Division pushing to get projects aired
HOLLYWOOD — Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment has renewed its efforts to get jiggy with TV, landing a 13-episode commitment for an animated series at Nickelodeon, as well as a slew of drama, comedy and telepic projects at the broadcast nets.
The development roster reps the largest push to date by Overbrook’s two-year-old TV division to get product on the air. Overbrook has yet to launch a series, but did land a comedy pilot at the WB last year starring Nick Cannon.
This year, besides the Nick series, Smith, Overbrook partner James Lassiter and head of television David Tochterman have landed script deals for three sitcoms, three dramas and one TV movie at various webs.
“We’re having a great year,” Lassiter said. “This is our first full season of development, and David has done an amazing job.”
Smith, who also remains deeply involved with the day-to-day oversight of Overbrook even as he remains busy in front of the cameras (currently prepping to begin shooting “Ali”) called Tochterman “the ultimate entertainment racehorse.”
“You can bet your money on him,” Smith said. “He’s great with taking a vision and then coming up with a way to pull all those ideas together. ”
Smith said he hopes to build multi-platform entertainment franchises through Overbook, and that television is an important component of those plans.
“What we found with my career is that one aspect of the entertainment industry built upon another,” he said. “It started with music, then television and then the film world crumbled shortly thereafter. What we’re trying to do is create a company that has the synergy to take a music star, for example, and parlay that into success in film and television.”
Topping Tochterman’s development is “The Mark,” an animated series for Nickelodeon based on the Universal feature written by Rob Liefeld and set to star Smith. Smith may provide a voice for the TV version of “The Mark,” but nothing has been decided as of yet.
Meanwhile, Overbrook has also done a deal with newcomer Kat Denning, who appeared as a bat mitzvah diva in a recent episode of “Sex and the City,” to topline the half-hour project “Spoiled Rotten” for Fox. Regency TV would co-produce “Spoiled Rotten,” which comes from exec producer Don Reo (“Blossom,” “My Wife and Kids”) and stars Denning as a sassy 14-year-old who takes over the family house when her parents divorce.
“I love Don Reo,” Smith said. “He’s a guy who doesn’t mind changing something, even if he wrote it, if it’ll make it better.”
Other half-hour projects include the comedy “Family Values,” from Douglas Carter Beane (“To Wong Foo”). Beane’s script, co-produced with Touchstone, centers on a gay man who must raise his sister’s children in New York.
Also, Overbrook has an untitled comedy script at NBC (in conjunction with NBC Studios) from Matt Wickline (“The Hughleys”) and starring standup comic Joe Matarese as a man on the hunt for true love.
Overbrook has also signed thesp Molly Ringwald to a development deal and is currently creating a Gotham-set romantic half-hour series for her. Project is being developed in-house.
On the hour-long side, the company has an action drama set up at UPN from writer Eric Bernt (“Romeo Must Die”) about an urban superhero.
Overbrook also has two dramas set up at NBC: “Section Zero,” from Carlos Coto (“The Pretender”), about a secret branch of the government staffed with criminals to fight other criminals; and a drama from Marilyn Osborne about inspirational teachers (Daily Variety, Nov. 17).
Beyond series, Overbrook has the TV movie “Beauty” set up at NBC. Pic would consist of four thirty-minute takes on beauty from the eyes of indie filmmakers Jamal Joseph (“Knifehand”), Ligiah Villalobos (“Dancing in September”), Tony Bui (“Three Seasons”) and Valerie Red-Horse (“Naturally Native”).
Overbrook has an overall deal with Universal Pictures, but is free to shop around its TV projects, since the studio has no television label. As a result, Tochterman and company have made co-production deals with entities such as Regency TV, Touchstone Television and NBC Studios.
“In an era of vertical integration, it’s important for us to do that,” Tochterman said. “It gives us a better shot of success.”
Much of Overbrook’s development has been set up in conjunction with CAA, which reps both the company and Smith.
“Overbrook is not like a lot of (celebrity-owned) companies,” said CAA television topper Lee Gabler, who works with CAA’s Jeff Jacobs on Overbrook projects. “These people are hands on. Will is in your face, at both the studio and network level. It’s a great collaborative effort between Will, James Lassiter and David Tochterman.”
Smith said he’s looking not only to make money through Overbrook.
“We really enjoy what we’re doing, and we’re trying to create things we’re proud of — things 10 years from now your children will be trying to create a sequel to,” he said.