'Boomtown' scribes plot crime drama

NBC is shelling out six-figure coin for “Money,” an hourlong crime drama from “Boomtown” scribes Chris Brancato and Bert Salke that “S.W.A.T.” helmer Clark Johnson is attached to direct.

Skein revolves around FBI and Treasury Dept. agents who target and track down big-ticket criminals — think the kind of folks profiled by Dominick Dunne in Vanity Fair — by following their money trail. Following strong interest by at least one other web, NBC has made a premium script commitment to the project, which Brancato and Salke will write and exec produce for fall 2004. There’s a mid- six-figure penalty attached if the project isn’t picked up to pilot.

Deal reps the first project sold by Brancato and Salke since the duo set up their production shingle at 20th earlier this year (Daily Variety, March 11). Crime drama is also something familiar to the three creative principals: In addition to “Boomtown,” Brancato and Salke wrote and produced the FX (and later NBC) drama pilot “Dope,” while Johnson directed the pilots for both “The Shield” and “The Wire.”

NBC Entertainment prexy Jeff Zucker said he was glad to be back in business with Brancato and Salke.

New take on genre

“What we’re most interested in is these guys,” Zucker said. “They’ve been a part of the NBC family (with ‘Boomtown’), and we’re really high on them. They’ve also come up with an interesting take on the (crime) genre.”

“Money” will “operate on two levels,” Brancato said, by showing both the detective work done by the show’s two leads (a blue-collar FBI agent and a slightly more white-collar Treasury agent) as well as the outrageous crimes committed by ambitious crooks.

Added Salke: “The show’s about these criminals who really go for the gold and this great ‘Columbo’ aspect of the guys who make $50,000 a year to bring down (the criminals).”

Salke noted the overriding theme of money would allow “Money” to explore a wide number of storylines.

“When we were researching ‘Dope’ a couple of years ago, we discovered that 86% of all crimes are motivated by money,” Salke said. “So just about any story you can do on ‘Boomtown’ or ‘CSI,’ you can do with ‘Money.’ It’s a window to do almost any kind of crime.”

Mix of fiction, reality

Duo plan to take inspiration from actual events while also crafting wholly original tales of greed gone bad.

“The ambition that makes this country great is also what motivates criminals to do almost anything, including murder, to make a big score,” Brancato said.

As for Clark, Brancato and Salke said securing the thesp-turned-helmer’s involvement was a major boost to “Money.”

“What Clark does so well is gritty procedural stuff, and we want to make this as authentic as possible,” Brancato said. Salke noted the duo had “been chasing Clark for 2½ years.”

Johnson is best known to viewers for his role on NBC’s “Homicide: Life on the Street.” He then transitioned to directing, helming HBO’s “Boycott” and the pilots for FX’s “The Shield” and HBO’s “The Wire” before making his feature debut with “S.W.A.T.,” which opens Friday.

Skein was packaged by UTA, which reps Clark, Brancato and Salke.

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