With the strike squeezing off the pilot script pipeline, CBS is turning to feature film scripts in a bid to find potential material for new series.
Eye entertainment prexy Nina Tassler has been personally calling a number of film producers and asking them to dust off any unproduced scripts that could be turned into TV series, according to two people familiar with the situation. These projects are already fully written but have either been put into turnaround or simply never got off the ground.
Because most movies tend to run around two hours in length, Tassler isn’t looking to produce the full scripts. Instead, she’s asking producers to identify key scenes or passages that could be filmed and cobbled together into a pilot or shorter pilot presentation.
Tassler isn’t calling any WGA members, since scribes are prohibited from pitching ideas or negotiating with struck companies.
If any pilot greenlights result from Tassler’s calls, it wouldn’t be the first time the exec has been involved in translating a film script into a TV series.
Tassler was at Warner Bros. TV when then-agent Tony Krantz dusted off “EW,” a 10-year-old unproduced feature script by a novelist named Michael Crichton. John Wells became attached to the project, and it morphed into “ER” (which airs its 300th episode tonight).
CBS declined comment, and it’s unclear if the Eye has optioned any film scripts yet. But its actions are a clear sign that networks are getting worried that the strike will drag on long enough to affect pilot season.
Already, network insiders say that, even if it ends tomorrow, the nearly 5-week-old work stoppage is almost certain to at least moderately change this year’s development process.
In normal years, most series wrap production by April, allowing crews (and sometimes thesps) time to work on pilots. But if the strike is settled within the next two months, networks will likely want all hands on deck to produce episodes of existing shows for this season — making it much tougher to lense pilots in advance of the May upfronts.
CBS is getting ready to launch its own inhouse feature film unit, but because of the nascent status of the operation, it doesn’t yet have a stockpile of scripts that could be used for possible pilots.