Fourteen years after Scott Free Television was officially launched, the company is in a major expansion mode, with more scripted series on the air than ever — five, soon to become six — plus the latest movie in the popular “Killing” franchise and a slew of projects in development.
Scott Free is restarting a formal relationship with CBS TV Studios where the company started its foray into scripted TV series with the CBS drama Numbers. Scott Free has signed a new first-look deal for broadcast projects at CBS TV Studios where the company has two series, both for CBS, the award-winning The Good Wife and the upcoming BrainDead. Under the pact, Scott Free has sold three drama projects to CBS for next season, a drama based on the life and career of Sunny Hostin, written by Elle Johnson; Sensory, a medical drama based on Dr. Joel Salinas, written by David Zabel, who also is behind Scott Free’s upcoming PBS series Mercy Street; and cop comedy Rubber Guns from TJ Fixman and Scott Gemmill.
On the cable side, Scott Free had been working for more than two years on an adaptation of Dan Simmons’ book The Terror at AMC, where the company had a first-look deal. The futuristic drama, written/exec produced by Dave Kajganich and exec produced by Alexandra Milchan, Guymon Casady, and Scott Lambert, has been inching closer to a straight-to-series order. At AMC, the company also has in development Marvel, a drama written by Mark Heyman based on the story of Jet Propulsion Laboratory co-founder Jack Parsons. Scott Free’s cable development slate in the works also is an adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s 3001 at Syfy and ten-part limited series Blood & Thunder, written by Bruce McKenna based on the book by Hampton Sides that tells the true story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West.
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Additionally, Scott Free is developing Jean Claude Van Johnson, a half-hour comedy starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, which Scott said would show the martial arts and film star in a new light that would surprise fans. In the project, written/executive produced by Dave Callaham, Van Damme plays Jean-Claude Van Damme, a global martial arts and film star operating under the alias of “Johnson,” the most dangerous undercover private contractor in the world.
While Scott Free’s first two series, Numbers and The Good Wife — both of which have gone to syndication — were on CBS, three of the company’s upcoming four series are on other outlets, broadcast, PBS (Mercy Street, which landed a high-profile launching pad behind the highly anticipated final season of Downton Abbey); digital, Amazon (Frank Spotnitz’s The Man In The High Castle); and cable, FX (Tom Hardy’s Taboo); plus likely The Terror on AMC.
“What I find extraordinary is the breadth of buyers, there isn’t anything you can’t do,” said Scott Free’s president of television David Zucker. “I think it’s one of the most exciting times in television.” Over the years, on the longform side Scott Free has worked with National Geographic (Killing Lincoln, Killing Kennedy, Killing Jesus and the upcoming Killing Reagan), HBO (Into the Storm), Discovery (Klondike), History (Gettysburg), TNT (The Company), A&E (Coma), Starz (The Pillars Of The Earth) and xBox (Hallo: Nightfall) among others. (When under studio/network deals, Scott Free has had an out for movies and miniseries, allowing it to sell to different buyers).
For Scott, “it’s all about the written word,” as he credits strong material for the company’s TV success. “Any subject is a good subject if you know how to address it,” he said.
The Martian director Scott, who today received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, comes from television — he started as a designer, later segueing into directing in his native UK. He called mounting a live broadcast with six cameras “the best film school you can ever have.” He was influenced by American television where he saw filmmakers like Sidney Lumet put on plays on TV and attempted that in the UK. And while Scott transitioned to features and started his U.S. career as a film director with the hit Alien, he did not abandon his TV roots. He and his brother, the late Tony Scott, started a foray into the medium via TV commercials. (Ridley Scott directed one of the most famous commercials of all time, the 1984 Apple spot). Gradually, “I became aware that TV was a good business,” Scott said. Through their Scott Free banner, the Scott brothers first found their way into TV production through long-form projects, RKO and The Gathering Storm at HBO.
Their entry into series came 14 years ago through the popular at the time 3-for-1 deals that broadcast networks were handing out to feature directors-producers to develop three projects, one of which was guaranteed to go to pilot. Zucker, former CBS and Warner Bros. TV development executive-turned-TV writer/playwright, was brought in to help service that deal and stayed ever since.
“We have a terrific relationship with CBS and have had good success with them but because of the breadth of projects — both internationally and domestically — that we are interested in pursing, you are limited when you are under a deal,” Zucker said. “We will always stay vigorously independent, which gives us the greatest ability to work in service of a project.”
Here are details about the three Scott Free projects in development at CBS:
Comedy, written by TJ Fixman, with Scott Gemmill (NCIS) supervising
After solving the murder of their therapist, four mentally unstable Miami cops form an “odd squad” in the basement of the Miami Police Department. Their mandate for these “Rubber Guns” is to take the spillover cases the other cops don’t want.
drama written/executive produced by David Zabel
Based on the true story of Dr. Joel Salinas, Sensory centers on Daniel Polanco, a 4th year med student diagnosed with mirror-touch synesthesia, a condition whereby he is able to vividly feel—or “mirror”—the physical and emotional sensations of other people. He has to navigate through the ways in which his condition could be both an asset and a liability. TriStar TV, division of Sony TV where ER alum Zabel is based, is co-producing with CBS Studios.
Untitled Sunny Hostin
drama written by Elle Johnson
Based on the life and career of former Assistant U.S. Attorney Sunny Hostin, the project centers on a hotshot young lawyer forced to acknowledge her own family’s criminal history when she becomes a federal prosecutor.
Scott Free is repped by WME. Fixman is repped at WME, Grandview, and Bloom Hergott. Hostin is repped by WME and Elle Johnson by WME and Hansen, Jacobson.
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