BBC Three Takes ‘Orphan Black’
In a west-to-east move, Britain’s BBC Three has acquired the BBC America original series Orphan Black. The 10-part drama, co-created by Graeme Manson (Flashpoint) and John Fawcett (Spartacus), centers on a street-wise chameleon whose life changes dramatically after witnessing the suicide of a woman who looks just like her. Taking on the woman’s identity, boyfriend and bank account, she is thrust into a kaleidoscopic mystery. Tatiana Maslany stars. BBC America just renewed the series in the U.S. It’s produced by Temple Street Prods in association with BBC America and Space.
‘The Face’ UK Names Models To Join Naomi Campbell
Sky Living has added supermodels Erin O’Connor and Caroline Winberg alongside Naomi Campbell for the UK version of model reality show The Face. The U.S. version, produced by Shine America, launched on Oxygen in February. The local UK format will be co-produced by Princess Productions and Shine TV. The three models will mentor three teams of four girls over eight weeks as they compete in photo shoots, runway shows and commercials. The last girl standing will be crowned the face of a globally known brand. Production starts in the spring. Campbell is exec producing. Read More »
I’ve learned that the informal writers room for Incursion, Starz‘s alien drama project from Spartacus creator Steven S. DeKnight, has started to ramp down. I hear the decision was made based on the fact that enough scripts had been written for a full series order. The project, which follows a squad of soldiers caught in a war against a hostile alien race, remains in consideration for a pickup as Starz is evaluating it. Incursion follows Starz’s development model where projects go straight to series, so the network regularly sets up writers rooms to develop a season’s worth of scripts before greenlighting a show. The pay cable network just authorized the launch of a writers room for Ron Moore’s Outlander. “Incursion remains in development at Starz, and we are very much in the Steven DeKnight business,” a rep for Starz said. Incursion, which also has scouted potential locations and done creature creation work, is part of an overall deal DeKnight has with the network.
On the heels of its strong premiere last Friday, Da Vinci’s Demons, Starz’s new series from David Goyer, has been given a second season pickup. The historical fantasy about the young years of world’s greatest genius, Leonardo da Vinci (Tom Riley), drew 1.04 million viewers for its debut behind the series finale of Spartacus. The Da Vinci’s Demons opener was watched by more than 2.14 million total viewers over the weekend, making it the highest-rated premiere weekend ever for a Starz original series, edging Camelot (2.09 million). Starz had already made preparations for a potential second season, so production is expected to begin pretty soon, next month, for a 2014 premiere. ’Da Vinci’s Demons’ serves up action, adventure and history in a unique and highly entertaining way that only someone like David S. Goyer can,” said Starz CEO Chris Albrecht. Added Goyer, “I’m excited that we get to continue the adventures of the world’s most eccentric and glorious polymath.” Read More »
Lovefilm & Warner Bros Strike UK Deal
Netflix competitor Lovefilm has entered what it calls a “milestone” deal with Warner Bros. International Television Distribution for the UK. From today, library content that includes The West Wing, One Tree Hill, Nip Tuck and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles will be available to subscribers. The Amazon-owned streaming service has 2M+ subscribers across Europe. Netflix entered the market in January 2012 where Sky also continues to build its business. The three companies each have deals with the major U.S. studios. In November, Netflix signed its own multi-year pact with WBITD that included shows like The Vampire Diaries and Gossip Girl. Read More »
Starz has put in development Airborne, a drama series from writer Gideon Yago (The Newsroom) and Spartacus executive producer Rob Tapert. Airborne is a coming-of-age story set at the dawn of the Vietnam War. It follows a young helicopter crew as they fight for survival, sanity, their souls, and each other in a country — and war — that are descending into chaos. “Even though we are using Vietnam and the early days of air cavalry as a backdrop, our hope is to bring the audience timeless stories about what makes a hero and how a group of young people fight to retain their humanity in the midst of a surreal and terrible conflict,” said CAA-repped Yago, who will write the script. He is a former MTV News and CBS News writer and correspondent. “Airborne will capture the human story of war — a story of love, loss and sacrifice,” said Tapert, who will executive produce, while Aaron Lam will produce for Starz. The announcement comes on the heels of FX putting in development a limited series about the Vietnam War from Stephen Gaghan.
EXCLUSIVE: Sam Raimi, one of the hottest feature directors at the moment coming off helming blockbuster Oz The Great And Powerful, has signed on to direct Fox hourlong pilot Rake starring Greg Kinnear. This is a major coup for the network and Rake producer Sony Pictures TV, which started talks with the director weeks before Oz opened to a gigantic $80 million at the domestic box office, with its worldwide tally nearing $300 million after 10 days. Rake, which is slated to go into production in a few days, marks Raimi’s first pilot directing gig. In addition to directing, Raimi will serve as an executive producer on the pilot alongside original series creator Peter Duncan, Peter Tolan, Michael Wimer, Richard Roxburgh and Ian Collie. Kinnear is co-executive producing. Based on the Australian comedic drama, Rake follows the chaotic and comedic life of criminal defense lawyer Keegan Joye (Kinnear), brilliant, frustratingly charming, and with zero filter. Rake extends Raimi’s relationship with Sony, where he spearheaded the Spider-Man franchise on the feature side, directing the 2002 blockbuster and its two sequels. In TV, Raimi executive produces Starz’s flagship drama Spartacus. He is with CAA.
Unionization and the creation of a trade association topped the priorities at a visual effects biz town hall meeting Thursday in Los Angeles where hundreds of VFX professionals gathered to discuss the state of their troubled industry. Despite calls for solidarity within the global community and a general sense of accord, a tense volley of boos erupted halfway through the panel when Visual Effects Society rep Mike Chambers took the mic and mentioned the organization’s call for larger California subsidies made in an open letter last month. In the letter the VES had announced plans to hold a VFX Congress, which has yet to materialize. “What are you going to do?” shouted one audience member to Chambers, who had no answer for his group.
Related: VFX Oscar Protesters Grow To 400 As Pros Plead Their Case
The exchange highlighted the most crippling challenge currently facing VFX workers: With no organized body other than the strictly honorary VES, artists have no leverage as the current system continues to squeeze their employers for slim profit margins. Among the industry wide issues identified by keynote speaker Scott Squires: A flawed studio-VFX house business model, too much competition, and job-migrating subsidies. Panelists and audience members also decried the strains on health and home life endured by individual VFX artists at the bottom of the VFX food chain. Unpaid overtime, long work weeks and a lack of healthcare benefits are common for visual artists, who comprise one of the last remaining sectors in Hollywood that is not yet unionized.
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Jai Courtney, the former Spartacus star who played John McClane’s son in A Good Day To Die Hard, has joined Divergent, Summit Entertainment‘s film adaptation of the Veronica Roth bestseller. The film’s directed by Neil Burger, and Courtney joins Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz, Ansel Elgort and Maggie Q. Evan Daugherty wrote the script and Red Wagon Entertainment’s Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher are producing with Pouya Shahbazian. The futuristic adventure is set in a world where people are divided into factions based on personality. Woodley plays the young protagonist, who is classified a “divergent,” and told she will never fit into any specific group. She uncovers a conspiracy to destroy all “divergents,” and must find out why and and others like her are considered so dangerous. Summit has set a March 21, 2014 release. Read More »
Here you go, Xfinity TV customers who enjoy binge viewing: From March 25-31 the No. 1 cable operator will offer its “Xfinity Watchathon Week” with free VOD and streaming access to more than 3,500 episodes of 100 TV series across 30 premium, cable and broadcast networks. It’s “the biggest catch-up ever in TV history,” says Comcast Cable VP Video Services Maggie Suniewick. Series will include Downton Abbey, Game Of Thrones, Dexter, Girls, Spartacus, Duck Dynasty, Mad Men, Revolution, The Walking Dead, Touch, Chicago Fire, Psych, Parenthood, and The Americans. Comcast teased the event at an investment conference last week. The company is eager to promote its VOD library to viewers who like the flexibility they find with services such as Netflix to watch shows spontaneously, without having to pre-program a DVR. Comcast also wants to show networks that they can benefit from VOD; it supports Nielsen’s C3 ratings and Comcast sometimes disables fast-forwarding, which raises the number of viewers who see commercials. Premium channels also will be able to give non-subscribers a taste: Comcast says that Watchathon will offer “almost the entire on demand TV libraries” for HBO, Showtime, and Starz including The Sopranos, Sex And The City, and The Wire. Programs will be available at Xfinity.com/tv, the Xfinity TV Player App for Apple and Android devices, and Xfinity Streampix as well as the conventional VOD service for subscribers. Some shows won’t be available on all platforms, but Comcast says that in “virtually all cases” viewers can watch “regardless of [the] customer’s subscription level.” Comcast will introduce a Watchathon Week microsite to help customers find programming. It also will offer behind-the-scenes features and games. Read More »
With young vampires taking big bites out of movie box office and TV ratings in the Twilight franchise, HBO’s True Blood and the CW’s The Vampire Diaries, the granddaddy of them all bloodsuckers, Count Dracula, is making a big comeback. TV history buffs may correct me but, while the legend of Dracula has been mined endlessly on the big screen going back to Bela Lugosi, I cannot think of a single live-action American series about Dracula (NBC’s super-short-lived 1979 series Cliffhangers featured a Curse Of Dracula segment, and the syndicated Dracula: The Series was Canadian). Next fall we may have three.
First off is NBC’s straight-to-series drama Dracula, in pre-production for a possible fall launch. Set in 1890s London, it stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the Count and also features his archenemy, Abraham Van Helsing. At the time NBC’s Dracula was announced last summer, Starz said it is developing Vlad Dracula, a drama series from Spartacus producer Rob Tapert “tracing Dracula’s evolution from a revered ruler to the world’s most feared vampire.”
Last month, Showtime gave a straight-to-series order to John Logan and Sam Mendes’ Penny Dreadful. The drama, also set in Victorian London, features “some of literature’s most famously terrifying characters,” with Dracula and Van Helsing front and center. Two weeks after Showtime’s announcement, ABC gave a pilot order to drama Gothica, from producer Mark Gordon. Like Penny Dreadful, it too weaves together classic horror characters and stories, but in present day. One of the most prominent among them is Dracula, who is the series’ main antagonist. Guillermo Del Toro/Carlton Cuse’s FX pilot The Strain, which will likely go to series, also revolves around vampires. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: USA Network has elevated Michael Sluchan to SVP Original Scripted Programming. Sluchan, a 13-year USA veteran, oversees current series and develops and shepherds production on new shows alongside SVP Alex Sepiol. Both report to Bill McGoldrick, EVP Original Scripted Programming. “Michael is a truly talented executive with vast relationships in the creative community and an incredible ability to nurture the types of writers and producers we love to work with,” McGoldrick said. Sluchan oversees production of USA dramas Necessary Roughness and Royal Pains and also oversaw recent limited series Political Animals.
Related: USA’s ‘Necessary Roughness’ Renewed For Third Season Read More »
Starz CEO Chris Albrecht gave a brief state of the network at the opening of Starz‘s portion of TCA’s press tour. He addressed the company’s pending spinoff from Liberty Media. “This month Starz will become an independent company separate from Liberty Media with yours truly as CEO of a private company,” he said. “It is daunting and exciting. For this room what it means is we will now be in charge of our own balance sheet, and be able to accelerate our rampup into original programming.” The importance of original programming is even greater for Starz now as it faces the 2016 departure of its top supplier of theatrical movies, Disney, which recently inked a deal with Netflix. “The first thing I would say is, there was every opportunity for us to make the deal or not make it,” Albrecht said after the session about the negotiations with Disney. “And the reason we chose to not make it is, Disney movies are not the future of Starz, and to dramatically increase the amount of money we’re paying for movies right now didn’t really seem to be the prudent way to commit Starz’ financial resources. Originals are an essential part of our future.”
Related: Starz’ ‘Magic City’ Heads For Havana, Chicago With James Cann: TCA
This year, Starz is launching three new original drama series, Davis S. Goyer’s Da Vinci’s Demons, which was presented to critics … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures and Walden Media are in final negotiations with Angelina Jolie to direct Unbroken, the unbelievable story of Olympian-turned-WWII POW Louis Zamperini. The project, which Universal has developed for going on 55 years, is closer than ever to becoming a reality. Matthew Baer and Erwin Stoff are producing and Mick Garris is exec producer.
For Jolie, this will mark her second film as director after she made her debut on In The Land Of Blood And Honey. This will be her first directing outing on a major studio film. It’s easy to imagine that the world’s biggest female star gets whatever she wants, but I’m told that she campaigned hard for the film against a number of other directors. Universal execs were very impressed with her sophisticated treatment of difficult subject matter. Her detailed take on Zamperini won her this job.
“In her life and in her work, Angelina has embraced stories and causes involving great struggle and triumph over tremendous odds and the basic human condition,” Adam Fogelson and Donna Langley said in a statement. “She has a real ability to illustrate the strength in human spirit which will be essential in telling Lou’s story of survival and great heroism.”
The film has a new script draft by Gladiator and Les Miserables co-writer William Nicholson, who rewrote an earlier draft by Richard LaGravanese. The script is based on Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption, the book by Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand which has been on The New York Times bestseller list for over 108 straight weeks. Read More »
Robert De Niro on Saturday night became the latest recipient of the Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence In Film at a Black Tie gala at Bacara Resort. The award is presented annually by the legendary actor to benefit the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Past recipients include Harrison Ford, Quentin Tarantino, John Travolta, Ed Harris, Kirk’s son Michael Douglas and of course, Kirk himself in the inaugural year.
De Niro is being heavily Oscar-buzzed for his supporting performance in Silver Linings Playbook and director David O. Russell and co-star Bradley Cooper both made the trip north to help honor De Niro along with Douglas of course. SBIFF President Douglas Stone and Executive Director Roger Durling praised the evening’s honoree as well as the legendary star the award is named for. In fact Durling led the crowd (which included several well-known Academy voters from the area including Carol Burnett sitting at SBIFF Chairman Jeffrey Barbakow’s table) in singing a rousing Happy Birthday to Douglas on the eve of his 96th birthday. He called both stars “heroes” and noted Douglas broke the Hollywood Blacklist in 1960 by hiring Dalton Trumbo to adapt Spartacus, and De Niro helped heal New York by bringing business back to NYC in creating the Tribeca Film Festival in the aftermath of 9/11.
Some very well-chosen clips highlighted De Niro’s long career including The Godfather Part II, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Mean Streets, The Deer Hunter, Cape Fear and many others plus the current Silver … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: While Starz‘s drama Spartacus is heading into its final chapter with the upcoming Season 3, Spartacus: War Of The Damned, Starz may not be ready to close the book on the successful franchise. I’ve learned that there is talk about a potential Spartacus spinoff series centered on Roman leader Gaius Julius Caesar. The spinoff idea, which is in the nascent stages, is being shepherded by Spartacus executive producer Robert Tapert. Spartacus was the brain child of Tapert and creator/executive producer Steven DeKnight, who is busy with another project, the hot sci-fi drama Incursion, which is on fast-track development at Starz.
Caesar is being introduced on the upcoming third and final season of Spartacus, which premieres January 25. The character, played by Australian actor Todd Lasance, is adding star power and a formidable new nemesis for the famous gladiator despite the fact there is no hard evidence that Caesar actually was involved in the campaign to put down the Spartacus-led slave rebellion, as he is on the show. Spartacus: War Of The Damned could serve as a nice starting-off point for a spinoff as it features a young Caesar who is yet to begin his ascent toward ruling the Roman state.
Related: … Read More »
There won’t be a third season of Starz‘s acclaimed drama Boss starring Kelsey Grammer and created by Farhad Safinia. However, I’ve learned exclusively that there are discussions between the pay cable network and Boss producer Lionsgate TV about possibly doing a two-hour movie that would wrap up the story of Chicago Mayor Tom Kane, played by Grammer. “After much deliberation, we have made the difficult decision to not proceed with (a third season of) Boss,” said Starz in a statement Tuesday. “We remain proud of this award-winning show, its exceptional cast and writers, and are grateful to Kelsey Grammer, Farhad Safinia and our partners at Lionsgate TV.”
Ratings-wise, Boss was soft but relatively steady. The series premiered to 659,000 viewers in October 2011. Season 2, which was ordered before Boss‘ series debut, opened with 317,000 viewers this past August, down 52% from Season 1, but subsequently recovered. It averaged 937,000 viewers over its weekend premiere airings on the Starz flagship channel and around 2.4 million across all platforms per episode. That was down slightly from Season 1 (1.1 million, 3 million). But Boss brought cachet to Starz, earning critical praise. It earned the first major awards nominations for the pay cable network, winning a Golden Globe for star Grammer who probably delivered the strongest performance of his career in Boss. Additionally, the show developed strong following by a small but devoted fan base. Its ratings performance was probably hampered by the fact it didn’t have a strong lead-in as Starz doesn’t have enough original series to go around, and that it aired on low-trafficked Friday night. (Though the network puts emphasis on a series’ cumed weekend viewership). Going into Season 2, the show beefed up the cast with new additions Sanaa Lathan, Jonathan Groff and T.I. while keeping its status as one of the less expensive Starz series. However, unlike Magic City, whose first season did only marginally better than Season 1 of Boss, the Grammer-starring drama was not owned by Starz, with Lionsgate TV controlling international and DVD rights. Read More »
Starz decided in June to the end the run of its Spartacus franchise after this season and now has set a date for the debut of its final installment, Spartacus: War Of The Damned: Friday, January 25 at 9 PM. Liam McIntyre returns as the lead for the third season, which begins after the defeat of Roman commander Gaius Claudius Glaber as Spartacus and his legion of rebellion slaves expands.