Diane Haithman is a contributor to Deadline Hollywood.
Producer Harvey Weinstein told LA Film Czar Ken Ziffren today that he needs to do whatever it takes to increase California’s $100 million Film and TV Tax Credit Program, in order to keep production here in the state of California. Remarks were made during Weinstein’s keynote address at today’s 38th Annual UCLA Entertainment Symposium.
Related: LA Film Czar: Governor Not Yet “Committed” To Expanding Film & TV Tax Credit
Weinstein argued that California does not have to offer the same discounts as, say, New Orleans as long as the state can provide enough of an incentive when weighed against the added travel and production costs called for by out-of-state production. He said producers can elevate the quality of production by tapping the superior Hollywood talent pool and prefer to avoid transportation hassles that “can turn scheduling into a nightmare.”
Related: Mike Fleming’s Q&A With Harvey Weinstein
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Chris Diamantopoulos is set to co-star opposite Stacey McGunnigle in NBC’s pilot Ellen More Or Less, written/exec produced by JJ Philbin, directed by Peyton Reed and exec produced by Jason Katims and Michelle Lee. The single-camera comedy, from Universal TV and Katims’ True Jack Productions, centers on Ellen (McGunnigle), an average-size woman who, after losing 100 pounds, begins reinventing herself in life and love. Diamantopoulos, repped by Untitled and WME, will play Ellen’s hunky colleague Jerry. He is currently playing the bipolar network head Castor Sotto on Showtime’s Episodes.
Related: 2014 NBC Pilots
E! is making a regal entry into scripted programming. The network has picked up one of its first two scripted pilots, The Royals starring Elizabeth Hurley, to series. The one-hour drama, about a fictional British Royal family set in modern London that is informed by the regal opulence of the British monarchy and framed by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, hails from Lionsgate and a trio of One Tree Hill alums. OTH creator Mark Schwahn wrote and directed Royals, which he is executive producing with Brian Robbins and Joe Davola. Getting reality focused E! into the scripted space had been a priority for NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment topper Bonnie Hammer. Sibling cable channel Bravo had been put on a similar path and just greenlighted its first scripted series, Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorce. E!’s second pilot, musical drama Songbyrd, remains in contention. “The Royals will offer a fictional look behind the very public gilded façade of the palace gates to imagine the private, lush, fun, sexy world of the most-watched celebrity family on the planet,” said E! EVP Original Programming and development Jeff Olde said. Added the network’s scripted executive Kevin Plunkett who spearheads E!’s scripted efforts, “This is a big idea and Mark, Brian, Joe and the Lionsgate team delivered.” Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Halle Berry and producing partner Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas have christened a new company that has come out of the Oscar-winning actress’ decision to star in the CBS series Extant. They’ve hatched 606 Films, a shingle that will be housed at CBS Television Studios and is named for the anti-paparazzi bill that Berry championed to keep over-aggressive shutterbugs from harassing the children of celebrities. California Gov. Jerry Brown signed it into law last fall after testimony by Berry, Jennifer Garner and others.
Berry and Goldsmith-Thomas have hired Kathryn Tyus-Adair to be SVP of 606 Films. She moves from Don Cheadle’s Crescendo Productions where she spent five years working on TV and film projects including the upcoming St. Vincent. She has also worked as development exec for Robert Redford, Curtis Hanson and George Tillman Jr in projects that include The Horse Whisperer, A Civil Action, Barbership and the Showtime series Soul Food. CAA reps the new company.
The production deal came as part of the deal for Berry to be co-executive producer and star of Extant, a new series that will premiere July 2 on CBS, a co-production between CBS Television Studios and Amblin Television. The series is exec produced by Steven Spielberg, Greg Walker, Mickey Fisher (who wrote the pilot), Brooklyn Weaver, Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank. Read More »
Warner Bros International Television Production has acquired format rights to distribute BBC One’s new quiz show, The Link. BBC One has commissioned 25 episodes for a daytime slot. The show is produced by STV Productions in association with LTV. Not to be confused with the BBC’s The Weakest Link, the game show pits teams against each other as they race to find the link between questions. Guess the connections, break the links, win money. “We know that great game shows are back at the top of broadcasters’ wish lists. The Link is that rare thing — an original new quiz show with a strong identity in terms of both its game play and visual elements, commissioned in a key market. Our excitement is shared by Mike Darnell and his team at the Warner Bros Television Group, who will be bringing it to market in the U.S.,” says WBITP’s Andrew Zein. The UK version of the show will be hosted by actor Mark Williams, best known as Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter movies. Gary Chippington is executive producer for STV Productions, Jo Street is executive producer for the BBC and Paul Johnson is executive producer for LTV and Tuvalu Entertainment Ltd. Read More »
Mary-Louise Parker‘s reunion with NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt is now official as the former Weeds star has closed a deal to topline NBC’s single-camera comedy pilot Feed Me. The project, from veteran producers Paul Junger Witt and Tony Thomas, received a pilot green light last month based on Parker’s intention to star in it. Following the end of Weeds, which Greenblatt put on the air while running Showtime, NBC had been pursing the actress for multiple projects, and Feed Me was the script she responded to. Talks with Parker had already commenced when Feed Me was picked up to pilot three weeks ago, now they have been successfully completed. Written by Sally Robinson, who penned Lifetime’s successful Steel Magnolias remake, Feed Me is described as a comedic exploration of adult intimacy and desire that centers on a dysfunctional family bound by love and the restaurant they run together. And when daughter Emma’s husband has an affair, they circle the wagons to fiercely protect one of their own. Robinson, Thomas and Witt executive produce for Universal TV. Parker serves as a producer.
While California Gov. Jerry Brown is still “not committed” to expanding the state’s film and TV tax credit, Los Angeles is seeing another drop in broadcast pilot production to what appears to be an all-time low. Meanwhile, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been doing photo ops with Disney and Marvel execs to celebrate their commitment to film some 60 episodes of Marvel’s four Netflix series and a miniseries in the Big Apple. And now New York, which also lured The Tonight Show franchise away from Los Angeles, has more reasons to celebrate after another very strong pilot performance, returning this year to the top as the most popular drama location and reinforcing its strong position in comedy.
A record 15 broadcast pilots will be filming in New York this year, including 10 — almost a third — of the 34 drama pilot/direct-to-series projects filming within the regular cycle that have set their locations (two remain TBD). That is up from 13 total and eight dramas last year and just shy of the city’s all-time drama record of 11 in 2012. (Keep in mind that the number of NY-based was zero just four years ago, before the state implemented its aggressive tax break program.) New York is chipping away at Los Angeles’ comedy dominance. LA used to own the comedy space, with virtually every pilot filming here. Just two years ago, it housed 100% of the broadcast comedy pilots. The percentage dropped to 89% last year and is at 85% (39 out of 46) this season. New York made a big move in the arena in 2013 after seven years of no major broadcast comedy pilot presence there. A whopping five broadcast half-hour pilots were filmed in the city last year, including straight-to-series The Michael J. Fox Show. Proving that that wasn’t a fluke, New York matched its comedy haul this year with another five pilots, including NBC’s straight-to-series Tooken. Like last year, all five are single-camera. What’s more, a hybrid comedy, How I Met Your Dad, which is filming the pilot in Los Angeles, will move to New York if it goes to pilot. In most cases, the NY location is talent-driven (Irreversible star David Schwimmer, Dead Boss‘ Jane Krakowski, How I Met Your Dad star Greta Gerwig, Lowell and Gaffigan are all based in NY). But studios wouldn’t have been as open to setting shop in New York had the tax incentives not been strong enough to rein in production costs on comedies, especially the expensive single-camera format, which are still higher than a Los Angeles-based half-hour pilot but not by much. One drawback of comedy series filming in New York has been the shortage of writing talent as broadcast shows have to compete with such cable comedies as Louie and Girls, but with New York-based comedy production appearing to be here to stay, more writing talent may relocate there to support them.
Related: Culver Studios To Shutter After Sale; Condos Next?
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The CBS chief describes Dish Network and Disney’s new programming agreement as “a win-win for both companies.” But it’s still “not quite enough for us,” Les Moonves told the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference today. He likes the fact that Dish chairman Charlie Ergen curtailed the ability of his Hopper DVR to automatically zap ads on ABC shows; the new deal will delay that until three days after a show airs. (CBS and other broadcasters sued Dish saying that the Hopper infringed on their copyrights and violated programming contracts. Dish says the Hopper simply automates the ad skipping that DVR viewers already do with their remote controls.) Moonves also doesn’t mind the terms in the deal with Disney that would enable Dish to carry its channels on an Internet pay TV service, also known as over-the-top. “Everybody’s talking about over the top,” he says. “We’re talking about it with many of the [pay TV distributors] we’re in business with….The current ecosystem works very well, but a new way to get paid for your linear content is a good thing if it’s done appropriately.” He adds that consumers will probably see a online pay TV service “in concert with our partners.” That could include Dish: Moonves says that “our deal with Charlie is up at the end of this year. It’ll be an interesting conversation, as they always are with Charlie.”
Related: Les Moonves Vows To Drop Dish If It Keeps Pushing Ad-Zapping DVR
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TBS has finalized a deal for a pilot order to an ensemble multi-camera workplace comedy from Will & Grace creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick. This would mark the duo’s first cable pilot. The untitled project (formerly known as Clipsters) is about a group of kids from high school, who ran in different circles but now all work together at a local Charlestown, MA. barbershop called Buzzy’s. Their dreams may lie across the Charles River in Boston, but for now, their work, their lives, their loves and their worries remain in the town they grew up in. The project was set up at TBS a year ago, stemming from an exploratory meeting Kohan and Mutchnick took with the network’s programming chief Michael Wright. Kohan and Mutchnick’s KoMut Entertainment and Warner Horizon are producing.
Related: 2014 TBS Pilots
At TBS, the Kohan/Mutchnick project joins a busy pilot slate that include four other comedy pilots: single-camera Tribeca and multi-camera Living The Dream, Do It Yourself and Your Family Or Mine. Kohan and Mutchnick also have an Upstairs/Downstairs dark comedy in development at Showtime. Mutchnick has been repped by WME since last year, but the TBS pilot (as well as the Showtime project) was packaged by the duo’s longtime agent Scott Schwartz at Vision Art, who continues to rep Kohan.
After a successful three-and-a-half years on the job, Showtime‘s entertainment president David Nevins has been given a bigger title and signed into a new deal to keep him at the company though 2018. In his new role as President of Showtime Networks, Nevins will add oversight of Showtime Sports and the company’s marketing, creative and digital media divisions. He also will continue to oversee all aspects of Showtime programming, along with managing the network’s scheduling, research, acquisitions, home entertainment, business affairs and corporate communications teams. “David Nevins is one of the most talented executives working in television today,” said Showtime Networks CEO Matthew C. Blank, to whom Nevins will continue to report. “His arrival at Showtime was followed by an incredible period of renewal for our network, and these transformative years have led to critical acclaim, consistent buzz, subscriber growth and awards recognition.”
Since Nevins joined the network in 2010, Showtime has added 5 million subscribers. All four new scripted series developed by him have launched successfully: dramas Homeland, which was Nevins’ first buy when he arrived at Showtime, Ray Donovan and Masters Of Sex and comedy House Of Lies. Homeland earned Showtime’s first-ever best series Emmy and Golden Globe Awards. Coming up are John Logan’s horror drama series Penny Dreadful and infidelity drama The Affair. (The network’s recently ordered comedy series … Read More »
Tara Holt has joined the final season of Showtime’s Californication in a recurring role. In it, Hank (David Duchovny) is joining the writers room as his never-released film Santa Monica Cop now becomes a TV series. He’s riled frequently by his boss, the show’s old-school executive producer Rick Rath (recurring Michael Imperioli). Holt, repped by Nancy Chaidez & Associates and Untitled, will play Melanie, Rath’s gorgeous assistant whose presence causes a commotion in the writers room. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: After a long, long search and multiple rounds of testing, British actor Max Brown has been cast as the lead in Fox‘s 13-episode action-adventure drama series Hieroglyph, from 20th TV and Chernin Entertainment. Set in ancient Egypt, where fantasy and reality intertwined, it follows Ambrose (Brown), a notorious thief who is plucked from prison to serve the Pharoah (Reece Ritchie), navigating palace intrigue, seductive concubines, criminal underbellies and even a few divine sorcerers. Brown, repped by UTA, Luber Roklin Entertainment and UK’s United Agents, most recently co-starred on the first season of the CW drama, Beauty And The Beast as medical examiner Evan Marks. He previously starred on Showtime/BBC’s The Tudors and BBC’s Spooks (aka MI-5).
Young actress Chloe Wepper has been added to My Thoughts Exactly, ABC‘s comedy pilot from writer Jeff Lowell, Brillstein Entertainment and ABC Studios. It is a romantic comedy that exposes the unfiltered internal monologues of a young couple, Dana (Analeigh Tipton) and Peter (Jake McDorman) embarking on a new relationship. In her first pilot season, Wepper, repped by 3 Arts, Grace Kallis and Lev Ginsburg, has booked the role of Chloe, Peter’s young sister.
Related: 2014 ABC Pilots
Ann-Margret is set for a recurring role on the second season of Showtime’s Mark Gordon Co-produced drama series Ray Donovan. She will play the ever-beautiful June Wilson, a major star back in her day who has a past with Ray’s boss Ezra Goldman (Elliott Gould).
Kevin Hart was named entertainer of the year tonight at the NAACP‘s Image Awards aired live on the East Coast on TV One. Forest Whitaker was named best actor and Angela Bassett best actress for their respective roles in Lee Daniels’ The Butler and Black Nativity. Best picture award went to 12 Years A Slave. Kevin Hart was named best actor in a comedy series for Real Husbands of Hollywood and LL Cool J took the best actor in a drama series prize for NCIS: Los Angeles. Kerry Washington was named best actress in a drama series for Scandal. The award for best actress in a comedy series went to Wendy Raquel Robinson for The Game. Scandal and Real Husbands Of Hollywood took nods, respectively, for best drama and comedy series.
Oprah Winfrey honored Nelson Mandela with a tribute. Forest Whitaker received the NAACP Chairman’s Award. And Paris Barclay and Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first African-American Presidents of the Directors Guild of America and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, respectively, were inducted into the Image Awards Hall of Fame. The complete list of winners follows: Read More »
Aussie Nathaniel Buzolic and Brit Lucien Laviscount have landed the leads in Supernatural: Tribes, the planted Supernatural spinoff, which will air as an episode of the veteran sci-fi series on April 29. The choices blend the CW‘s strategies of casting standout players from its existing series as pilot leads, which is the case with Buzolic, a recurring on The Vampire Diaries and guest star on offshoot The Originals in his role as Kol, as well as bringing completely new faces, like Laviscount, whose only U.S. series credit is an arc on the BBC/Showtime comedy Episodes. Other recent examples include Arrow star Stephen Amell, who first appeared on TVD, and the star of last year’s The Selection pilot, Yael Groblas, who had no previous U.S. credits. (She now recurs on the CW’s Reign.) The CW also first cast Laviscount in The Selection last year, making this his second CW pilot in a row. Buzolic and Laviscount also continue the trend of overseas actors getting pilot leads this season.
Related: Aussie Don Hany Nabs Male Lead In ABC Drama ‘Warriors’ As Overseas Actors Eye Another Strong Pilot Season
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Henry Zebrowski (The Wolf Of Wall Street) has been cast as a regular in NBC’s romantic comedy pilot A To Z. From Warner Bros Television, Rashida Jones, Le Train Train and Ben Queen, A To Z follows the relationship between a young couple, Andrew and Zelda (Cristin Milioti), from meeting to breakup. Zebrowski, repped by CAA, Ken Treusch, and Melissa Fox, will play Stu, who despite his outward obnoxiousness and often unsolicited advice, is a great guy and loyal friend to Andrew, his roommate and co-worker at a dating site.
Whitney‘s Tone Bell has been set as a regular in Bad Judge, NBC’s single-camera comedy pilot starring and executive produced by Kate Walsh. The project centers on a hard-living, sexually unapologetic woman (Walsh) who plays with the law, and whose life on the edge is constantly in balance as she also happens to be a judge in the criminal court system. Bell, repped by Innovative and Black Box, plays Edward, the bailiff in Rebecca’s courtroom who gets swept up in her flawed, impulsive and chaotic personal life.
Related: 2014 NBC Pilots
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Film Movement Picks Up ‘A Thousand Times Good Night’ For U.S.
Film Movement has acquired U.S. rights to A Thousand Times Good Night, the Erik Poppe-directed drama that stars Juliette Binoche and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Film Movement will give the movie a theatrical release in the third quarter of the year, followed by home video and digital. The story follows a top war photographer who is struggling to reconcile her job with her family life. Maria Doyle Kennedy, newcomer Lauryn Canny and Larry Mullen Jr also star. The movie was released in Norway in October and has sold more than 100,000 tickets. Global Screen, which is handling worldwide sales, also just inked deals in Canada (Northwest Pictures), Japan (Kadokawa), Australia (Regency), Denmark (Smile), Turkey (Yeni Bir Film), ex-Yugoslavia (Discovery), Bulgaria (Multivision) and Latin America (HBO). Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Bravo Media is officially a scripted series player. The cable network has greenlighted its first original scripted series, the hourlong Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorce starring House alumna Lisa Edelstein. The project, from writer-producer Marti Noxon and Universal Cable Prods, has received a 13-episode order for a 2015 premiere. Based on the best-selling “Girlfriends’ Guide” books by Vicki Iovine, the series follows Abby (Edelstein), a self-help book author who hides the fact that she’s separated from her husband, as she starts to navigate her life as a single woman in her early 40s in Los Angeles. She finds herself seeking advice from her divorced friends instead of her married ones, which leads to some unexpected and life-changing experiences. This is the second series order for Noxon this month, following Lifetime’s 10-episode pickup of Un-Real. I hear Girlfriends’ Guide has the Buffy The Vampire Slayer alumna in first position. She is executive producing the Bravo series with Dawn Olmstead, Iovine and Weinstein Co.’s Meryl Poster and Adam Brooks, who directed the pilot. The series co-stars Janeane Garofalo and Beau Garrett, with Paul Adelstein and Carrie Fisher featured in the pilot.
Related: Lifetime Picks Up Marti Noxon’s ‘Un-Real’ To Series
Girlfriends’ Guide was originally set up at Showtime in 2012 as a half-hour spec by Noxon. Bravo took the project in early last spring and converted it to one-hour. It’s been a smooth sailing ever since, with a pilot order in August, the hire of Brooks to direct and Edelstein to star, leading to the series order. “From the minute we saw this script, we felt this was really on brand for Bravo — it’s got lots of humor, lots of fun, and it’s incredibly stylish,” said Frances Berwick, president Bravo and Oxygen Media. “More than anything, this is a real passion project for Marti who is a big Bravo fan.” There is no plan yet how to launch Girlfriend’s Guide but Berwick suggested that “we have the benefit of having great natural big-reach shows to launch out of” and “with the comedy and drama in (Bravo’s) heavily serialized reality shows, there is a natural connection” that would make for an easy flow from them to the scripted Girlfriend’s Guide. Read More »
The Wire and Treme alum Wendell Pierce will recur on the second season of Showtime’s Ray Donovan. He will play Mr. Keith, a down-on-his-luck parole officer who gets a payoff from Ray (Schreiber). Pierce joins fellow new cast additions Hank Azaria, Sherilyn Fenn and Vinessa Shaw on the Mark Gordon Co-produced drama series. Pierce, repped by Paradigm and Essential Talent, co-stars on NBC’s The Michael J. Fox Show. Read More »