Hypnotic entrances WBTV

Co. to get first crack at shingle's output

Warner Bros. Television has fallen under the spell of Hypnotic.

Studio has inked a first-look development deal with the Santa Monica-based shingle headed by helmer Doug Liman (“The Bourne Identity”) and former NBC Studios chief Dave Bartis. Duo are exec producers on the WBTV-produced, Liman-directed Fox drama “The O.C.,” which bows next month.

Pact gives WBTV first crack at Hypnotic’s TV output, while also contributing funding toward the shingle’s overhead and development fund. The deal, a one-year agreement with an option for another season, reps the first time Hypnotic has allied itself with a studio for TV production.

WBTV topper Peter Roth called Liman “one of the most gifted, innovative, directors in our industry.”

“He has his finger on the pulse of what is happening in pop culture,” Roth said. “We are truly looking forward to working with Doug and his creative team at Hypnotic.”

Hypnotic jumped headfirst into small-screen development last winter, setting up half a dozen projects at various webs. Bartis said he and Liman “wanted to have the chance to work with as many people as we could” during the shingle’s frosh season.

“But it’s a lot of work to do without having a studio behind you,” Bartis said. “We established what we’re able to do last season, and while we want to continue to work hard, we want to have a team behind us.”

Liman said hooking up with WBTV wasn’t a tough call, particularly given Hypnotic’s experience with the studio on “The O.C.”

“I really respond well to passion, to people who have strong opinions and fight hard for what they believe in, and I just find Peter Roth so passionate,” Liman said.

Making television, Liman added, “is not like stamping out cookies. I like to butt heads with someone who’s going to come at a project the same way I do.”

Bartis agreed that WBTV repped “the best studio to have in your corner,” because of Roth and his team of execs.

“It’s a full package over there, and I don’t think you have that combination at other studios.”

Liman said working on “The O.C.” has hooked him on directing TV, so much so that he decided to helm the second episode of the series. Schedule permitting, it’s expected Liman will direct at least one project this season.

“I’ve become very conscious of the strengths of film and TV,” Liman said. “There are stories I want to tell that don’t fit into the film format.”

While the bulk of Hypnotic’s 2002-03 development was drama, Bartis and Liman are aiming for a more even split between hours and half-hours.

“We both feel we have strong comedic instincts,” said Bartis, noting his experience in comedy while developing “Will & Grace” at NBC Studios, and Liman’s use of humor in “Swingers” and “Go.”

Working with CAA-repped Liman and Bartis are Hypnotic TV execs Laura Armstrong and Gene Klein.

On the feature front, Liman’s currently prepping for the Brad Pitt starrer “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” for Regency.

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