AMC is moving ahead with three of the scripts recently selected by the network for further consideration: dramas Goliath, from writer David Kajganich and director Sean Durkin; The Son, from Sonar Entertainment and producer Michael Connolly — both book adaptations — and Lodge 49, produced by Paul Giamatti. But in a twist, instead of going to pilot, the three projects will set up writers rooms and work on scripts and outlines with an eye toward straight-to-series orders.
I hear the goal is to have three to five completed backup scripts, a few more outlines and a completely mapped out first season for each drama in about three months, when the network will make pickup decisions. If approved, a project would go straight to series. The model is not new: Starz has been employing it for all of its original series, and it also has been used occasionally by Netflix and broadcast networks like Fox (Runner) among others, but this is the first time AMC has implemented it.
The cable network has been diversifying its series development and production model with three upcoming straight-to-series dramas: Into The Badlands and international co-productions Humans and The Night Manager. While Into The Badlands as well as The Walking Dead both bypassed the pilot stage with an episodic order, this is the first time AMC has taken the extra step of fleshing out the projects on the page before making a series-order decision.
Casting alchemy — something that can be tested in a pilot — is important to the success of a show, though for a serialized drama, which has been AMC’s bread and butter, thoroughly developing the characters and detailing the serialized storytelling is key. That is where AMC is putting the emphasis with the new model, which also is expected to trim the window from a pilot script to a series order from 18 months — when going through a pilot stage — to a year.
There had been recent signs that AMC might he heading in a new direction. While picking up straight-to-series projects such as Into The Badlands, Humans and The Night Manager, the network has slowed down pilot activity. Its pilots have been a mixed bag — of those ordered in the past two years, only one, The Walking Dead companion Fear The Walking Dead, has gone to series (and that always was considered a sure thing). The network has one more pilot in the pipeline, Preacher.
AMC also may be phasing out its semiannual producer meetings where writers and producers of scripts identified by the network brass as pilot contenders would lay out their vision for their shows. With the most recent batch, which included six drama scripts, including Goliath, Lodge 49 and The Son, and two comedies, AMC instead ordered WGA-sanctioned format treatments, in which the writers detailed their ideas for the first season.
While the focus at the moment is on the new development model, AMC still is intent on ordering pilots when appropriate. And, despite ordering fewer pilots and picking up fewer pilots to series, the network, which just bid farewell to its first original series, drama Mad Men, has an expansive 2015 original slate that features 10 dramas and 2 unscripted series.
Here are basic descriptions of the three AMC dramas that will be setting up writers rooms:
Plan B and Brillstein Entertainment Partners
Writer/producer: David Kajganich
Director: Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene) is attached
Producers: DeDe Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Jon Liebman
Originally set up at HBO, the project is based on the book The Autobiography Of An Execution by David R. Dow, a death penalty lawyer
Writer: Jim Gavin
Producers: Paul Giamatti & Dan Carey
A young knucklehead from Long Beach joins a dusty old fraternal lodge.
Writers/producers: Philipp Meyer, Lee Shipman & Brian McGreevy
Producer: Michael Connolly
Based on the novel of the same name by Meyer, the project is a multi-generational epic telling of the story of America’s birth as a superpower through the bloody rise and fall of one Texas oil empire.