Prolific TV movie producer Larry Levinson Productions has denied claims from the WGA that it owes millions of dollars in residuals to writers. The production company told Deadline today that the dispute instead is “over what appears to be the WGA’s unfair, improper, over-reaching and arbitrary application of its residual calculation for these pay TV movies.” In the past 20 years, the company has produced nearly 200 family-oriented telefilms, most of which were made for Hallmark Channel or in association with Hallmark Entertainment. The guild is pursuing arbitration claims against Levinson’s various production entities for unpaid residuals and interest owed on 33 of those TV movies and is threatening to bar the company from using guild writers again until it pays up. An arbitration hearing is scheduled for May 14.
Related: WGA Targets Larry Levinson And Hallmark For Unpaid Residuals
LLP said in a statement today, “The companies involved and drawn into this dispute are determining their respective legal rights and remedies against these WGA practices and will vigorously defend and pursue their rights as smaller independents to be treated equally.” Hallmark parent company Crown Media Holdings also is named as a respondent in the arbitration notice. It said Tuesday that it is up to date on its residuals payments. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Hot off the biggest animated movie of all time with Frozen, Josh Gad is reteaming with Disney. He and his writing partner Ryan Dixon will be developing an untitled comedy/family adventure for the studio. The project marks his first post-Frozen collaboration with Disney, having won an Annie Award for voicing Olaf the snowman in the Oscar-winning toon. He has a number of acting projects in the pipeline, including Pixels at Sony, The Wedding Ringer at Screen Gems and Gilligan’s Island at Warner Bros. He’s also starring with Billy Crystal in FX’s The Comedians, which was picked up to series last month. He next appears in Zach Braff’s crowdfunded film Wish I Was Here. He is repped by ICM Partners, Brillstein Entertainment and attorney P.J. Shapiro. Dixon penned the comedy Opening Night and is writing the Twins sequel Triplets.
Related: Josh Gad To Play Sam Kinison In Larry Charles-Directed Feature
The NFL is coming off most-watched program in U.S. TV history with the Super Bowl, and its just-released 2014 schedule arrives today with a couple key differences from last year – one of which is bound to make NBC execs smile. The league said that its “flex” scheduling for the Paeaock’s Sunday Night Football games can begin as early as Week 5, moving up from Week 11 in the past. That means the NFL can move any scheduled day game into primetime to air on what has been the No. 1 show in primetime viewership for four consecutive years and tops in the adults 18-49 demo for six straight. But there is a catch: The flex option can be exercised only twice between Weeks 5 and 10, which means Fox or CBS won’t have to give up their best matchups every week during that span. The flex-scheduling say-so remains with the league, which must make the call no fewer than 12 days ahead of time. (Regular Sunday night flex scheduling remains in play after Week 10.) Meanwhile, the NFL also is introducing a plan to “cross flex” Sunday day games on CBS and Fox, which have over-the-air rights to the AFC and NFC, respectively. In previous years, a game between two AFC teams had to be on CBS, but now the league can choose to move those games to Fox (and vice versa). This could help during weeks when one network happens to have the potentially biggest games.
Related: ESPN To Air Cable’s First NFL Playoff Game
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Melissa Rosenberg’s Tall Girls Productions has tapped former Universal Cable Prods exec Kate Schumaecker as President. In her new role, Schumaecker will oversee day-to-day operations and develop television projects. Formed by Rosenberg in 2011, ABC Studios-based Tall Girls Prods is focused on film and TV series development with an emphasis on interesting, complex roles for women. In her previous position as VP Development and Current Series at Universal Cable Prods, Schumaecker was the executive on the final two seasons of USA’s Psych and developed various cable projects with a focus on USA Network. She oversaw four pilots, including Satisfaction written by Sean Jablonski, which was recently picked up to series at USA.
Filmmaker David L. Cunningham (The Seeker) has launched the first ever transmedia content accelerator in the state of Hawaii, where he was raised. Launching in June, the Global Virtual Studio (GVS) Transmedia Accelerator will highlight startups with IP that has wide commercial appeal for their program, which will grant $50K in seed funding and mentorship to six selected companies. Eligible IP must be owned by companies based in Hawaii and be applicable to least three separate potential revenue generating platforms. The accelerator is a joint effort between global transmedia co. GVS, private investors, and the state’s Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, the Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation, Hawaii’s Creative Industry Division, and the County of Hawaii. Honua Studios will play host to the accelerator, which is open to content ranging from film and TV projects to apps and digital properties. Founder Cunningham was raised in the Aloha State and in addition to his studio work produced and directed Hawaii-based indies Beyond Paradise and the Kiefer Sutherland-starrer To End All Wars. He’s repped by UTA. Cunningham himself will provide direct membership to the selected accelerator participants alongside mentors including Ralph Winter (X-Men, Fantastic Four), producer Grant Curtis (Spider-Man Trilogy, Oz: The Great & Powerful), entrepreneur Mike Frank (co-founder of Level 3 Communications), game developer Lance Priebe (creator & co-founder of Club Penguin), digital innovations entrepreneur James Snook (head of Starbucks Innovations), and others.
Legendary Television and Digital Media has optioned World War Z and Zombie Survival Guide author Max Brooks‘ horror comic series The Extinction Parade for development as a TV series. Brooks will assist in development of the project and pen the pilot episode, Brooks and Avatar Press said today. Extinction Parade pits zombies against vampires in a world where the zombie plague has put the human race on the endangered species list, according to a description of the series on Avatar’s website. Fearing the end of their food supply, the vastly outnumbered vampires enter into an all-out subdead war with the zombies, with humans caught in the crossfire. Read More »
Hard to tell if it’s more paralegal than paranormal but something is definitely haunting The Conjuring franchise Warner Bros is trying to create. Today the studio and its New Line division were among the defendants named in another breach of contract lawsuit by producer Tony DeRosa-Grund and his Evergreen Media. This time 87-year-old Lorraine Warren herself, whose investigations into the seemingly supernatural with her late husband were the basis for last year’s thriller, was also listed as a defendant. Filed in federal court in Texas like last month’s suit, today’s complaint (read it here) seeking a jury trial also wants to stop any sequels going forward; a declaratory judgment of rights; and a series of unspecified actual, punitive and statutory damages likely to run into the millions. And what does the other side say? “We have not been served,” a WB spokesman told me today.
Related: Warner Bros Hit With ‘Conjuring’ Rights Lawsuit, Lionsgate Exited TV Series Deal
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EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros has acquired the Joel Dicker novel The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair for Ron Howard to direct and his Imagine Entertainment partner Brian Grazer to produce with him. Deals are also in the works for Eugenie Grandval and Claire Lundberg to produce as well. Since published by the Swiss author, the novel has been a publishing phenomenon in Europe and especially in France, where is finished just behind Fifty Shades Of Grey, and Italy and Spain, where it outsold Dan Brown’s Inferno. It has sold over 2 million copies and won the prestigious Grand Prix du Roman and was nominated for the Prix Goncourt. Book was published by Bernard de Fallois’s Editions de Fallois.
Published in France under the title La vérité sur l’affaire Harry Quebert, the novel is about a young superstar novelist who finds himself embroiled in a sensationalized murder mystery when his mentor, an icon of American literature, is implicated in the crime of a missing 15-year-old girl who turns up dead in the author’s backyard. Penguin will publish the book in the U.S. in May. Read More »
“Independent American films are largely considered anathema to foreign distributors these days,” says Jeff Lipsky. The distribution veteran, who’s also a John Cassavetes-mentored filmmaker, knows a thing or two about the indie business. He co-founded October Films with Bingham Ray in 1991, and is also a former executive at New Yorker Films, Samuel Goldwyn Films, and Skouras Pictures. In 2011, he launched Adopt Films with Tim Grady, which recently handled Oscar nominee Omar. As a director, Lipsky has made five movies, and is shooting a sixth this fall. Some of his own films have been in official selections at Sundance and San Sebastian, and seen U.S. releases, but none has ever been distributed internationally. And that’s why he’s taking things into his own hands, making three of them available via Vimeo On Demand worldwide as of May 1: Flannel Pajamas (2006), Twelve Thirty (2010) and Molly’s Theory Of Relativity (2013). Among the stars of those movies are Justin Kirk, Julianne Nicholson, Mamie Gummer, Jonathan Groff and Cady Huffman. Two of them also have actor Reed Birney in common with In Your Eyes, the micro-budget Tribeca title that writer and exec producer Joss Whedon just announced is going out worldwide via Vimeo. The timing was pure coincidence, Lipsky says as he sings the service’s praises. “There is great potential for indie filmmakers. It doesn’t require legal contracts, you can geoblock and call your own shots… It’s not rocket science.” (Post continues below)
He says Vimeo’s quality is the same as “any of the big boys.” Although a fan of Netflix and Amazon, Lipsky contends the “problem” with those services is that they are “fantastic for consumers, but little to no money can be realized by filmmakers or distributors.” Vimeo allows for an “instantaneous” revenue stream, which is “as it should be in this world we live in.” The split with the site is 90% to the rights holder and 10% to the service, Lipsky tells me. The only risk, he says, is that it’s “not the 800-pound gorilla. You have to do a little more” to market, but it’s “whatever I want.” What he hopes is that when his next movie is completed in 2016, the Vimeo experience will create “an expectant audience clamoring to see the film in many countries.” Here’s a clip from Lipsky latest, Molly’s Theory Of Relativity, with Tony winner Huffman and God’s Pocket‘s Sophia Takal: Read More »
Tim Cook hinted in his call with analysts today that Apple wants to become a bigger player in TV. He says that the company has already sold 20M of its Apple TV streaming boxes, which accounted for $1B in sales last year. That helps to explain why, in February, he stopped calling the product a “hobby.” As it has grown, and become more sophisticated, “it didn’t feel right to me” to treat it so dismissively. He doesn’t appear to feel threatened by Amazon’s deal today to land several popular shows from HBO and add HBO GO to the Amazon Fire TV platform. “We have HBO GO already on Apple TV,” the Apple CEO says. As for the programming: “They got some older content from HBO. I haven’t had a chance to evaluate exactly what it is.” While Apple fans eagerly wait to see what new products the company might unveil this year, Cook says “I’m feeling very good about that [TV] business and where it can go.”
EXCLUSIVE: Avatar actor Joel David Moore is set to direct comedic drama Youth In Oregon, about a man who must drive his 80-year-old father-in-law cross country to be euthanized. It’ll mark Moore’s third feature behind the camera after his 2007 thriller Spiral and the upcoming comedy Killing Winston Jones starring Richard Dreyfuss. Youth In Oregon is scripted by Andrew Eisen and will be produced by Stefan Nowicki, Joey Carey and Morgan White for Sundial Pictures, whose recent films include Obvious Child, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, and Pariah. Moore recently starred in ABC pilot Forever and in Adam Wingard’s Sundance pic The Guest. He has a recurring role on Bones and next stars on the big screen in Sony thriller Grace. Moore is repped by ICM Partners, which is also repping domestic sales on Youth In Oregon, as well as Underground and Nelson, Davis, Wetzstein, LLP.
The 19th Annual Art Directors Guild Excellence in Production Design Awards, honoring production design in theatrical motion pictures, TV, commercials and music videos will be held Saturday, January 31, at the International Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton. Here’s the timeline announced today: Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Patrick Schwarzenegger has been cast in Scouts Vs. Zombies, the Paramount genre mash-up that will be directed by Christopher Landon. Schwarzenegger, son of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, here plays the popular high school quarterback who is a rival to the boy scout troop. Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, Joseph Morgan and David Koechner also star. Andy Fickman, Todd Garner, Bryan Brucks and Betsy Sullenger are producing. Shooting is set to begin May 8.
Patrick can next be seen in the Kevin Connolly-directed Dear Eleanor opposite Josh Lucas, Jessica Alba, Liana Liberato and Isabelle Fuhrman. He is repped by Management 360 and Bloom Hergott.
Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner star in the James Gray period drama The Immigrant. It centers on Ewa Cybulski (Cotillard) and her sister Magda (Angela Sarafyan), who immigrate to New York from their native Poland to start a new life. The two women are separated when doctors discover Magda is seriously ill and she is quarantined. Ewa then falls into the hands of Bruno (Phoenix), a charming but wicked man who takes her in and forces her into prostitution. She later meets Bruno’s cousin Orlando (Renner), a magician who sweeps her off her feet and is her best chance to escape the nightmarish life she’s been enduring. Have a look at the new trailer for the Weinstein Co pic, which opens May 16 in limited release:
Anton Yelchin and Zooey Deschanel will star alongside John Hawkes in The Driftless Area, a dark comedy from director and co-writer Zachary Sluser. A resourceful bartender (Yelchin) moves back to his hometown after his parents die, falls for an enigmatic woman (Deschanel) and is unwittingly pitted against a volatile crook (Hawkes). Ciaran Hinds and Alia Shawkat co-star in the dark comedy based on the novel by Tom Drury, who co-wrote the screenplay. Shooting starts May 14 in Vancouver for Unified Pictures and Bron Studios. Keith Kjarval and Aaron L. Gilbert are producing with Nicole Romano as exec producer. Radiant Films will be selling international rights at the Cannes Film Market next month, and CAA is handling domestic.
EXCLUSIVE: Scott Speedman is set to star opposite Patricia Clarkson in October Gale, the drama written and directed by Ruba Nadda. She also wrote and directed Cairo Time, which starred Clarkson. Speedman plays a mysterious man who, during a violent October storm, washes up on the shore of Helen Matthews’ remote island cottage, unconscious and bleeding from a gunshot wound. Clarkson plays the recently widowed doctor who takes him in, only to find that the shooter is coming back to finish the job and that the storm has cut them off from the mainland. Daniel Iron will produce through Foundry Films, and Christine Vachon will be exec producer through Killer Films. The film shoots in Canada in five weeks. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: WME has signed Gavin O’Connor, the writer-director of the superb generational fighter tale Warrior, the indie Tumbleweeds, cop drama Pride And Glory, and the U.S. Gold Medal-winning hockey team saga Miracle.
O’Connor most recently directed the pilot that launched the FX series The Americans, and he came on to save the day when he signed on to direct Jane Got A Gun, the drama that stars Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, Ewan McGregor and Rodrigo Santoro. Relativity acquired the Western for release and will open the film later this year. O’Connor had been at CAA.