Starz braces for ‘Crash’

Oscar-winning film to become miniseries

“Crash,” the 2005 best picture Oscar winner, will become a 13-episode TV series for John Malone’s Starz, the network’s first original drama ever.

Lionsgate, which distributed the film, is co-producing the series with Starz. Don Cheadle, a star-producer of “Crash,” will work behind the camera on the series along with Paul Haggis, the director, producer and co-writer of the movie, and four of the other producers: Bobby Moresco (also co-writer of the movie), Bob Yari, Mark R. Harris and Tom Nunan. Caleb Kane has written the script for the pilot.

“This deal fits well with Starz’s strategy of making TV series out of presold movie commodities,” said Stephan Shelanski, executive VP of programming for Starz Entertainment.

Shelanski said the series would have “high production values,” but decisions are still to be made on casting and the shooting location. Starz will be able to begin work on those details immediately, Shelanski said, because Lionsgate has signed a separate deal with the writers guild.

“This is a big step up financially for us,” he said. An average production cost for a broadcast-network hour is about $2.5 million per episode, and “Crash” is unlikely to cost any less than that. Starz and Lionsgate will share in the production cost. Starz Media’s Anchor Bay Entertainment has exclusive U.S. distribution rights to the series, including DVD. Lionsgate gets international distribution. All of these revenues will be shared by the two companies.

Kevin Beggs, president of programming and production for Lionsgate, said FX originally developed the “Crash” series but asked for a delay when the network renewed three of its scripted original first-year series: “Dirt,” “The Riches” and “Damages.”

“We didn’t want to wait,” said Beggs, who had talked to Shelanski earlier and was aware of his drive to commission TV series for Starz based on high-visibility theatrical movies.

None of the major characters from the movie, including the ones played by Matt Dillon, Brendan Fraser and Sandra Bullock, are likely to make it to the series, Beggs said.

“We’ll use the style of storytelling from the movie,” he said, “but there’ll be new characters and new stories to get into the subjects of race and class, and the bigotry that’s simmering under the skin of a city like Los Angeles.”

Starz has two original comedy series on the air now: “Head Case,” with Alexandra Wentworth; and “Hollywood Residential,” with Adam Paul.