Duo to partner on drama centered on fashion

Chris Albrecht has partnered with cabler Starz to develop an hourlong drama set in the New York fashion world.

The untitled project will revolve around the personal and professional trials of a femme photog trying to make her mark in the cutthroat couture biz. Show is based on a concept that former HBO boss Albrecht has been mulling as a prospective series for some time. He and partner Rob Lee are in the process of setting a writer on the project.

Deal comes as Starz is on a major push to expand its original programming slate. The pay cabler aims to have original series cycling through its Friday 10 p.m. hour on a 52-week basis by next year.

Albrecht and Lee first met with Starz execs about two years ago, during Albrecht’s short tenure as head of IMG Global Media, where Lee served as head of programming.

More recently, the duo met again with Starz execs, including exec veep of programming Stephan Shelanski , to talk in general terms about the cabler’s programming interests. Albrecht raised the notion of a show about an ultramodern, ambitious young girl, a half-generation or so removed from the femme archetypes featured in “Sex and the City.”

“I pitched them my idea for the character,” Albrecht told Daily Variety. “They really keyed in on the things I thought were most interesting about the show.”

The lead character and setting “offer us a way into the world of fashion, and it’s a way in to look at the life of this new breed of young women who don’t need anyone other than themselves,” he said.

The timing of Albrecht’s pitch was apt because Starz had been looking for a show with a strong femme lead, Shelanski said.

Albrecht and Lee will serve as exec producers if the project goes forward. It’s the first scripted effort from Albrecht’s Foresee Entertainment banner.

Albrecht is also helping to shepherd a period drama project based on the sordid history of the Borgia clan. Tom Fontana is in the midst of writing scripts for the proposed 12-episode series, a co-production of Canal Plus, Lagardere Entertainment and other European partners (Daily Variety, Feb. 27).

During the past year, Starz has debuted its first original drama, “Crash,” which is returning for its soph season in the fall, and two comedies: “Head Case” and “Party Down.” Cabler is also in production on the sword-and-sandal actioner “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” produced by Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert. It is set to bow in January.

By 2011, Shelanski said the cabler hopes to have at least 90 minutes’ worth of originals on weekly. The development focus at present is on scripted comedies and dramas.

“Original (series) add a new element that movies don’t — they truly brand Starz,” he said.

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