EXCLUSIVE: Sundance Channel has greenlighted drama series The Descendants (working title), from writer Aaron Guzikowski (Prisoners) and producer Sarah Condon (Bored To Death), with a six-episode straight-to-series order. As Sundance is stepping up its original scripted efforts, the cable network also is expanding its scripted programming team. In addition to the recent appointment of Nena Rodrigue as Head of Programming and Development, overseeing scripted and unscripted development with a focus on scripted series, Sundance has named Christian Vesper as SVP Scripted Development and Current, and Jordan Helman as Director, Scripted Development and Current. Vesper, based in New York, reports to Rodrigue. Helman is based in Los Angeles and reports to Vesper.
The Descendants is Sundance’s second wholly owned original scripted series, joining Rectify, which debuts April 22. (Sundance’s mini-series Top Of The Lake premieres March 18.) The Descendants, which was among the handful of scripts Sundance brass zeroed in on for series pickup, is a hard-hitting drama that revolves around a sheriff struggling to keep his family together while simultaneously policing two clashing communities: the small town where he grew up and the neighboring Ramapo Mountains, home of the Ramapo Mountain Indians. After a terrible tragedy and cover-up occurs involving the sheriff’s wife, an unholy alliance is forged between the sheriff and a dangerous member of the tribe that will come back to haunt all involved. Guzikowski, repped by Verve and Madhouse Entertainment, wrote the script and created the series with former HBO executive-turned-producer Condon. “At Sundance Channel, we are passionately dedicated to the creation of non-formulaic, daring original stories and we are delighted with this outstanding new addition to our scripted slate,” said Sarah Barnett, Sundance Channel President and General Manager.
In his new role, Vesper, previously SVP Programming and Alternative Content, will oversee development of original scripted projects. The 10-year Sundance Channel veteran collaborated with Barnett on the launch of Sundance Channel’s scripted programming initiative and oversaw development and current on Rectify. He has played key roles in the acquisition and development of the network’s original miniseries Carlos, Appropriate Adult and Restless and also served as the network executive producer on Top Of The Lake. “Christian’s new position is richly deserved — he has been doing a fantastic job as the network has ramped up its scripted efforts, most notably by developing this new project and shepherding the upcoming Rectify and Top Of The Lake from development to completion,” Barnett said.
Helman serves as the sole West Coast creative executive at the network. Prior to Sundance Channel, he was a producer and development executive at Landscape Entertainment. “Christian and Jordan have done a terrific job building Sundance Channel’s original scripted production and development slates and I am thrilled to work with them on The Descendants and more as we expand and elevate the network’s scripted endeavors,” Rodrigue said.