Lionsgate U.K. and Nevision are drilling into the simultaneously murky and glamorous world of the oil business in the Middle East in the 1970s. The British arm of the U.S. studio and the London-based indie are co-developing “Oil,” from Alan Whiting (“Kingdom”), Matthew Faulk (“Titanic: Blood and Steel”) and Mark Skeet (“Vanity Fair”).
The eight-part drama will be set in the Persian Gulf. It will blend the geopolitics of the oil business, the stories of the individuals concerned, and what happened in the compounds in which foreign executives and their families lived. Based on real historical events, the action will revolve around a British-American oil firm.
Lionsgate U.K.’s creative director, Steve November (pictured, left), said the setup offers the producers elements of period hit “Mad Men” and high-finance movie “The Wolf of Wall Street.” “This is the birth of the Emirates as we know it now, and at a time when these were feudal societies run by sheiks and princes,” November told Variety. “And that is mixed with the greed and colonialism of the West and all of these extraordinary characters.”
With such a valuable resource being fought over, the backdrop for the series is “a world of deceit and betrayal,” added Nevision executive producer Neil Zeiger (above right). The U.K. shingle was keen to bring in a studio partner on the project. “For us, it made complete sense to combine with Lionsgate,” Zeiger said. “It really worked creatively….That is the key. And Steve and Lionsgate provide the access that will accelerate it.”
November, the former ITV drama chief who has been at Lionsgate for 18 months, has teed up projects including “Jerusalem,” from Neil Jordan, and firefighter dramedy “Shout.” It has also invested in drama producers including Potboiler on his watch,
Speaking about “Oil,” he said: “It’s [about] the way the West carved up the Middle East and that battle for control for the greatest riches in the world. Equally, another element is the culture and glamour of the expat community living around the pool, their rather luxurious lifestyles, and the heady exoticism of the Middle East at the time.”
The creators of the show will executive produce alongside November, Lionsgate U.K. head of development Sarah Conroy, and Nevision’s Zeiger and Sharon Bloom.