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MTV cues teen comedies for tube

Trio of features to debut on music network

MTV is making a play for a familiar genre but in an unusual arena: Cabler is developing three pics in the spirit of “American Pie” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” that would get their first airing on MTV.

Teen comedies would be partly financed by a separate DVD release; MTV would supervise the release of the pics under an as-yet-unnamed banner.

Movies could even receive an eventual theatrical release if reception in other venues is strong, execs said.

Project will fall under the auspices of MTV Enterprises exec veep Jeff Yapp and MTV programming topper Tony DiSanto.

Tony Krantz’s Flame Ventures, which is in a joint venture for the pics with MTV, will produce.

Jay Kogen, a longtime “The Simpsons” and “Frasier” scribe who is penning “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” remake with Mike Myers, is in final negotiations to write and direct one of the pics. Krantz has hired Kogen as what he calls the venture’s “comedy guru.”

Films will address traditional adolescent themes like sex, school and independence.

“It’s about hooking up, growing up and other landmark issues for teenagers, but with a modern spin,” Krantz said.

Studios have mostly stayed away from the teen-comedy genre over the last few years; many of the raunchy comedies now being made by directors like Judd Apatow are R-rated movies aimed at an adult audience.

Creators said that leaves open an opportunity for producers in television and other venues. “If you look at teenage hits like ‘Mean Girls’ and ‘Ferris Bueller,’ it’s not really about the cost of production,” Krantz said. “It’s about the level of the talent and how funny the script is.”

Execs said movies would cast up-and-coming young actors and attach younger writers in the hope of promoting a new generation of talent.

Execs cautioned that the deal was for development only and that the pics had not been greenlit to production.

The model of homevid helping to finance television production has been tried by Viacom nets such as MTV, VH1 and CMT, including for a pic from MTV’s “My Super Sweet Sixteen” franchise that will soon be released on DVD.

“What we think we can do is take advantage of an airing on the network and all the marketing support that goes with it, and then give the film a presence for the homevideo market,” Yapp said.

Net also would tap into several revenue streams, such as on-air advertising, in-movie product placement and homevid sales, to help finance the productions.

Effort takes MTV in several new directions, as it gets into the movie production biz, which usually has been the province of Paramount label MTV Films, not the network.

It also reps an increase in scripted efforts; while the net has greenlit “Kaya,” a scripted show also from Krantz, it has not otherwise aired scripted programming in more than five years.

Move also continues a pattern for Flame, which recently pacted with the Weinstein Co. for another trio of films, this one about martial arts. It also has a deal with Warner homevid for a series of genre movies on the Raw Feed label.

Yapp was brought on to Viacom several years ago to develop business extensions for the company. Among his ventures is the release of “Rock Band,” the next edition of the popular “Guitar Hero” vidgame franchise now owned by Viacom.

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