Writers Blake, Beckner to develop projects

AMC is drawing on theatrical-film talent to make a push into miniseries.

For a development slate of historical minis, movie-themed net has signed “Dances With Wolves” scribe Michael Blake for “Against the Guns of Quantrill,” a project about Confederate prisoners defending a Union town.

It also will develop “Berlin Mesa,” a project centering on the FBI and Nazi prisoners in the southwest U.S. written and exec produced by “Spy Game” scribe Michael Frost Beckner; project is exec produced by “The Mexican” producer John Baldecchi.

“We’re taking a lot of people and projects from the feature world and finding a home for them,” said Christina Wayne, veep of scripted programming.

AMC never has been heavily in the miniseries biz before. But the net enjoyed success with its Robert Duvall Western “Broken Trail,” last June. Like that mini, the slate of period projects is an attempt to undertake less common programming that still retains theatrical-level quality, execs said.

“The miniseries business has become much smaller,” Wayne said. “But we feel there is still an appetite for it.”

Other projects on the minis slate are WWII-themed, including: “Skylark,” about a Jewish woman aiding American soldiers in Nazi-occupied France, written and exec produced by Michael Nankin and produced by CBS Paramount; “White Rose,” exec produced and written by John Leekley, about a detective investigating a youth movement in Nazi Germany; and “L-19,” about pilots of a crashed German blimp stranded at sea.

One mini a year will likely be greenlit. “These are relatively costly projects to mount and market,” said exec veep of programming and production Rob Sorcher.

Wayne and Sorcher said budgets wouldn’t spike, because AMC would make the minis character-driven instead of effects- and costume-driven. Many of the projects will likely be co-productions.

While AMC will continue its focus on movies and movie-themed content, it recently announced it was ramping up original scripted programming (Daily Variety, March 22). It signed development deals with Kip Koenig (“Grey’s Anatomy”), Michael Oates Palmer (“The West Wing”), Tom Fontana (“Oz”) and Karen Hall (“Judging Amy”), with the goal of scheduling one night of original programming per week.

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