Weitz brothers ink 18-month deal, prep 'White' as 1st pic
Chris and Paul Weitz, directors of “About a Boy” and “American Pie,” have created their own production company, Depth of Field, and inked a first-look producing deal with Universal Pictures.
U has optioned historian Stanley Weintraub’s account of a WWI Christmas cease-fire, “White Night,” as the first feature project under the deal.
The 18-month deal, signed late last year, grants U a first look only at Weitz brothers producing projects. The duo, who wrote “Antz” for DreamWorks and directed “Down to Earth” for Paramount, will continue to write and helm projects around town outside the Depth of Field banner. They’ll also take Depth of Field projects to other studios should U pass on them.
The brothers have tapped Andrew Miano, a three-year vet of William Morris, to head production and development for the shingle. They’ve also hired creative execs Kerry Kohansky and Matt Eddy.
The Weitzes described their company as a boutique that’s “modest in size but ambitious in scope.”
“Silent Night,” they said, will be character-driven and writer-friendly — qualities they hope will become hallmarks of the company.
The book is about an unlikely episode of the Great War, in which soldiers on both sides spontaneously laid down their arms, exchanged gifts, played soccer and serenaded each other. It’s “a war movie without that much war,” the Weitzes said. Tome, repped by Hotchkiss & Associates, was published last year by the Free Press.
Other projects could be comparatively modest in scale.
“One thing we hope to do is to get directors who’ve only done independent films,” they said, noting that U’s rejuvenated Focus label could serve as a conduit for such pics.
Deal with U is the fruit of a longstanding relationship with the studio that began when U hired the Weitzes to make “American Pie” their directorial debut.
“They’ve taken risks with us along the way,” said Chris.
The Weitzes are also exec producers, with Danny Zuker and Warren Bell, of the Frog sitcom “Off Centre,” produced by Warner Bros. TV and DreamWorks TV.
Loosely based on Chris Weitz’s life in New York after college, the skein was just renewed for a second season, migrating to Thursdays at 9:30. It stars Eddie Kaye Thomas (“American Pie”) and Sean Maguire.
Repped by WMA and Barnes, Morris, Klein, Mark & Yorn, the brothers have also produced “American Pie 2,” written “Nutty Professor 2” and penned a draft of “Meet the Fokkers,” among other projects, as well as acted in various features.
U will cover the overhead for the shingle, which is housed off the lot in a green-shingled Victorian townhouse a stone’s throw from such Hollywood landmarks as Musso and Frank’s.
It’s a suitable locale for a production company with deep Hollywood roots. The Weitzes have familial ties to old Hollywood. Their grandfather was agent Paul Kohner. Their mother, Susan Kohner, was nominated for an Oscar in 1960 for Douglas Sirk’s “Imitation of Life.”
Chris Weitz, who owns a share of two nearby bars — Star Shoes and Beauty Bar — said the company is invested in the future of the neighborhood.