John Oliver will interview Gen. Keith Alexander (Ret.) — former director of the National Security Agency and head of U.S. Cyber Command – when he debuts his new HBO late-night topical comedy show Last Week Tonight. HBO says it’s Alexander’s first since retiring as NSA director. The news comes the week Oliver took the NBC package deal to promote the launch of his new HBO late-night show, stopping by The Tonight Show show to poke fun at Jimmy Fallon‘s interview style and talk about friends’ reaction to his final The Daily Show appearance, in which he wept.
Even as new legislation to expand and evolve California’s $100 million Film and TV Tax Credit Program weaves through the state Assembly, Governor Jerry Brown’s administration today refused to unequivocally come out in support of the effort. “I realize the tax credit is a concern,” said Kish Rajan, Director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development to the concerned industry heavy crowd at the state Film Commission’s annual locations breakfast. “There are difficult political considerations,” added the appointed official indicating Brown’s lack of open support of the widely co-sponsored and industry supported bill that was introduced on February 19. Rajan spoke Thursday before an audience at the W Hotel in Hollywood that included LA Film Czar Ken Ziffren, Film Commission Executive Director Amy Lemish, Disney/ABC’s Director of Production Finance Valerie Spiller, and reps from Film L.A.
While naming no dollar amount yet, the anti-runaway production AB 1839 from Assemblymen Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) and Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima) aims to increase the figure available, remove ineligibility caps on pics with budgets of more than $75 million and TV pilots as well as put the program on a more stable footing. The bill unanimously passed its first test last month when the Assembly’s Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism, And Internet Media committee voted in favor of it. Now, AB …
Roadside Attractions has hired Miramax and Mandalay veteran Jennifer Berman as its SVP Acquisitions, Co-Productions and Development. She will head feature film acquisitions, development from scripting to final stages, and oversee production working with Roadside’s partners. She’ll have a hand in film production and acquisitions from the early stages at Roadside, which first dove into feature production with last year’s Oscar-nommed All Is Lost from J.C. Chandor. Upcoming titles include Anton Corbijn’s A Most Wanted Man and Craig Johnson’s Sundance Waldo Salt Award winner The Skeleton Twins starring Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig.
EXCLUSIVE: After slicing and dicing his way through a dozen feature films, Jason Voorhees is ready to slash his way to small-screen stardom. Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films and Crystal Lake Entertainment have set a deal to produce a new hourlong dramatic series based upon the characters and settings of Friday The 13th. Sean S. Cunningham, who helmed the 1980 original, will be executive producer along with EFO Films principals Randall Emmett & George Furla, Mark Canton of Atmosphere Entertainment MM, Steve B. Harris of Diversion3 Entertainment, and Ted Fox of Fox Entertainment. Also producing is Horror Inc. president Robert Barsamian, who produced the features.
Bill Basso (Terminator) and Jordu Schell (Avatar) have been set to script a storyline that re-imagines Jason in multiple time periods. Roy Knyrim (Gods And Monsters) of SOTA FX will coordinate the special make-up effects for the series. If you recall, the original was set at a summer camp, closed because of the drowning of an unattended child. Promiscuous counselors tried to re-open the place, but they began dying. Jason actually took root as the indestructible villain in the second film, with his signature hockey goalie mask coming later. The series is contemporary, focusing on the eclectic characters of Crystal Lake who are forced to confront the return of the killer, as new secrets about his wacky family are revealed.
20th Century Fox has dropped a new trailer for action comedy Let’s Be Cops. It follows the red band version that debuted last month. Damon Wayans Jr. and Jake Johnson star as buddies who pretend to be officers of the law — then find themselves in over their head with mobsters and dirty detectives. Cast also includes Rob Riggle, Nina Dobrev, James D’Arcy and Andy Garcia. Pic hits theaters on August 13.
The day after making his first appearance on CBS’ Late Show since the network announced he’s taking it over when David Letterman retires, Stephen Colbert paid a surprise visit to The Daily Show last night to break it to Jon Stewart that he’s leaving Comedy Central. “There is no mountain left to climb,” Colbert said. “It’s become clear to me that I’ve won television. At this point I’m just running up the score…Almost nine years ago I promised to change the world and together — I did it.” Watch here:
Disney‘s in the process of spending potentially $1B for Maker Studios, and today’s agreement means that — when the deal closes — it will also indirectly manage YouTube channels and videos from Jukin Media, described as “the world’s leading licensing platform for viral video clips.” It has more than 30 YouTube channels including FailArmy, which has 4.8M subs and specializes in videos of people screwing up. Indeed, one of Maker‘s specific goals is to create a website for “all things FailArmy.” (Please, Disney, don’t turn this into a theme park attraction.) The companies also plan to co-produce shows for both the Internet and TV. “Maker clearly has the best expertise and collection of resources for helping us grow our business and brands both on and off YouTube,” says Jukin CEO Jonathan Skogmo. “This was an obvious alliance for us and we’re very excited to get started.”
EXCLUSIVE: UTA has signed the Nashville-based TNA Entertainment. That is the company behind IMPACT Wrestling, which has become one of Spike TV’s top-rated shows, and which is broadcast in 120 countries worldwide. TNA also produced more than 100 live IMPACT Wrestling shows and monthly pay-per-view events anchored by a stable of spandex stars that includes Jeff Hardy, Bobby Roode, Kurt Angle, Eric Young, Magnus, James Storm, MVP, Gail Kim and the lovely and lethal Knockouts. UTA will help the 12-year-old company broaden its TV reach and expand its licensing programs, arena shows and social media. “UTA’s diverse range of capabilities make them an ideal partner to help TNA add tremendous visibility and value to the global IMPACT Wrestling brand,” said TNA president Dixie Carter. “We are confident that by working with the UTA team, we will not only expand our wrestling business in exciting ways, but we will also build new entertainment ventures and properties.”
The surviving members of legendary comedy troupe Monty Python are reuniting for a series of live stage shows at London’s O2 Arena this July. On July 20, the last show of the “final reunion, sort of” will be broadcast to cinemas around the UK, as well as the U.S., Australia, Russia and Sweden. The UK’s Picturehouse Entertainment, which has carved a niche of bringing alternative content to cinemas internationally — including last year’s Doctor Who 50th anniversary episode — has acquired the international distribution rights to beam the show to the world. It will run in more than 450 cinemas in the UK as well as 1,500 more internationally.
Stephenie Meyer and Meghan Hibbett’s Fickle Fish Films has optioned rights to Mindy McGinnis’ debut young-adult novel Not A Drop To Drink, a survival story set in a world where fresh water is almost nonexistent. It’s the latest deal for Fickle Fish, which produced the film adaptation of Meyer’s novel The Host and the Sundance 2013 pic Austenland.
Published in September 2013 via HarperCollins, Drink centers on Lynn, whose survival in the dystopian world means protecting her precious freshwater pond against drought, snowless winters, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand. But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers are coming. A companion novel, In A Handful Of Dust, is already available for pre-order.
Paul Thomas Anderson, Nicolas Winding Refn Back Crowdfunding Campaign To Digitally Save Endangered 35MM Prints
As celluloid gives way to the digital era, filmmakers Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master) and Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) are some of the names lending their support to a new crowdfunding campaign to save and restore 35mm film prints. The campaign was launched today by the American Genre Film Archive (AGFA), a non-profit org whose mission it is to undertake high-resolution 2K digital transfers to preserve film prints too fragile for active circulation. Older and rare prints are an increasingly endangered treat on the repertory/art house exhibition scene and unless restored or digitally archived, frequently deteriorate too far to be screened and can be lost forever. AGFA specializes in horror, sleaze, action, independent regional film, and international genre cinema and has over 3,200 film prints in its archive. Organizers are looking to raise $15K by May 30 to fund AGFA’s first digital restoration, of Craig Denney’s 1975 sci-fi pic The Astrologer, which real life psychic Denney self-financed and stars in as a fortune teller who discovers psychic abilities and rises to fame by advising the President of the United States. Refn and Anderson have recently joined the AGFA advisory board which also includes Alamo Drafthouse founders Tim and Karrie League. “By any means necessary, we need to watch movies on film, because that’s why God created cinema,” said Refn. “The American Genre Film Archive has begun a mission to preserve what I consider …
Netflix has set August 1 for the premiere of the six-episode final installment of The Killing, and A&E has slotted Monday, June 2 (10 PM) for the third-season premiere of Longmire. The Killing stars Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman will return for the final chapter of the series, which was cancelled by AMC in 2012, then resurrected with a third-season order. It staged yet another comeback after being canceled by the network again in September. It was then picked up by Netflix for the final installment. Longmire, A&E’s No. 1 original drama series of all time in total viewers, will return for Season 3 with star Robert Taylor as Walt Longmire, along with Katee Sackhoff, Lou Diamond Phillips, Bailey Chase, Cassidy Freeman and Adam Bartley.
“We are thrilled that the team is locked in and that the [Stephanopoulos] deal was done so quickly,” ABC News said this morning. That in marked contrast to the long-running storyline about the division’s talks with GMA regulars Josh Elliott and Sam Champion — both of whom wound up being poached by NBC. Elliott went to NBC Sports and Champion to NBC co-owned The Weather Channel. Lara Spencer, whose contract came up around the same time as Elliott’s and Champion’s, re-signed to GMA in March, and recently was promoted to co-anchor. Elliott and Champion were replaced by Amy Robach and Ginger Zee, respectively.
Stephanopoulos’ contract was not set to expire until the end of the calendar year. But, given the GMA talent churn, the deal was an important one to close for new ABC News chief James Goldston, who is in his second week on the job. Terms of the deal, which sources said locks in Stephanopoulos for more than three years, were not disclosed. “We expect him to remain with us for many, many years,” ABC News said coyly of the anchor, who has been with GMA since 2010. Robin Roberts signed a lucrative deal to remain with GMA last December.
TLC is bolstering its West Coast Development and Production operations with the hires of two new vice presidents. Jack Tarantino has been named VP Production West Coast and Elvia Van Es Oliva joins as VP Development West Coast. Both are based in the LA office and report to Sandy Varo Jarrell, SVP, Production & Development West Coast. In his new role, Tarantino leads the department’s production team and their slate of current programming. Tarantino comes to TLC from Style Network, where he served as VP of Original Programming, overseeing the day-to-day of new and recurring series for the network. Van Es Oliva will lead her team in creating original concepts for the network, as well as working with the external creative community to add to TLC’s programming slate. Prior to TLC, Van Es Oliva served as SVP of Development for Fly On The Wall Entertainment.
EXCLUSIVE: Zombieland scribes Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese have been set to script Watch Dogs, a live-action feature based on the upcoming Ubisoft video game. Sony and New Regency are developing the film with Ubisoft. The story centers on Aiden Pearce, a hacker who turns the city of Chicago into his personal stomping grounds to carry out his own brand of justice after a violent family tragedy. He is certainly adept physically, but his true gift is his ability to tap into a citywide computer system and control everything from traffic lights to accessing intel that allows him to engage the bad guys, and thwart attempts to kill innocents.
Wernick and Rheese are currently developing Epsilon, a spec they sold to Sony for Greg Berlanti to direct and for Michael De Luca to produce. The scribes are repped by WME and Hansen, Jacobson. This is the third screen collaboration for New Regency and Ubisoft: Tom Hardy is starring in the Doug Liman-directed Splinter Cell, and Michael Fassbender is starring in Assassin’s Creed, which will have a director shortly. Here is a trailer that gives a better idea of Watch Dogs‘ movie potential.
The term is key: FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says in a blog post that the ability to bar “commercially unreasonable” practices empowers the agency — in a plan he will begin to circulate — to crack down on Internet service providers that discriminate against some content providers. But open Internet advocates fear it’s too squishy, and could allow ISPs to create tiers of service that enable some content providers (Netflix or HBO GO, perhaps) to pay for speedy transmissions. Wheeler hopes to “conclude this proceeding and have enforceable rules by the end of the year.” The plan he will begin to circulate will look at net neutrality violations on a case-by-case basis, an adjustment needed to meet the objections that the D.C. Court of Appeals raised in January when it remanded the FCC’s previous net neutrality rules. But he vigorously objects to the “great deal of misinformation” that characterized his proposal as an effort to gut the principle of open Internet by allowing companies to pay for speedier service. His plan “would establish that behavior harmful to consumers or competition by limiting the openness of the Internet will not be permitted,” he says. The court said that the FCC could stop practices it deems not ” commercially reasonable” — and he says that his plan will “establish a high bar for what is ‘commercially reasonable.’”
On his Facebook page, Peter Jackson revealed that he has retitled the final installment of The Hobbit, which he had originally titled There And Back Again. All I can say is that after being initially skeptical when Jackson revealed he was turning the single J.R.R. Tolkien book and some appendices into a full trilogy, the second film was so strong after a whimsical first effort that I cannot wait to see the conclusion of this massive tale, and that he was right to stretch it out. The new title certainly conveys more urgency.
Here is Jackson’s missive:
“Our journey to make The Hobbit Trilogy has been in some ways like Bilbo’s own, with hidden paths revealing their secrets to us as we’ve gone along. “There and Back Again” felt like the right name for the second of a two film telling of the quest to reclaim Erebor, when Bilbo’s arrival there, and departure, were both contained within the second film. But with three movies, it suddenly felt misplaced—after all, Bilbo has already arrived “there” in the “Desolation of Smaug”.
When we did the premiere trip late last year, I had a quiet conversation with the studio about the idea of revisiting the title. We decided to keep an open mind until a cut of the film was ready to look at. We reached that point last week, and after viewing the movie, we all agreed there is now one title that feels …
So far, the symbiotic relationship between Telemundo and its NBCUniversal siblings had gone mainly in one direction — with Telemundo doing Spanish-language versions of programs on its English-language counterparts, like La Voz Kids (The Voice Kids), Top Chef Estrellas and Access Hollywood Al Rojo Vivo. Now the flow will start moving the other way too, with NBC committing to develop an English-language version of El Señor de los Cielos (The Lord Of The Skies), Telemundo’s highest-rated novela last season, and USA Network putting in development Telemundo’s upcoming novela Mujer de Acero (Woman Of Steel). The adaptations will be produced by Universal TV and Universal Cable Prods., respectively. This marks the first time that NBC and USA have optioned content from Telemundo. The move comes a year after the Spanish-language network was placed under the purview of NBCUniversal’s Bonnie Hammer, who also oversees USA, and Joe Uva was put in charge of it. NBC had been interested in cracking the telenovela genre. Last fall, the network inked a deal with Electus to develop three telenovelas with an eye toward airing one as a 13-episode series — with multiple episodes running each week, following telenovelas’ traditional air pattern.
Inspired by true events, the action-filled El Señor de los Cielos tells the story of Aurelio Casillas (Rafael Amaya), one of the most prominent Mexican drug lords from the ’90s, whose ambition was to become one of the richest and most powerful men in Mexico (watch the English-language trailer below.) It ranked as Telemundo’s #1 novela last year averaging 2.3 million total viewers and nearly 1.5 million adults 18-49. The season finale averaged over 3.6 million viewers and beat Univision among adults 18-49 and 18-34 in its period.