EXCLUSIVE: On the heels of Ted Sarandos’ startling revelation to the financial community that Netflix aims to generate 80 feature films in 2018, the streaming service just took off the table a hot script by giving it basically a production commitment and a $25 million budget, sources said. Scripted by Umair Aleem, Kate is a hard action film with a female protagonist that sources said is evocative of Kill Bill and La Femme Nikita. The writer’s vision of the film is this: picture Cate Blanchett (who’s not attached) as Lee Marvin in a hard boiled action thriller about a woman who has 24 hours to solve her own murder. There is aggressive progress to production language in the deal and the project eyes a start date in April as Netflix quickly searches for the right director and star.
Kate will be guided by the following producers: Atomic Blonde‘s Kelly McCormick, John Wick co-director David Leitch, and Bryan Unkeless, who produced The Hunger Games and the upcoming Toronto sensation I, Tonya with Margot Robbie. Clubhouse Pictures’ Scott Morgan will oversee it. I expect to see more of these kinds of deals, which traditionally get low to mid six-figures from studios that put them in development that can often take years to yield results, if they even get made. The market for material seems bound to change. If Netflix — which hasn’t been making original films long enough to have accumulated a backlog of development projects — is going to generate an annual volume three or four times what major studios do under film chief Scott Stuber, it can only rely so much on festival acquisitions. It will need good material fast, and so these kinds of deals on scripts that Netflix brass feels confident can be packaged should become more commonplace. I’ve heard this one is a pitch right down the middle of the plate. Another was Bright, the Max Landis-scripted sci-fi police procedural that David Ayer directed with Will Smith and Joel Edgerton starring. That deal, which was pegged at north of $90 million including the buyout of back end paydays for the top creatives, was considered disruptive when it happened. It won’t be the last of its kind if Netflix really wants to reach the level of output that Sarandos promised Wall Street.
VERVE and attorney Cuffe Owens rep the scribe and brokered the package deal. The scribe co-wrote the 2015 Bruce Willis-starrer Extraction.
The town is already talking about this deal and its possible ramifications. While for screenwriters this kind of deal is an alternative to the development hell that often befalls specs and pitches, Netflix’s great challenge will be quality control.
“The normal major studio has six to 10 executives working on eight to 12 movies at a time,” said one exec at a major. “If there are five to 10 executives at Netflix, can they really oversee eight to 13 movies a year through production? They will have to be very careful or talent will soon realize that a quick payday isn’t worth the result, if too many of the films are invisible and forgettable, and were jammed through with not enough oversight.”