EXCLUSIVE: The Walking Dead star Norman Reedus will spend his hiatus from the AMC show in the stellar ensemble cast of Triple Nine, the John Hillcoat-directed heist film that begins production this summer. Open Road Films pre-bought domestic distribution rights just prior to Berlin and will release the film wide next year. Reedus, who just completed his fourth season playing Daryl Dixon, joins Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Winslet, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Teresa Palmer, and Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman in the Batman Vs. Superman film). Matt Cook scripted the thriller, in which a crew of dirty cops is blackmailed by the Russian mob to execute a virtually impossible heist. The only way to pull it off is to manufacture a 999, police code for “officer down.” Their plan is turned upside down when the unsuspecting rookie they set up to die foils the attack, triggering a breakneck, action-packed finale filled with double-crosses, greed and revenge.
SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of last night’s Season 4 finale of The Walking Dead.
Don’t let anyone tell you that AMC’s The Walking Dead doesn’t pack a hell of a lot more than zombies into the series — as last night’s bloody and emotionally charged Season 4 finale proved. Besides the ever-present undead, the fourth season saw a big change in leadership among Sheriff Rick Grimes and the survivors, the outbreak of a raging influenza virus in their converted prison home, the exile of one major character, the graphic decapitation of another, the death of a major foe, some revealing backstories, and the scattering of the remaining members of the series in search of a new home and new hope. It also saw Walking Dead shattering cable ratings records again, and a couple of times it beat the usually unbeatable Sunday Night Football on NBC and topped that network’s Winter Olympics coverage three weeks in a row in the key adults 18-49 demo. There’s a good chance that when last night’s ratings come in later today, we’ll see another record. Walking Dead executive producer Scott Gimple, who just completed his first full season as showrunner, talked with me about last night’s finale as well as what fans can expect in Season 5 this fall and some changes behind the scenes.
AMC Greenlights First Comedy Pilot, Sets Projects From Chris Carter, Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg And Kevin Smith, Adds Dave Erickson To ‘The Walking Dead’ Spinoff
As part of its upfront, AMC as usual is making a slew of programming announcements. They include an increased focus on comedy development, including a first pilot green light to a half-hour project, We Hate Paul Revere, written, executive produced and starring Ethan Sandler and Adrian Wenner, and several comedy projects in development including one from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (This is the End) and half-hours toplined/written by John Leguizamo and Wyatt Cenac. On the drama side, AMC’s development slate includes projects from Chris Carter, Amy Lippman and Josh Applebaum, André Nemec, Scott Rosenberg & Jeff Pinkner and producer Aaron Kaplan.
AMC also announced the renewal of Kevin Smith’s unscripted series Comic Book Men for a fourth season.The network is expanding its relationship with Smith to include the development of a late-night project, Hollywood Babble-On, starring Smith and his co-host of their popular podcast, Ralph Garman, to be produced by Wilshire Studios and executive produced by Smith, Ralph Garman and Gary Auerbach. Additionally, AMC is also working with Smith on the development of a docu-series featuring super-collector and Comic Book Men regular Robert Bruce. Produced by Original Media and Smith’s Smodcast Pictures, and exec produced by Dan Laikind, Charlie Corwin, Elyse Seiden and Smith, Bruce and his fellow experts scour the country searching real estate sales, auction houses and flea markets on a quest to find rare items that will feed the needs of his demanding clients and add to Bruce’s own colossal collection.
AMC also has made an overall deal with Dave Erickson (Sons Of Anarchy), who will co-write, along with Robert Kirkman, and serve as an executive producer on the unnamed The Walking Dead companion series. “AMC is introducing more hours of original programming and the most robust, diverse development slate in our network’s history,” said AMC president Charlie Collier. Unwavering is our commitment to the eclectic, quality dramatic series that have come to define our brand and to the unconventional unscripted worlds we love to explore. And today we also happily dive head-first into our first-ever scripted comedy pilot.” Here is AMC’s full slate, which includes drama, comedy and unscripted projects as well as two books optioned for series:
Issues faced by TV writers again are the sticking point in the WGA negotiations with the studios. In 2007, when the impasse led to a writers strike, it was residuals from series distributed online. This time around, it is the restrictive contracts for writers working in cable and on digital platforms. Under pattern bargaining, the deal between the WGA and AMPTP was expected to be similar to the recent DGA agreement with the studios with two writer-specific issues brought to the table by WGA — parity between cable and broadcast pay and the notion of exclusively and options. One of the two seem to have been resolved. “Every aspect of our contract has been negotiated and agreed upon with two exceptions — options and exclusivity — which remain points of contention between us,” negotiating committee co-chairs Chip Johannessen and Billy Ray wrote to their constituency last night. What are options and exclusivity, why are they so important to writers and what do writers seek to accomplish on them ?
While the number of scripted cable series at the time of the 2007 negotiations was a fraction of the number of such shows on broadcast, there is now parity between the two, with cable and digital scripted programming gaining an edge with rapid expansion. For instance, during calendar year 2013, broadcast networks introduced 23 new series, while cable/digital debuted almost 40, not counting kids fare. That means that soon there may be more writers working in cable and digital than in broadcast, all of them facing the underemployment problem that is at the heart of the current WGA-AMPTP stand-off.
What has been hailed as major part of the lure of cable as a superior creative environment — shorter orders — has become a major practical problem for writers. As Johannessen and Ray pointed out in their letter, broadcast dramas employ writers for 10 months a year to produce 22 episodes, followed by a two-month unpaid hiatus before writers start work on the following season. In cable/digital, 10-13 episodes a season is the norm, though shorter orders — as few as eight or even six (HBO’s Getting On) — also are accepted.
“Writers on short-order shows now find themselves working for half a year or less, then stuck on unpaid hiatus for open-ended periods while waiting to see if their show — and their contract — will be renewed,” Johannessen and Ray wrote. According to a standard cable contract, because of the long lag time between seasons, shows have an option on a writer for up to six months after the previous season finale airs or up to 9 months after the season premiere. During that time, they are not getting paid. What’s more, “during this period they are virtually unemployable because studios demand ‘exclusivity’ and ‘first position,’ preventing writers from seeking other work, their ability to make a living cut off,” the letter said. That often involves not only inability to staff on another show, but also write a pilot or work as a producer on one, and, in some cases, even write a feature. The exclusivity is strictly enforced by many studios, and any side gig usually requires an exhaustive process of seeking the studio’s permission, which may or may not be granted.
Next Games and AMC today said the Finnish games company is in production of a mobile game based on The Walking Dead. The game’s worldwide launch will coincide with the Season 5 launch of the series that, for a second year, is No. 1-ranked in the demo in the U.S. “We chose to team up with Next Games because of their outstanding creative and technical talent, as well as a willingness to re-imagine the unique and compelling world of The Walking Dead, which has built a significant and passionate global fan community,” said Charlie Collier, AMC president.
The mid-season premiere of AMC’s The Walking Dead is set to air Sunday night, but some Xbox users got a unscheduled sneak peek when Season 4′s ninth episode appeared for free on Xbox Video this morning. It has since …
‘Walking Dead’ Panel At TV Academy Reveals No “Protection” In Season 4 Return; Star Andrew Lincoln Too Sick To Attend
“This is the first time since Season 1 where they don’t have any protection,” The Walking Dead EP and director Greg Nicotero said tonight of the remainder of the show’s fourth season. “You get a sweeping sense of the world again, and our characters are thrust back in it,” he added without giving away any more than that.
Just days before the AMC series comes back from its midseason break, Nicotero was joined at the TV Academy by creator/executive producer Robert Kirkman, EP Gale Anne Hurd, EP and showrunner Scott Gimple, EP Dave Alpert, stars Norman Reedus, Danai Gurira, Steven Yeun and other members of WD’s main cast. Unlike a similar appearance at the TV Academy around this time last year — when recently exited EP Glen Mazzara was suddenly a no-show — there wasn’t any controversy, but there was another notable absence. Lead Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick Grimes on the show, was scheduled to be there tonight but ended up missing the evening due to a cold. “I am so sorry I’m not to be able to attend this event, but I am currently the walking dead tonight,” the actor said in a note to the audience read by Gimple in a terrible British accent.
Carl Grimes’ star in The Walking Dead universe continues to rise. After his father Rick had dominated The Walking Dead posters since the hit series’ launch, he is now sharing the spotlight with his son. …
2ND UPDATE 7:40 PM: The most colorful reaction to today’s lawsuit once again came from Sons Of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter, who previously blasted AMC over the dismissal of Glen Mazzara, Frank Darabont‘s successor on The Walking Dead. Sutter wrote on Twitter, “go frank. fuck those ghoulish, dead-eyed scumbags in their green-gobbed asses. i ain’t talking about the zombies.”
PREVIOUS 11:25 AM: AMC‘s The Walking Dead is the biggest show on television but its developer Frank Darabont has yet to receive any money as a profit participant. Today, Darabont and his agency CAA filed a lawsuit (read it here) against AMC, accusing the network in “self dealing” by setting an unrealistically low license fee for the zombie series it also produces and employing questionable accounting practices thus depriving profit participants of compensation. The complaint also alleges Darabont was wrongfully terminated from the show, that he should continue to receive an executive producer credit and is entitled to proceeds from The Walking Dead offshoots Talking Dead and the upcoming spinoff from Robert Kirkman, on whose graphic novel The Walking Dead was based. UPDATE: AMC declined comment on the litigation. Darabont and CAA are asking for unspecified “monetary damages” to be determined by a jury trial.
Judging by the history of vertical integration lawsuits, the odds are small that the dispute would go to trial. There have been a slew of “self dealing” complaints since the 1995 relaxation of TV’s financial interest-syndication rules — all of them eventually settled. The list includes Home Improvement producers’ suit against Disney, NYPD Blue exec producer Steven Bochco’s, X-Files star David Duchovny’s and M*A*S*H star Alan Alda’s complaints against 20th Century Fox TV, and more recently Will & Grace creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan’s case against NBC and Smallville creators Miles Millar and Alfred Gough’s against Warner Bros TV. They all accused a studio of not negotiating a fair (or “arms’ length”) deal when selling a series to a corporate sibling, or “self-dealing,” which had hurt profit participants’ financial returns. The difference is that Darabont was also fired from the show early into its run, a move Darabont and CAA are using in their case against AMC. The lawsuit, filed today with the New York Supreme Court, comes after sources say efforts by Darabont and CAA to resolve their issues were “fundamentally rebuffed” by AMC. The 73-page complaint was accompanied by a summons from the plaintiffs for AMC to reply by mid-January or risk default judgment.