EXCLUSIVE UPDATED: So far, Reliance has been known in Hollywood for its film investments, primarily as financier of Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks Studios. Now the Indian media giant is venturing into American television, backing a new 10-episode pirate series for NBC eyed for a March premiere, which will likely be announced at the network’s upfront presentation Monday. I’ve learned that NBC is finalizing a deal for a straight-to-series order to the period drama, which will be produced by Georgeville Television, an independent TV studio formed recently by producer and former Heyday Films executive Marc Rosen (Harry Potter), and Motion Picture Capital, the finance arm of Reliance Entertainment. GVTV, which has operated quietly for the past three months, has the capability to fully-finance major network and cable scripted series, with Republic Of Pirates being its first project.
Luther creator Neil Cross is nearing a deal to write the project and executive produce it with Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald. The drama was originally set up at NBC last June under Parkes/MacDonald Prods’ first-look deal with the network. It became the first drama buy for then-new NBC chief Bob Greenblatt and his team last summer, with Jim Hart and Amanda Wells brought in to write it. Cross will now write the project under his recently inked overall deal with Universal TV. The series is based on the book The Republic Of Pirates by Colin Woodard. Set during the 10-year “Golden Age of Piracy” from 1715 to 1725, it follows some of the world’s most notorious pirates as they forge their own rogue nation, called New Providence, which became the first democracy in the Americas.
NBC’s pending green light to Republic Of Pirates comes on the heels of Starz’s straight-to-series order to Black Sails, a pirate adventure drama executive produced by Michael Bay and created by Jon Steinberg and Robert Levine. The eight-episode drama, which is already in pre-production, is set 20 years before the events in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and chronicles the adventures of Captain Flint and his men. Additionally, FX is developing Port Royal, produced by Graham King and Gale Anne Hurd. The fourth pirate-themed drama which had been percolating, Ridley and Tony Scott’s limited series Pyrates, is no longer in the running at Fox. When Republic of Pirates was set up at NBC last June, Parkes/MacDonald’s president of television Ted Gold stressed to me a big distinction between it and the other pirate projects, Gold said. (Black Sails had not been announced at the time.) “The ‘pirates’ of all the other shows we know of — the ones who lived in the time of Ridley’s show and in the time of Port Royal –– were actually ‘privateers,’ private sailors and ships that were authorized by their governments to attack foreign shipping during wartime,” he said. “Our pirates are not ‘privateers’ working on behalf of other governments. They are disenfranchised or unemployed sailors who are completely self-governing and work on behalf or their own pirate nation.”
The deal with Georgeville TV for Republic Of Pirates is similar to NBC’s recent pact with Gaumont Studios for Hannibal. Besides its partnership with DreamWorks, for which it recently provided a second round of limited financing, Reliance made a splash a few years ago with a slew of announcements of first-look feature deals with star-driven companies headed by the likes of Brett Ratner, Jay Roach, Jim Carrey, Brad Pitt and Nicolas Cage. No major projects have come out of those pacts. Georgeville is with CAA, Parkes/MacDonald and Cross are with UTA.