Ben Stiller’s Red Hour Films is making a major move in television, signing an overall deal with ABC Studios and bringing in veteran film and TV executive Debbie Liebling to run the company’s TV division, Red Hour Television. Under the pact, which will run through May 31, 2013, with an option for another year, Red Hour TV will develop and produce comedy and drama projects for ABC Studios. At the studio, Red Hour joins such pods as Mark Gordon Prods, Shondaland and Brillstein Entertainment Partners. Stiller and Stuart Cornfeld’s Red Hour has ventured in TV before, co-producing several comedy pilots — including an untitled half-hour starring Stiller’s wife, actress Christine Taylor, at CBS; The Station at Fox; and, most recently, Justin Theroux’s Documental at HBO. But now the company is launching a dedicated TV division with Liebling at the helm. “Debbie is an incredibly talented executive,” said Stiller, who started in television as an actor on Saturday Night Live and The Ben Stiller Show. “I am hoping she helps us get a show on the air that is culturally relevant, groundbreaking, and doesn’t get canceled after 12 episodes. If she does that, I will consider the deal a major success.”
Liebling has experience in developing long-running series — she was Chief Development and Production Executive for Comedy Central for seven years, where she developed South Park. Other series she shepherded there include The Man Show, Win Ben Stein’s Money, Battlebots and Primetime Glick. Liebling most recently served as President of Production at Universal Pictures until May, when she exited as part of a department restructuring. At Universal, she oversaw the development and production of Bridesmaids, The Change-Up and Tower Heist, among others. She was previously President of Fox Atomic Pictures and spent five years as EVP Production for 20th Century Fox Films, where she was responsible for such films as Borat and the Stiller-starring Dodgeball, which he also produced. “I have known and worked with Ben over the years and always been in awe of his work ethic and standards and great taste,” Liebling said. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: 20th Century Fox has preemptively acquired The Mountain, a spec script by Helen Childress that Ben Stiller will develop to direct. Stiller and his Red Hour partner Stuart Cornfeld will produce. It’s a re-team for Stiller and Childress, who wrote Reality Bites. The project is a horror story based on characters from Summer, the novel by Edith Wharton. Set in the early 1900s, The Mountain revolves around a young woman who struggles to confront her destiny after stumbling upon a mysterious object that forces her to examine the secrets of her past. It’s a sophisticated horror premise in the vein of Rosemary’s Baby. Stiller and Childress are also developing an adaptation of the children’s book The Snowy Day under his Fox deal. Stiller continues to work on a remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty at Fox that he’ll direct and star in. He’s shooting the Akiva Schaffer-directed comedy Neighborhood Watch with Jonah Hill and Vince Vaughn for Fox.
Original Artists-repped Childress also scripted Mother’s Confidential at Paramount and Allison’s Starting To Happen for Sandra Bullock and Warner Bros.
EXCLUSIVE: New Line has acquired Pregnancy Pact, a comedy pitch that Sam Pitman and Adam Cole-Kelly will write for Red Hour Productions. The comedy follows three lifelong best friends who make an ill-conceived pact to get the women in their lives pregnant at the same time. Their goal is to avoid having to make friends with other new parents when their child is born. Instead, it tests their friendship and marriages. It’s considered a strong vehicle for three young actors, and already some are circling, though no one is attached yet. The project will be produced by Red Hour’s Ben Stiller and Stuart Cornfeld. Erica Steinberg, who brought it in, will be exec producer. The writers, who first got on the map when their script The Diversification of Noah Miller made the Black List, are also rewriting a Russell Brand comic vehicle at Paramount, and they have just set up a pair of TV pilots. They are writing First Ones In for Jamie Tarses, Sony and CBS, and Ex-Laws for Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky and ABC Television Studios and ABC. The scribes are repped by WME and Management 360.
EXCLUSIVE: Ben Stiller’s Red Hour Digital has started work on The Fake Trailer Project, a digital project inspired by Stiller’s own fake trailers that were shown in short doses in the comedy Tropic Thunder. The new project, essentially a series of at least 12 short trailer parodies, will be distributed online via a partner to be named shortly. The plan is to bring together top actors and filmmakers across all genres to take part. I’m now told that they’ll come one per week, starting in the late fall or winter.
Stiller will produce with Stuart Cornfeld and Mike Rosenstein through Red Hour Digital, with longtime Red Hour collaborator Robert Cohen exec producing and directing some of the shorts. Among the actors and directors who’ll contribute content are Stiller’s Tropic Thunder co-writer Justin Theroux, Night at the Museum scribes Tom Lennon & Ben Garant, and Clueless helmer Amy Heckerling.
Beyond Tropic Thunder, the fake trailer has provided comic currency in films like Grindhouse (where the Danny Trejo phony trailer Machete was turned into a feature). My personal favorite trailer parody was one Jerry Seinfeld came up with years ago to promote his documentary Comedian, which featured actual trailer voice-over announcer Hal Douglas.
Here was one of the fake trailers used in Tropic Thunder, featuring Robert Downey Jr as Kirk Lazarus: