Oscar-nominated director Norman Jewison’s Yorktown Prods. and Toronto-based Skyvision Entertainment have joined forces to produce six episodes of “The Painted Word,” the Showtime Network’s latest anthology series.

Will also direct

In addition to executive producing the shows, Jewison will direct at least one episode, while other directors, including Joe Dante, Roland Joffe and John Boorman will also each helm a segment.

Tentatively scheduled for a fall 1994 debut, the show will bring together classic paintings from such artists as Van Gogh, Matisse, Renoir and Monet that will magically come to life as actors portray the artwork’s story as interpreted by the writer and director of each episode.

Each episode will reflect the style, period and grace of its corresponding painting, using similar composition, color and texture.

Production of the episodes, which are each budgeted at between $ 600,000 and $ 700,000, is set to begin in January. Because of Skyvision’s involvement in the show’s production, some of the shows will be shot in Canada.

Executive producers of the series are Jewison, Cathy Konrad, Brian K. Ross and Kevin Gillis, while Scott Frank and Dan Halperin will produce.

Top creative union

The deal for the project, which will bring together many of Hollywood’s top directors, writers and actors, was formed by Intl. Creative Management’s Bob Sanitsky and Rick Rosen.

Asked about why he got involved with the series, Jewison, whose episode will be based on a painting by David Hockney, said, “We’re trying to make art and literature more accessible.”

“One of the things that originally attracted us was that like the paintings, there is a timeless international quality to this concept,” added Skyvision’s Ross. “We should be able to continue to air the series globally for many years to come.”

Jewison said that he also was intrigued by the idea of developing stories based on paintings.

Meaning of art

“Painting is the primary visual art. It’s what’s behind a painting that makes it a work of art. When you look at a great painting, it has a story that is behind it and that’s what we wanted to show.”

While some of the episodes, including Jewison’s, will be based on living artists, the director said that the production will not consult with those artists as far as getting story approvals.

“We won’t consult with them unless they can write a great screenplay,” Jewison said.

Jewison is currently preparing the romantic comedy, “Him,” for TriStar Pictures, which is set to roll this month.

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