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Starz! Shoots for 12 true-life pix a year

'Irreparable Harm,' 'Inventing Mark Twain' on tap

NEW YORK — John Malone’s pay TV network Starz! has ramped up its original movie development, engineering scripts that will deal with true-life dramatic situations via both contemporary teleplays and period pieces.

“We want to make character-driven movies that deal with larger cultural and social issues,” said Paige Smith Orloff, VP of original movies for Starz Encore Entertainment. The goal is for Starz! to commission 12 original movies a year.

One script, still untitled and which Orloff is highly enthused about, deals with the true story of a white attorney who defends a black pastor accused of murdering his wife in Alabama. Rudy Gaines, the writer of the original script, will direct. It’s a Middle Fork production in association with Shooting Gallery, which has an output deal with Starz! for theatrical movies.

Another script on the fast track, “Inventing Mark Twain,” “is basically about how Samuel Clemens created Mark Twain, turning him into the first literary celebrity in America,” Orloff said. Peter Nelson adapted from a book by Andrew Hoffman, and Paul Goff is executive producer.

Orloff has also signed a deal with Thomas Carter (HBO’s “Don King: Only in America”) to produce a period courtroom drama that “will deal with issues of racism and tolerance,” she said. During her five-year stint at HBO as an executive in charge of original movies, Orloff worked with Carter on the Don King biopic.

As previously reported, Robert Greenwald is doing a Starz! movie based on “Irreparable Harm,” a book by former CIA agent Frank Snepp (Daily Variety, Aug. 15).

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