EXCLUSIVE: National Geographic Channel is entering the scripted series arena with Act Of Valor, a drama from Relativity and Tandem Communications inspired by Relativity’s successful 2012 Navy SEAL feature. The project, which also marks Relativity’s first scripted series, will begin production in early 2014. Written by Erik Jendresen (Band Of Brothers), Act Of Valor the series focuses on pararescuemen, also known as PJs, who are the unsung heroes tasked with recovery and medical treatment of personnel in humanitarian and combat environments. Relativity CEO Ryan Kavanaugh is expected to address the project in his MIPCOM Media Mastermind Keynote in Cannes on Tuesday. “Relativity’s unique model allows us to successfully transform a film such as Act Of Valor into a highly engaging television series,” he said. “We could not ask for a better home for the series than National Geographic Channel.” This marks the second Relativity movie to spawn a series, following the 2010 documentary Catfish, which led to MTV’s successful reality series of the same name.
Act Of Valor represents a natural next step in the evolution of National Geographic, which made a successful entrance into scripted television with another factually based project about Navy SEALs, feature SEAL Team Six, which became the network’s highest-rated program of 2012. It was followed by the successful factually based scripted franchise launched earlier this year with the film Killing Lincoln, Nat Geo’s highest-rated program to date this year, which will be followed by Killing Kennedy, premiering November 10, and Killing Jesus, now in development. “With the incredible success of our original scripted feature films, we are expanding our offerings with a high quality scripted series we know will resonate with our viewers,” said National Geographic Channels president Howard Owens. “After the success of our documentary series Inside Combat Rescue about PJs in Afghanistan, we wanted to tell more incredible stories of these heroes, and this series will allow us to do so in an exciting and dramatic way, while still delivering real, authentic stories our viewers expect from us.” Nat Geo becomes the latest cable network to enter scripted series programming in the past year, joining WGN America and WEtv, which recently greenlighted their first scripted series, and E! and Bravo, which are working on their first scripted pilots.
The Nat Geo series pickup comes a year after Relativity and its Act Of Valor partner, the Bandito Brothers, announced they were teaming to develop a TV series inspired by the film. The Bandito Brothers, which consist of 8 partners, spearheaded the project, and WME put them together with Jendresen. They are expected to continue to be involved in the series. Studiocanal’s Tandem Communications will act as the studio on the production and will handle international distribution.
This marks the latest U.S. series for Munich-based producer and distributor of event series Tandem, which is behind miniseries The Pillars Of The Earth. The company branched out into drama series with Crossing Lines, which aired on NBC this summer and recently launched a co-venture with Lionsgate TV for drama series with crime drama Sex, Lies And Handwriting as the first project. “With a powerful contemporary storyline of global anti-terrorism, Act of Valor is an intense, fast-paced series that will resonate with viewers worldwide, said Tandem COO Tim Halkin.
Relativity’s Act Of Valor, which opened at No. 1 at the domestic box office with $24.5 million en route to a $80 million worldwide gross, featured a group of active-duty U.S. Navy SEALs, alongside actors Roselyn Sanchez, Alex Veadov, Jason Cottle and Nester Serrano, in a fictionalized account of a real-life operation.