Documentary vet inks deal for smallscreen projects

Filmmaker R.J. Cutler is looking to expand beyond his success in the documentary world.

“The September Issue” helmer has sealed a deal with Fox Television Studios to develop projects for the small screen — but with an emphasis on scripted fare.

Two-year, first-look pact would rep the first time Cutler has produced scripted television.

“This is an opportunity to brand out beyond the non-fiction realm,” said Cutler. “My background before doing documentaries was in scripted narrative. I love working with writers and telling stories of all kinds.”

Cutler wrote and directed the 1997 film “Anita Liberty,” starring Allison Janney. But he’s best known for his docs like “The War Room” and “The September Issue,” whch earned critical raves last year for its depiction of Vogue mastermind Anna Wintour.

In TV, Cutler has done well with reality series like “30 Days” and the Emmy-winning “American High.”

Cutler said he’s eager to take some of the subject matter he’s encountered in the unscripted world and adapt it into drama and comedy.

“The same rich landscapes for storytelling you find in the non-fiction realm can easily translate to scripted,” Cutler said. “I’ve always approached my nonfiction storytelling with the same principles that anyone takes to scripted. It’s all about telling big stories and capturing big drama.”

Projects he’s already mulling include takes on the political world, on coming of age tales (via teens and high school), the fashion world and the medical space — all topics he’s tackled in his unscripted TV and film works.

Fox TV Studios exec VP David Madden said he was eager to work with Cutler after seeing “The September Issue.”

“In a lot of ways, that movie felt like a scripted show or a scripted film,” Madden said. “Anna Wintour is quite a fascinating character, and a number of supporting characters at the magazine came off as really well-constructred, well-built characters. I thought it really represented an evolution (in Cutler’s storytelling).”

Although Cutler and Fox TV Studios are emphasizing the scripted component, the pact also includes unscripted fare. As part of the deal, Ann Blanchard and Paul Nelson of Mosaic will produce some of the new projects along side Cutler.

Deal comes several months after Cutler’s Actual Reality Pictures cut a deal with Evolution Media to co-produce the nonscripted TV projects that Cutler already had in development at MTV, Bravo, TruTV and Sony Pictures TV.

In signing Cutler, Madden noted that Fox TV Studios doesn’t make many filmmaker deals.

“But R.J. is a unique guy, given his roots and how he conducts his non-scripted business,” Madden said. “He has access to a lot of ideas, worlds and characters.”

Cutler’s other TV credits include “American Candidate,” “Black. White.,” “Flip That House,” “Freshman Diaries” and “Military Diaries.”

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