EXCLUSIVE: Already a staple of the Netflix queue with Ozark and Arrested Development, Jason Bateman has deepened his relationship with the global streaming service. He has partnered with seasoned producer and executive Michael Costigan, and they have set Aggregate Films in a first-look, multiyear deal with Netflix to generate film and TV projects.
This becomes the latest big overall deal for Netflix, after recently making massive deals with Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy on the TV side, continuing its arrangement with Adam Sandler to build and star in comedy features, and making strategic overall deals to manage its burgeoning film slate. Those pacts include with experienced big picture producer Ian Bryce (War Machine); War for the Planet of the Apes and Batman director Matt Reeves and his 6th & Idaho banner; and another with I, Tonya producer Bryan Unkeless and Eric Newman, the vet producer who’s currently showrunner and exec producer of the Netflix series Narcos.
The Aggregate deal furthers Bateman’s ambition to broaden not only as an actor, but also a producer and director. He began working as an actor at age 10, and said that he celebrates his 40th anniversary in Hollywood this January. He has evolved into directing — he helmed six episodes of Ozark, the crime series he stars in with Laura Linney whose second season premieres August 31 — and is executive producer of that series.
Bateman’s other most popular Netflix series is Arrested Development, which launched in 2013 and which the streaming service revived, recently releasing the first eight episodes of the fifth season, with the next eight coming at year’s end. While Bateman is an actor on that series, he said a lot of the ambition for this new Netflix deal and partnership with Costigan comes from his association with Imagine Entertainment’s Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, who launched the Mitch Hurwitz-created subversive comedy on Fox. Costigan drew similar inspiration for what they want this new company to be, when he ran Scott Free for Tony and Ridley Scott.
“I’d always watched what Ron had done as an actor, and as he evolved to director and producer,” Bateman told Deadline. “When we started working together on Arrested Development and I was so tantalizingly close to him, I would ask all the time, how did you do that, when was it OK to try this? As my access to Ron and Brian increased, my vision of my own career goals became clearer and clearer, and any opportunity I had to make a move in that direction, I seized upon it. You look at the breadth of their work, from Parenthood to Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind, and that is something to aspire to. At Imagine and Scott Free, maybe 10% to 20% has been what Ron, Tony and Ridley directed, and the rest has been producing. Those companies and Playtone, are models to be emulated.”
Said Costigan: “Those companies are rare now, but there is a long tradition of having a successful company with a filmmaker at its center that can be genuinely producorial and a true home for talent and our aim is to become that home outside and within Netflix.”
Besides his Scott Free stint where he produced films including American Gangster, Prometheus, Body of Lies, The Counselor and Out of the Furnace, Costigan is a former Columbia Pictures exec who oversaw films including The People Vs. Larry Flynt, Girl Interrupted, Charlie’s Angels, Snatch, To Die For and Bottle Rocket. Since turning producer through his Cota Films banner, Costigan’s credits include Brokeback Mountain, Ghost in the Shell and A Bigger Splash. Upcoming are the Anne Fletcher-directed black comedy Dumplin’ with Jennifer Aniston and Danielle MacDonald, and a drama on serial killer Ted Bundy, the Joe Berlinger-directed Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile that stars Zac Efron, Lily Collins and John Malkovich.
Costigan will bring over his projects to the Aggregate label, and he and Bateman will soon hire staff and ramp up their output of films and TV projects, with Netflix getting first look. They will become buyers to create new projects. Costigan hadn’t worked with Bateman, but said he often submitted scripts to him and was impressed with the detailed feedback on scripts, even though it came with a “no.” Costigan said films like Bad Words and The Family Fang, and especially the Ozark episodes Bateman directed, showed him that Bateman had all the potential to be the catalyst for a filmmaker-driven company like Imagine and Scott Free. The added benefit was Costigan’s long relationship with features head Scott Stuber, and the confidence that Ted Sarandos, Stuber and original content VP Cindy Holland have shown in Bateman.
“Scott Stuber and I had done a handful of jobs together over the years, and Ted knew my desire to direct more films, and that the series prevented me from doing that as often as I would like,” Bateman said. “If I was busy on the show for five months, we wanted to cover the other seven months. They’ve initiated on a massive scale original film productions, and it made sense to make a deal that covers film and television, and take the opportunity as producers to be a real supplier for them.”
While Netflix has hit the zeitgeist with series from Ozark to Stranger Things and 13 Reasons Why, doing it on the feature side is tougher because the traditional theatrical release is largely bypassed, along with a P&A spend that while inefficient, creates cultural awareness. Bateman and Costigan said they feel the change in the way films and their releases are being reevaluated and they are comfortable playing in this new sandbox because there is often more risk taking because success or failure isn’t determined by a closely scrutinized opening weekend.
“The environment and culture here at Netflix is well earned, and I can attest to that,” Bateman said. “Match that with the ability to reach an audience on a daily, monthly and season basis, where you’re never out of the theater, and no per screen average or worry that your friends won’t get to see a film you really care about before it leaves the theater. The response and reach I’ve experienced with Ozark is unlike anything I’ve experience in my career. Theatrical releases and robust marketing spends are attractive too, but they’re not everything and nowhere near half of it. Netflix is succeeding on the merits and word of mouth and we are excited to bring them stuff, not only dramas and comedies, but also documentaries in both film and television.”
In a statement, Sarandos said he was “excited to continue our long relationship with Jason and watch him excel not only as a talented actor and filmmaker, but also as a producer. We are looking to Aggregate as a major supplier for us here at Netflix. Cindy, Scott and I look forward to merging our vision and goals for the future in film and TV alongside Aggregate’s. The combination of Jason and Michael brings an impressive history of industry experience and relationships here to their new home.”
Bateman and Aggregate are represented by CAA, Lighthouse Management, and Tom Hoberman, who negotiated the deal.