Studio pacts with directing pair
Looking to further beef up its comedy roster, Sony Pictures Television has inked a two-year, seven-figure overall deal with helmers Joe and Anthony Russo (“Arrested Development”).While they’ve worked in both hour and half-hour formats, the Russo brothers are known for their comic bent on pilots for skeins such as “Arrested,” “Lucky” and ABC’s new “Carpoolers.” They also directed the comic-tinged pilots for the hourlong skeins “LAX” and “What About Brian,” as well as the Owen Wilson feature “You, Me and Dupree.” All five of the pilots the Russos have helmed have been greenlit to series, giving the duo a well-above-average pilot-to-series ratio. SPT programming and production co-prexy Zack Van Amburg said he and partner Jamie Erlicht consulted with their more comedy-oriented production pods before pursuing the Russos. “We spoke to Happy Madison and Tantamount and Jamie Tarses and Apostle, and they all said, ‘Absolutely — get the Russos, they fit into our brand,” Van Amburg told Daily Variety. “We need to bolster our slate and continue to show our comedic commitment, and this deal is a perfect complement to our roster.” The Russos will develop their own projects as producers and directors, as well as direct projects that originate from other Sony banners. Because development season is already in full swing, it’s likely the Russos will focus on servicing existing projects this year. Anthony Russo said Sony’s indie status had a lot to do with the decision to sign with the studio. “Sony’s one of the few studios that can go to any network with a project,” he said. “Tonally, we’ll get to explore a lot of new areas. It offers us a lot more freedom.” One possible project being eyed by the Russos is a script “Lucky” creators Robb and Marc Cullen are developing via Sony for Fox Broadcasting. The Russos are also set to meet this week with “Arrested Development” creator Mitch Hurwitz — on the Sony lot via his Tantamount shingle. “This deal gives us the opportunity to work with all of these guys again,” Anthony Russo said, referring to Hurwitz and the Cullens. “We’ve talked a lot about projects over the years, but now we’re in a position where we can do things together.” For the next month or so, however, the Russos will remain focused on “Carpoolers” as they segue out of their overall deal with ABC Studios. “A contingency for the deal with Sony is that we wanted to be able to follow through with ‘Carpoolers,’ ” Anthony Russo said. “Once we feel that show is in great shape, that’s when we’ll direct our energies to the new deal.” Russos recently inked with 3 Arts and continue to be repped by UTA.