the Ramapo Mountain Indians. Momoa will play Indian ex-con Phillip Kopus. Julianne Nicholson had already been cast as the female lead. Writer Aaron Guzikowski and Sarah Condon are exec producing and Bridget Carpenter will serve as executive producer/showrunner. The first Sundance original series, Rectify, has been a critical success and returns for a second season next year.
Sundance Channel has picked up The Honourable Woman, a miniseries to star Maggie Gyllenhaal. The eight-part mini, originally commissioned by U.K.’s BBC Two last year, will be done as a co-production with BBC Worldwide, North America. Written and directed by BAFTA winner Hugo Blick (The Shadow Line), Honourable Woman is described as a fast-paced, labyrinthine thriller set against an international political backdrop that carries Blick’s distinctive rhythmic style and vision. It centers on Nessa Stein’s (Gyllenhaal) whose father was a Zionist arms procurer, and as children, she and her brother witness his assassination. As an adult, inheriting her father’s company, she dramatically inverts its purpose from supplying arms to laying high-spec data cabling networks between Israel and the West Bank. Her sudden appointment to the House of Lords, apparently due to her tireless promotion of projects for reconciliation between the Israelis and Palestinians, creates an international political maelstrom.
Related: Sundance’s ‘Rectify’ Renewed For Season 2
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EXCLUSIVE: I’ve learned that Julianne Nicholson (Boardwalk Empire, Law & Order: CI) has been cast as the female lead in Sundance Channel’s new drama series The Descendants. The project, which has a straight-to-series six-episode order, is described as a hard-hitting drama that revolves around Harold Jensen, a sheriff struggling to keep his family together while simultaneously policing two clashing communities: the small town where he grew up and the neighboring Ramapo Mountains, home of the Ramapo Mountain Indians. After a terrible tragedy and cover-up occurs involving the sheriff’s wife, Jean (Nicholson), an unholy alliance is forged between the sheriff and a dangerous member of the tribe that will come back to haunt all involved. Jean, an over-controlling and over-bearing recovering alcoholic who seems to suffer from dementia stemming from her alcohol use and the loss of her brother, goes on a rampage when she finds her daughter has run off with her new boyfriend. Nicholson, repped by CAA and Davien Littlefield, is a member of the star-studded cast of the John Wells-directed feature August: Osage County, which opens on Christmas Day. The Descendants is executive produced by writer Aaron Guzikowski, showrunner Bridget Carpenter and Sarah Condon.
EXCLUSIVE: Bridget Carpenter has boarded Sundance Channel’s recently greenlighted drama series The Descendants as executive producer and showrunner. On the project, which received a straight-to-series six-episode order, Carpenter will work alongside writer/co-executive producer Aaron Guzikowski and executive producer Sarah Condon. The Descendants is Sundance’s second wholly owned original scripted series, joining Rectify. It is a hard-hitting drama that revolves around a sheriff struggling to keep his family together while simultaneously policing two clashing communities: the small town where he grew up and the neighboring Ramapo Mountains, home of the Ramapo Mountain Indians. After a terrible tragedy and cover-up occurs involving the sheriff’s wife, an unholy alliance is forged between the sheriff and a dangerous member of the tribe that will come back to haunt all involved. Carpenter has worked closely with Jason Katims, including on Friday Night Lights for the praised drama’s entire five-season run, and on Parenthood for two seasons. She also is a playwright whose plays have been produced by theaters around the country. Carpenter, repped by CAA, Ira Schreck and David Berlin, currently is writing the book for Disney’s musical adaptation of Freaky Friday.
Continuing its overseas expansion, AMC/Sundance Channel Global has partnered with DirecTV to bring Sundance Channel to the increasingly coveted Latin American territories. Beginning in September, the deal marks the first time the channel will be available in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. It will air 24/7 in Spanish. DirecTV will also start a separate Portuguese language channel in Brazil at a later date. Prior to the Sundance kick-off, DirecTV’s Latin American network OnDirecTV will exclusively launch Sundance original series Rectify along with Jeremy Piven-starrer Mr. Selfridge.
Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson will executive produce Dream School under his G-Unit Films and Television banner and also appear in the original non-fiction series aimed at helping troubled teens, Sundance Channel President Sarah Barnett announced today. It’s slated to premiere in fall 2013. The series format was created by Jamie Oliver who will also executive produce, along with Roy Ackerman, under his Fresh One shingle. Oliver joins the Dream School project through his role in the successful UK series. The six-part hour-long series creates a place for troubled teens to turn their lives around in a place of learning where the educators are achievers and leaders. In Dream School classes are taught by professionals including musicians, politicians, filmmakers, scientists, actors and artists. Andrew Jameson also will serve as executive producer with Jackson and Jonathan Grosskopf will executive produce for Sundance Channel. The network recently premiered the second season of non-fiction series Push Girls which airs on Monday nights at 10 PM.
“We’re paying particular attention to Sundance” because of the campaign to begin folding in commercials — due to take effect toward the end of this year — AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan told analysts this morning. The company touted Sundance Channel‘s appeal to upscale audiences in its sales pitches to advertisers for the upfront market, and is now negotiating to change the channel’s pay TV distribution agreements. Sundance’s current affiliation deals “had not embraced or expected advertising”, Sapan says. But “we’re at the final stage of that [renegotiation] plan”. While the finances for Sundance remain “a little difficult to model,” the AMC chief says that he wants to maximize ad rates by promoting the channel’s “story-telling genetics” and ability to become “a home for some of the best shows on TV.” That should result in “very high engagement and people who care a lot about them.” AMC has used the drama Rectify, its first wholly owned original scripted series, to lead its campaign to change Sundance’s business model. “The critical reception was extremely strong and we think that signals vitality for the direction the channel is going in,” Sapan says. He adds that AMC helped the series by offering new episodes in movie theaters and on cable VOD ahead of their appearance on the channel’s program schedule. “We tried to get people to watch and refer their friends and others to it and we think there’s … Read More »
Sundance Channel is looking to give its first wholly-owned scripted production, series Rectify, extra exposure. Following the April 22 two-episode premiere on Sundance Channel, the first hourlong episode will be rebroadcast on sister network AMC on Sunday, April 28, immediately after a new episode of Mad Men. Rectify was created and written by Ray McKinnon and executive produced by Mark Johnson and Melissa Bernstein, executive producers on AMC’s Breaking Bad. As part of the increased cross-pollination between the channels, AMC recently opted to have repeats of Seasons 1-4 of Breaking Bad air on Sundance.
EXCLUSIVE: Sundance Channel has greenlighted drama series The Descendants (working title), from writer Aaron Guzikowski (Prisoners) and producer Sarah Condon (Bored To Death), with a six-episode straight-to-series order. As Sundance is stepping up its original scripted efforts, the cable network also is expanding its scripted programming team. In addition to the recent appointment of Nena Rodrigue as Head of Programming and Development, overseeing scripted and unscripted development with a focus on scripted series, Sundance has named Christian Vesper as SVP Scripted Development and Current, and Jordan Helman as Director, Scripted Development and Current. Vesper, based in New York, reports to Rodrigue. Helman is based in Los Angeles and reports to Vesper.
The Descendants is Sundance’s second wholly owned original scripted series, joining Rectify, which debuts April 22. (Sundance’s mini-series Top Of The Lake premieres March 18.) The Descendants, which was among the handful of scripts Sundance brass zeroed in on for series pickup, is a hard-hitting drama that revolves around a sheriff struggling to keep his family together while simultaneously policing two clashing communities: the small town where he grew up and the neighboring Ramapo Mountains, home of the Ramapo Mountain Indians. After a terrible tragedy and cover-up occurs involving the sheriff’s wife, an unholy alliance is forged between the sheriff and a dangerous member of the tribe that will come back to haunt all involved. Guzikowski, repped by Verve and Madhouse Entertainment, wrote the script and created the series with former HBO executive-turned-producer Condon. “At Sundance Channel, we are passionately dedicated to the creation of non-formulaic, daring original stories and we are delighted with this outstanding new addition to our scripted slate,” said Sarah Barnett, Sundance Channel President and General Manager. Read More »
AMC‘s Walking Dead partnership with Anchor Bay was such a success that the companies are teaming up for more TV-on-DVD distribution. Anchor Bay will handle North American DVD, Blu-ray, and certain digital releases of future original programming from AMC, IFC, and The Sundance Channel starting with The Sundance Channel’s scripted series Rectify, created by Oscar-winning actor Ray McKinnon and produced by Breaking Bad‘s Mark Johnson and Melissa Bernstein, about an ex-con (Aden Young) readjusting to life on the outside. Rectify debuts April 22 on The Sundance Channel and runs for six one-hour episodes.
Anchor Bay will also handle home entertainment distribution of AMC Studios and Endemol Studios’ forthcoming Detroit-set cop drama Low Winter Sun, starring Mark Strong. Based on the 2006 British mini-series of the same name, Low Winter Sun is written by Simon Donald (The Deep) and produced by Tiger Aspect Productions. The first season runs for ten one-hour episodes.
Sundance Channel‘s Sarah Barnett is getting a title bump. Barnett, who has served as EVP and general manager of the cable channel since 2009, has been upped to president and general manager, effective immediately. She is based in the company’s headquarters in New York City and reports to AMC Networks COO Ed Carroll, who noted that “under Sarah’s leadership, Sundance Channel has undergone a successful and dramatic transformation.”
During her tenure, Barnett has been building Sundance Channel into a destination for original programming. The channel is currently preparing the rollout of its first wholly owned scripted drama Rectify, which premieres Monday, April 22, and Top Of The Lake, which bows Monday, March 18. Read More »
These look like interesting defensive maneuvers at a time when cable and satellite companies are threatening to drop little-watched channels. Sundance — which only reaches about 52M pay TV households — would seem to be vulnerable in some negotiations, although AMC Networks says it has recently completed long-term deals with Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon. But AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan told analysts today that he recognizes the channel “is undernourished, in need of (investment) and rich in opportunities.” While execs offered few specifics, they noted that on April 22 Sundance will introduce its first fully owned scripted series, Rectify (from the producers of Breaking Bad), and that a second one will be coming as soon as next winter. There’ll be at least two scripted series in 2013 vs one in 2012. In addition, the company just announced that beginning March 4 Sundance will show the first four seasons of AMC’s Breaking Bad. Along with the Sundance investments, AMC is researching online distribution opportunities that “shouldn’t be confused with TV Everywhere” — the industry-wide streaming initiative — Sapan says. The goal is to become “educated and smart” in the possibility of distributing shows directly to consumers. “Think iTunes,” he says.
Related: AMC Networks Misses Q4 Earnings Estimates Following Dish Network Dispute Read More »
TV writers, who have seen their livelihood threatened by the ascent of unscripted shows, are getting their own reality series. At TCA today, Sundance Channel announced the greenlight of non-fiction series The Writers’ Room. The six-episode half-hour series, done in partnership with Entertainment Weekly, will feature the writers of comedy and drama series in a roundtable talk show format discussing “their greatest choices, toughest decisions and biggest mistakes.” Produced by RelativityREAL, The Writers’ Room is slated to premiere during the second half of 2013.
Related: Comedy Central Picks Up ‘Drunk History’ To Series, Renews ‘Workaholics’ For 2 Seasons
In other Sundance TCA announcements, the channel has renewed docu-series Push Girls for a second season to likely premiere in mid-year, and has added two more episodes of French miniseries The Staircase, which will follow the re-airing of the mini’s original eight episodes, which begins on Monday.
Diane Haithman contributed to this report.
Sundance Channel has unveiled its 2013-2014 original scripted development slate, which includes five drama projects: Valentines from producer Robert Redford and writer Olaf Olafsson, Behind The Sun from producers Steve Buscemi and Stanley Tucci and writer Dylan Gary, The Descendants (no relation to the 2011 movie) from producer Sarah Condon and writer Aaron Guzikowski, T from producer Ira Glass and writers Dan Futterman and Anya Epstein, and Death In The Modern Age from producers Bob Cooper, JJ Jamieson and Michael Fuchs and writers Josh Shaffer & Eli Kooris.
Sundance Channel’s first wholly owned scripted drama, Rectify, is slated to premiere next year. The channel’s scripted efforts to date have been in the limited series/mini-series area through co-productions and acquisitions. They include miniseries Carlos, Appropriate Adult and the upcoming Restless. Here are details about the projects on Sundance’s drama development slate: Read More »
Sundance Channel has renewed freshman series Push Girls for a second season to premiere in 2013, network GM and EVP Sarah Barnett announced today. Series airs Mondays at 10 PM and this season’s finale is set to air August 27. Push Girls, which premiered June 4, follows five women as they challenge society’s perception of what life is like in a wheelchair. Show is executive produced by Gay Rosenthal.