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Showrunners Wanted: Networks Grapple With Lack Of Experienced Writing Producers

By | Wednesday May 7, 2014 @ 3:52pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

panic-buttonIt is becoming an annual tradition: after pilots are shot and delivered, there is a scramble to find showrunners. More and more newly picked up series are in a need of a seasoned showrunner every year. Yesterday, NBC picked up four pilots to series. Half of them, dramas Allegiance and State Of Affairs, don’t have a showrunner. Similarly, Fox picked up three pilots to series and ordered 10 more episodes for comedy Mulaney. Of the four also half, drama Empire and comedy Mulaney, have required a showrunner hire. All four were were picked up to series without a showrunner locked in. Mulaney, which was ordered to series with a six-episode order in October, has since tapped veteran Jon Pollack for the job, working with creator-star John Mulaney. I hear Patrick Massett and John Zinman had been approached for showrunnersAllegiance, written-directed by George Nolfi, Tom Szentgyorgyi is eyed for State Of Affairs if The Mentalist is cancelled, which appears likely, while the field for hip-hop drama Empire, written by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong and directed by Daniels, appears wide open. State Of Affairs has no writing producer on board after Alexi Hawley, who penned the original script, left, and Joe Carnahan, who received high marks for rewriting and directing the pilot, was only contracted for the pilot as he is busy with The Blacklist. Meanwhile, Empire and Allegiance hail from top feature auspices with no series background. Bringing fresh TV talent (Mulaney, Hawley) or feature talent (Daniels, Strong, Nolfi) to TV is to be applauded. It’s the lack of showrunner talent to support their vision that is alarming.

It’s not that yesterday’s series orders came as a surprise. All pilots that received pickups at Fox and NBC this week had been early favorites, with orders appearing all but certain weeks ago when the showrunner searches started. There just aren’t that many available showrunners to choose from for a match on a specific project. Why is that?

Industry insiders trace the problem back a decade ago when the studios cut back on staff writers, breaking the merit based system for growing writing producers. Read More »

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Starz Renews David S. Goyer’s ‘Da Vinci’s Demons’ For Season 3 With John Shiban As Showrunner, Sets ‘Blackbirds’ From Shiban

By | Tuesday May 6, 2014 @ 11:53am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Da Vinci's Demons Renewed Season 3EXCLUSIVE: Seven episodes into Da Vinci’s Demons‘ 10-episode second season run, Starz has renewed the historical fantasy series created by David S. Goyer for a third season. It will be shepherded by John Shiban who is joining as executive producer/showrunner. Goyer, who is juggling multiple film and TV projects, will remain an executive producer. “I’m very proud of how1-john-shiban-325(1)this modern take on the endlessly fascinating Leonardo da Vinci — everyone from the writers, directors, cast and all the crew have been invaluable and will continue to be for what we have ahead,”  Goyer said. “I’ve been a fan of John’s work for some time and I’m excited to add his voice to the mix.”

Additionally, Shiban has a drama series in the works at Starz called Blackbirds, based on the novels by Chuck Wendig. The project has set up a writers room, often a pre-cursor to a series pickup at the pay cable network. Read More »

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Leonardo DiCaprio & Tom Hanks To Produce HBO Movie About Mikhail Gorbachev

By | Thursday April 4, 2013 @ 11:02am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: HBO Films is developing Gorbachev, a movie about former Soviet Union president Mikhail Gorbachev from Leonardo DiCaprio‘s Appian Way and Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman’s Playtone. Gorbachev serves as a consultant on the project, which captures the dissolution of the USSR through his eyes. Gorbachev was the first and last President of the Soviet Union, serving from 1988 until the union’s dissolution in 1991. He ushered democracy into the Soviet block by introducing glasnost and perestroika and helped end the Cold War.

The movie, written by former Hell On Wheels showrunner John Shiban and executive produced by DiCaprio, Jennifer Killoran, Hanks, Goetzman and Industry Entertainment’s Keith Addis, stems from DiCaprio’s relationship with Gorbachev. The two met when the Russian Nobel Peace Prize winner appeared in DiCaprio’s environmental movie The 11th Hour. Gorbachev later presented the actor with an environmental award at the Cinema for Peace Gala in Berlin. Appian Way and Addis originally developed the project with another writer, Paul Webb. Shiban came in with a new take. The pitch was taken to HBO, which came on board and brought in its go-to producers for marquee long-form projects, Playtone. In addition to Gorbachev, serving as consultants on the movie are Gorbachev’s long-time aide Pavel Palazhchenko, who started off as his … Read More »

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Kurt Sutter & John Shiban Developing Action/Horror Drama For FX

By | Tuesday February 26, 2013 @ 10:16am PST
Nellie Andreeva

Sons of Anarchy creator/ showrunner Kurt Sutter has teamed with former Hell on Wheels showrunner John Shiban to develop Lucas Stand, a dark action/horror drama series for FX through Fox 21. Based on an idea by Sutter, Lucas Stand features both episodic and serialized elements. It follows the salvation quest of a damaged former special ops soldier who has been chosen to traverse time and place to hunt down and kill Hell’s law-breaking demons. The project further extends Sutter’s relationship with FX and falls under the deal he has with FX Prods. and 20th TV/Fox 21. Sutter; his wife, Sons of Anarchy star Katey Sagal; and Belle Zwerdling are also developing a dark comedy for the network, Diva. Clown. Killer, which is eyed as a potential starring vehicle for Sagal. Lucas Stand is Shiban’s first project at FX.

The partnership between Sutter and Shiban comes two months after Sutter blasted AMC over the big showrunner turnover on the network’s series. His post was triggered by the firing of Glen Mazzara from The Walking Dead, which came on the heels of Shiban’s decision to step down as showrunner of another AMC series, Hell On Wheels. Sutter and Shiban are with ICM Partners.

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