BREAKING: As Deadline was first to reveal after the exits of Lynn Harris and Sarah Schechter, Jon Berg and Courtenay Valenti have been promoted to EVP Development and Production at Warner Bros Pictures by Greg Silverman, President, Creative Development and Worldwide Production. Both execs, who’ve worked forever with Silverman, will report to him. Duties will be expanded for Valenti, a 25-year studio vet, and Berg, who has been rising in the ranks since arriving in 2008. They will take grater roles in oversight and management of Warner Bros’ development team and budget, as well as managing the studio’s film projects.
Related: Warner Bros Moving To Elevate Production Pair After Lynn Harris’ Exit
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EXCLUSIVE: After using The Black List as a way to scout screenplays worth buying, Warner Bros has made the first alliance between a major studio and Franklin Leonard‘s screenplay evaluation service. The goal is to give opportunities to scribes who might not otherwise get a chance. Using the diversity guidelines from the WGA‘s Executive Summary that shows how far out of the mainstream minorities, women and some other groups are in the makeup of working screenwriters, The Black List will recommend a short list of five writers every six months who come from what the WGA identified as an under-served scribe demographic.
One of those writers will be offered by Warner Bros a two-step blind script deal worth around $93,000. The initial plan is for this program to run for two years, which will mean deals for four writers will get a foot in the door. The first short list of writers will be turned over to Warner Bros around Thanksgiving.
“For a black kid from Georgia, I’m acutely aware of the access issues the industry struggles with, and I’m excited to be part of a first step toward addressing this,” Leonard told me. “I’m optimstic that other organizations in the industry will access this also, both for the purposes of diversity, but also for the benefit of their bottom lines.” Leonard said the program will … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: In the first major deal made by Greg Silverman since he was promoted to run Warner Bros‘ worldwide feature film production arm, the studio has acquired the upcoming S. Craig Zahler crime novel Mean Business On North Ganson Street as a reteam of Django Unchained stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Jamie Foxx. Zahler will write the script and DiCaprio and his Appian Way partner Jennifer Davisson Killoran will be the producers. Sarah Schechter is steering it for the studio.
The book is in galleys and in the process of being shopped to publishers. The tale starts off with a bang: DiCaprio is a hardened detective who, after being told by a man that his beautiful wife is missing, tells him she is a hooker who obviously made off with his money. After the man commits a desperate tragic act right in the squad room, the disgraced detective is sent to a hellhole rust belt town called Victory, Missouri, where violent crime is skyrocketing. Partnered with an equally bad-assed detective who was demoted for publicly brutalizing a suspect (Foxx), the new partners get to do some real work. Police officers start showing up dead execution-style, and the cops think it might be open season on Victory’s police department. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: WARNER BROS SHAKE-UP: Jeff Robinov Quitting Movie Studio After No New Contract Offered And New Boss and Ex-Pal Kevin Tsujihara’s War Of Silence
(June 24, 2013 – Burbank, CA) Warner Bros. Entertainment today announced a new leadership team to run Warner Bros. Pictures Group, capitalizing on the proven strengths of a number of longtime Studio executives. Sue Kroll will now serve as President, Worldwide Marketing and International Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures; Greg Silverman will now serve as President, Creative Development and Worldwide Production, Warner Bros. Pictures; and Toby Emmerich will continue as President and COO, New Line Cinema, while adding responsibility for Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures. The announcement was made today by Kevin Tsujihara, CEO, Warner Bros., to whom all three executives will report.
Working closely with the management team, Dan Fellman, whose contract has been extended, will continue in his role as President, Domestic Distribution, reporting directly to Tsujihara. Veronika Kwan Vandenberg will continue as President, International Distribution, and ultimately assume responsibility for worldwide distribution, taking on the domestic distribution function upon the planned retirement of Fellman. Kwan Vandenberg will report to Kroll who, in addition to her marketing and distribution responsibilities, will continue to be involved in all aspects of Warner Bros. Pictures’ and New Line Cinema’s releases.
“Warner Bros. is the world’s preeminent motion picture studio with one of the most talented executive benches in the industry,” said Tsujihara. “Collectively, this team has more than 100 years at the company and broad experience across the film business, which will ensure that Warner Bros. Pictures continues as a respected leader in production, marketing and global distribution. I have every confidence that we will continue to deliver the industry’s most compelling, popular and successful movies.”
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FRIDAY 5 AM, 2ND UPDATE: I’ve learned that Jeff Robinov’s attorney Skip Brittenham officially notified Warner Bros on Thursday that it is in breach of the movie mogul’s contract, and he wants to negotiate his exit.
THURSDAY 6 PM UPDATED THROUGHOUT… EXCLUSIVE 2:45 PM: The destabilization of once rock-solid Warner Bros continues. I’ve learned that Jeff Robinov has decided to leave as Warner Brothers Pictures Group President after months of waiting in vain for Time Warner Jeff Bewkes and Warner Bros Chairman Kevin Tsujihara to offer him a new contract when his expires in December. Robinov is on vacation in New Mexico and this week enlisted both his attorney Skip Brittenham and his friend and former Warner Bros chairman Bob Daly to negotiate his exit. Robinov’s frustration follows Bewkes and Tsujihara placing him inside the ‘cone of silence’ in recent weeks ever since the home entertainment chief was appointed as the new Warner Bros CEO and soon to be chairman. No phone calls of congratulations came from Bewkes or Tsujihara to Robinov after last weekend’s record-setting global successful opening of Man Of Steel or any of the studio’s Summer 2013 big worldwide releases, The Great Gatsby and The Hangover Part III.
[EXCLUSIVE below: Ben Affleck and Baz Luhrmann reflect on their relationships with Robinov while Christopher Nolan's is detailed.]
Witnesses tell me that on the LA to NY plane trip to the Superman premiere June 10th, Tsujihara sat for the five hours not saying a word to Robinov who was sitting opposite him. This cruel behavior was in full view of not only Robinov’s execs but also of the Man Of Steel filmmakers like Christopher Nolan whom Robinov had brought to the studio. I’m told that at the Red Carpet gala at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, which should have been his triumph, Robinov left demoralized after just 15 minutes. This, after he and Tsujihara used to be close friends who went on family vacations together. “I’m constantly being marginalized. My job is shrinking day-to-day,” Robinov confided to a pal the other day. “Kevin is starting to push me out by both the things he’s doing and the responsibilities he’s assuming. It’ll end up with everyone reporting to him. The result is that people at the studio are wondering how they can benefit from this or how they can not get hurt by this. Sitting around is not something I can do, or, by the end of the year, the studio will be in a massive mess.”
I’ve learned that the structure being contemplated for Warner Bros Pictures is not for any one person to replace Robinov, who was a rarity in recent Hollywood in that he did both the business and creative top job at a studio. Instead, his Warner Bros Pictures executives Sue Kroll, President of Worldwide Marketing; Dan Fellman, President of Domestic Distribution; and Greg Silverman, President of Production, would run the studio as a triumvirate under Tsujihara who will take over the business side even though he has no such movie experience. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros has made a whopping deal to acquire screen rights to Unholy Night, the new novel by Seth Grahame-Smith. Grahame-Smith will write the script, and he and KatzSmith partner David Katzenberg will produce with Heyday Films’ David Heyman and Jeffrey Clifford. I’ve heard that the deal is in the vicinity of $2 million upfront for the rights to the book and for Grahame-Smith to adapt it. The studio got first look at the book, as both KatzSmith and Heyday are based at Warner Bros. That is where Heyman produced the Harry Potter film series and where Grahame-Smith scripted the Tim Burton-directed Dark Shadows. Unholy Night, an action/adventure surrounding the Three Wise Men of the Nativity, will be published in April by Grand Central.
Setting up a film based around the birth of Jesus Christ gives Warner Bros its third high-profile movie based on a seminal religious story. The studio has been discussing the possibility of Steven Spielberg directing Gods And Kings, an epic-sized film about the life of Moses scripted by Michael Green and Stuart Hazeldine. And Warner Bros recently set up a project being scripted by Joe Eszterhas and Mel Gibson (who has first option to direct) about the heroic story of Jewish warrior Judah Maccabee, who teamed with his father and four brothers to lead the Jewish revolt against the Greek-Syrian armies that had conquered Judea in the second century B.C. Maccabee’s triumph and struggle against tyranny and oppression where people gave their lives so that others would be free to worship is celebrated by Jews all over the world through Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. Read More »
BREAKING: Warner Bros Pictures production president Greg Silverman has re-upped for another term with the studio, it was announced by Warner Bros Pictures Group president Jeff Robinov. Silverman, who signed on for another three years (his deal was up at year’s end) continues to report to Robinov, steering development activities and budget in the division, and his responsibilities are broadening. The re-up comes at a time when Warner Bros seems to be putting together more high-profile projects than any major in town. “Greg has a phenomenal aptitude for fostering filmmaker relationships and discovering new talent around town,” Robinov said. “He demonstrated incredible leadership toward our creative team, and I am so pleased that he continue to oversee our slate.”
Silverman started with the studio in 1999, and after a short stint at Revolution Studios, returned as a vice president and began rising in the ranks. Projects he steered included The Dark Knight, 300, The Hangover and Inception, and he also worked on films that included The Matrix, Batman Begins, Troy and Get Smart. Not bad for a guy who got his movie start working craft services on the independent film Two Guys Talkin’ About Girls before getting an assistant job at TriStar.
BREAKING: Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are reuniting in their first real picture partnership since Good Will Hunting. The Boston guys are taking on the story of New England’s most notorious gangster, Whitey Bulger. Warner Bros will make the film, Affleck will direct, co-star and produce with Damon, who’ll play Bulger. They’ll produce under their Pearl Street Films banner. Boardwalk Empire creator and writer Terence Winter is penning the script. Casey Affleck, who also starred in Good Will Hunting and Gone Baby Gone, will play a supporting role as well.
“Matt and I have been looking for something to do together for some time,” Affleck said. “We’ve heard about Whitey Bulger since we were kids, and we are excited by the prospect of putting it on screen.” Ironically, Damon played a crooked cop in The Departed, the Martin Scorsese-directed film that took a page from the Bulger story. He is the notorious South Boston crime boss who fled in 1994 and remained a fugitive for 16 years — 12 of them on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List. He was arrested in June in Santa Monica. The story will cover Bulger’s youth to his incarceration on Alcatraz, through his rise to become a mob boss while secretly serving as an FBI informant for decades. Pearl Street’s Chay Carter will be executive producer. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: KatzSmith Productions partners David Katzenberg and Seth Grahame-Smith have just signed a two-year first-look feature producing deal at Warner Bros. While rights are still being worked out, one of their first projects is expected to be a sequel to Beetlejuice, the 1988 Tim Burton-directed hit that starred Michael Keaton as a ghoul hired by a recently deceased couple to drive the new owners out of their house. Burton and Keaton made the movie while they were working on the studio’s first Batman film, which was released the following year. Beetlejuice also starred Alec Baldwin, Winona Ryder and Geena Davis. The film will not be a remake; the intention is to reboot it by advancing the storyline of the original, which was done by The Geffen Company and Warner Bros.
The Warner Bros producing deal grew from the screenwriting work that Grahame-Smith did for Burton on Dark Shadows, currently in production with Johnny Depp heading the cast. While Warner Bros and other studios continue to cut back producing pacts, in KatzSmith the studio gets two partners who while just getting started producing features bring a lot of their own ideas to the table and are established writers and aspiring feature directors.
“We first got to know Seth through his fantastic work on Dark Shadows, and it immediately became a priority to expand our relationship with … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Harlan Coben, one of the biggest-selling mystery writers in America, is finally in line to have one of his books made into a major Hollywood film. And all he had to do was make a detour through France.
Warner Bros and Universal Pictures have optioned rights to Coben’s thriller Tell No One. Ben Affleck is attached to direct, and the script will be written by Chris Terrio. Terrio scripted Argo, the film Affleck is preparing to direct next for Warner Bros. Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall will be the producers. The studios will co-develop the picture, with Warner Bros releasing domestically and Universal Pictures International launching it overseas. The deal involves Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp, and that’s where the French connection comes in. The new project is basically a remake of the French film adaptation of Coben’s book, which was directed by Guillaume Canet.
Coben originally set up his book at Sony Pictures in 2002. The studio hired Star Trek scribes Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, no less. Coben has a page-turning writing style, but his mysteries aren’t seamless screen transitions. It never quite came together and Sony let it go. Canet then got involved, figured out how to make the premise work, set it up at EuropaCorp and turned it into French film. The plot involves a pediatrician who is out one night frolicking by a lake with his wife when she suddenly vanishes and he is severely beaten when he tries to find her. When she turns up murdered, he is prime suspect. That’s until she’s declared a victim of a caught serial killer. Years later, bodies turn up in the same spot and the nightmare is repeated, the pediatrician again under suspicion. Right around that time, he’s given evidence that his wife wasn’t dead at all. Canet managed to make all of that work, anchored by the fact the protagonist never got over the death of his wife. Sarah Schechter and Greg Silverman are running the project for Warner Bros, and Adam Yoelin is steering it for Kennedy/Marshall. Read More »
UPDATE: So here’s what happened and why both sides are accurate. Warner Bros’ Greg Silverman, who’s in charge of the film development budget, told his group that he wanted to focus on specs rather than pitches and hiring new writers for the end of the year. The issue isn’t money because the studio has plenty of dough. So, to clarify, the studio is sill hiring writers and buying pitches but that’s not where Silverman wants the emphasis to be right now.
Agents today are complaining to me that Warner Bros isn’t going to hire screenwriters to embark on new projects for the rest of the year. “Warner Bros is saying it won’t hear pitches or buy specs until after January 1st unless it’s something close to greenlight. So writers are out of luck until then,” one top tenpercenter passed along which other reps confirmed. Interesting, because Warner Bros lately has been a very aggressive buyer of material and hirer of scribes. On the surface, this sounds like the usual, we’re out of money so we need to get re-funded in the new fiscal year problem many studios (Sony Pictures) suffer annually. But Warner Bros tells me, “Not true. We have money and are actively buying.” I love controversy.