The need for recognizable properties, writers, and talent is more important than ever to cut through the thousands of hours of scripted TV out there.
Getting the right rights, the right writers, and the right team on board is increasingly tough, and producers are having to get in earlier, and spend more, to get the books and IP that will be the backbone of their drama slates. They also increasingly need to co-produce and attract a number of partners as the pieces of the jigsaw come together.
We run the rule over projects at different stages of development, and which could be the next big thing … if they make it to screen.
East meets West serial killer thriller, “Cognition” hails from Garcia Lopez, the director of super-violent U.K. drama “Utopia.” Catalyst Global Media is bringing the project to market with John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow Films, with Woo exec producing. “Cognition” follows a U.S. cop, burned out from a lengthy serial killer investigation and diagnosed with cancer, who heads to Asia to undergo a revolutionary medical procedure that will also erase parts of his memory.
Swords, sandals and … politics. “Cicero” is a trilogy of novels from “Fatherland” scribe Robert Harris about the titular Roman orator and politician, as relayed by his slave Tiro. Endemol Shine beat strong competition, and wrote a big check, to land the rights to the book series. Endemol Shine-backed producer Wild Mercury, already deep into Greek mythology with “Troy: Fall of a City” for the BBC and Netflix, will produce.
The “Sherlock” team and former big cheeses on “Doctor Who” are getting gothic with their next project: a reworking of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat will pen the series and the BBC looks set to be the U.K. home. Jonathan Rhys Meyers was the last small-screen Vlad, and the lead role in “Dracula” will be one of the most eagerly awaited casting announcements of 2018.
The remake rights to “Valkyren” were fiercely fought over, with fledgling U.K. indie Hera Pictures ultimately beating “Mr Robot” producer Anonymous to the Nordic noir series. Mark Strong (“The Imitation Game”) will star as a surgeon who sets up an illegal underground hospital in an attempt to save his dying wife.
The Kill List
Tracker hunts The Preacher in this Frederick Forsyth adaptation from BBC Studios. The former is an ex-marine and the latter a prolific terrorist. The producer has Ed Whitmore (“Rillington Place,” “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”) working on the script for the series, which will run to six or eight episodes.
Irvine Welsh is turning his hand to TV. The “Trainspotting” author is working up acid house drama “Ibiza87,” which will tell the story of the early days of rave music on the party island. Musical cred comes in the form of Ibiza DJs Danny Rampling and Paul Oakenfold, who will advise on the soundtrack. James Corden’s Fulwell 73 will make the series, which it described as “the missing link between ‘24 Hour Party People’ and ‘Straight Outta Compton.’”
Having taken on the mob in “Gomorrah,” Roberto Saviano is working up “Gaddafi,” a series based on the life and times of the Libyan dictator whom Saviano describes as “rock ‘n’ roll tyrant.” Italy is fast becoming a scripted TV hotbed and Rome-based “Montalbano” producer Palomar is prepping the series alongside eOne.
Giant ape-monster King Kong has filled many a big screen since being let loose in the 1930s movie. Kong’s TV appearances have been in animated form, but a live-action series based on the early work of filmmaker Merian C. Cooper and illustrator Joe DeVito’s Skull Island books is now in the works. MarVista and IM Global are putting “King Kong” together.
Studiocanal’s Tandem is making “Deep City,” a grown-up soap opera about the music scene in Miami. It comes from “Nashville’s” Callie Khouri and “True Detective’s” T Bone Burnett, with Emilio Estefan the musical advisor and Universal Music attached. Juan Carlos Coto (“From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series”) is the writer and showrunner.
The Eagle Has Landed
Also known as “One Giant Leap – The Truth Behind the Moon Landing,” the script for “The Eagle Has Landed” comes from Stephen Kronish (“24,” “The Kennedys”) and tells the story of the trip to the moon. The project is one of the first from Atrium, the drama financing group set up by former Sony chief Sir Howard Stringer and distributor DRG.
Alex Rider is the teen spy of the 16-million-selling book series, the 2006 “Stormbreaker” movie, and now a TV series. “Borgias” writer Guy Burt is attached and Eleventh Hour Films is working up the idea, with ITV the U.K. partner. The TV series will skew broader than the novels, which target teen boys, and will aim at family audiences a la “Doctor Who.”
“Jericho” scribe Chris Dunlop has penned pilot of “Spadehead,” a thriller that has landed at AMC. It follows a woman whose job is to vet political candidates, and who struggles to maintain her neutrality after interrogating a charismatic presidential candidate with a dark secret. London-based Eleven will produce the 10-parter if it is taken to series.
A real-life “Game of Thrones,” spanning the ages in the holiest of cities: Lionsgate’s U.K. TV department is taking historian Simon Sebag Montefiore’s nonfiction title “Jerusalem: The Biography.” It is adapting it as an “action-filled account of war, betrayal, faith, fanaticism, slaughter, persecution, and co-existence in the universal city through the ages.”
“The Hobbit” star Martin Freeman is working on “Paradise Lost,” a TV adaptation of John Milton’s epic 17th-century poem. U.K.-based Dancing Ledge will produce and describes the series as “a biblical ‘Game of Thrones,’”and Framestore is on board and will handle the VFX. Freeman might appear in the series.
David Ebershoff, the writer of “The Danish Girl,” is writing “American Purgatory,” a series about Ellis Island in the early 1920s and the people who are held there while awaiting entry in to the U.S. Keshet Studios is putting the project together, and the plan is for Season 1 to focus on an ambitious inspections officer and a female journalist who escape Russia’s civil war.