‘Action Star’ conquers world

GRB reality skein lines up int'l sales

L.A.-based producer-distrib GRB Entertainment has licensed its upcoming “Next Action Star” — a project put together with “Matrix” maven Joel Silver — to Rupert Murdoch-backed satcaster Sky One in the U.K., and to TVNZ in New Zealand and Sony’s AXN action channels around the globe.

The 10-episode series, which will likely get a midseason airdate on NBC domestically, sets out to find the action movie stars of tomorrow. The final pair, one male and one female, will be chosen to star in a telepic produced by Silver.

GRB brought the project to Silver’s eponymous company on the Warner lot last year and will share revenues with Silver and the Peacock web. (GRB retains international rights on the series.)

Sixteen-year-old GRB made its name as a producer of disastertainment series for cablers such as Discovery and USA. It now hopes to shift into high gear with primetime reality, character-driven storylines and more sophisticated deals with ad sponsors.

Prexy-CEO Gary R. Benz told Daily Variety the company increasingly is developing shows of “hybrid appeal” that focus on character and emotions, not just on derring-do.

As a scrappy indie producer, Benz thinks scripted and nonscripted elements can be combined to create more cost-effective programming for the major networks.

Benz added that the privately held company, which he said is profitable, is operating at near full-throttle, producing 11 series for as many outlets in 2003, from the History Channel and the Weather Channel to Country Music Television and A&E. All told, the company will churn out 100 hours of programming this year.

Among them are several female-skewing skeins, including “Second Chance,” which reunites long-lost lovers, and “Critical Condition,” a “trauma drama” set in a real-life emergency room.

Company’s library of 500 hours is valued at $25 million.

GRB exec VP Michael Branton, who has worked with Benz for 20 years, said the recent boom in reality has opened doors for the company.

“We’re called upon by so many outlets because we have the reputation of bringing projects in on time and on budget,” he said. “We also like to work with creative producers who bring ideas to us.”

Company does a lot of its own post-production at its facility, Aardvark, in the San Fernando Valley.

“Next Action Star” is the most ambitious project the company has yet undertaken.

Sky announced the pickup of the show on Wednesday.

” ‘Next Action Star’ will deliver a combination of the most successful elements of the reality TV format, capitalizing on the drama of action filmmaking and the drive and ambition of the contestants,” Sky One controller Sara Ramsden said.

Silver is exec producing the reality series with Benz, and with Rick Telles and Cris Abrego of Brass Ring Entertainment. Silver Pictures TV’s Gregory Noveck and Steve Richards will co-exec produce.

(Debra Johnson in London contributed to this report.)

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