The Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated director has signed a multi-year and multi-genre overall deal with the Peter Roth-run studio. It’s a big leap for a filmmaker primary known as a director — the sprawling WBTV production and development deal for DuVernay and her Forward Movement shingle covers drama and comedy series, documentaries, digital content, event projects and longer-form projects for broadcast and cable, premium cable, streaming services and other platforms.
It’s DuVernay’s first pact with any studio and is set to start in January. The deal is in the $100 million range, I’ve learned.
“I’ve had nothing but beautiful experiences working with Peter Roth, Susan Rovner and Brett Paul,” DuVernay, also the Queen Sugar and Red Line EP, told Deadline today. “They love and support artists in wonderful and nourishing ways. They work within a traditional studio headed by Kevin Tsujihara that is stirring with untraditional energy and fresh protocols for intentional, inclusive image-making. Warner Bros is a terrific partner about matters of visibility and belonging for all kinds and cultures of people, which is our mission at Forward Movement. I couldn’t be happier to call Warner Bros TV my production home.”
“Ava DuVernay is one of the leading lights in our industry, a brilliantly talented writer, producer, director and entrepreneur whose ability to inspire with her art is exceeded only by her ability to entertain,” said Roth, Warner Bros TV Group president and chief content officer. “We have had the great pleasure of working with her on Queen Sugar and The Red Line, and we are extremely excited about the new stories she has to tell.”
While DuVernay is no stranger to a contrarian disposition, many might have considered her a more natural fit at Netflix, where her Oscar-nominated documentary 13th was launched. She also has the just-wrapped four-part drama Central Park Five coming next year from the streaming service as well as a Prince documentary with exclusive access to the Purple One’s archives.
However, in an environment where everyone is trying to lock in talent, the move to a traditional studio when the likes of Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy are heading to the streamer makes sense for DuVernay. For one thing, besides the range and reach WBTV offers, one must factor in the relationship the Selma helmer has with the studio already through the Warner Horizon Scripted Television-produced Queen Sugar, renewed in August for a fourth season on Oprah’s OWN, and the CBS event series Red Line, which she executive produces with in-house superman Greg Berlanti and Sarah Schechter.
Add to that, unlike a deal with a streamer, the WBTV deal offers DuVernay the opportunity to sell her shows to everyone as opposed to be locked into to one outlet. It also doesn’t impinge on the indie collective ARRAY founder’s big-screen ambitions, which will coincidentally also see DuVernay directing a big-budget adaptation of the Jack Kirby-created The New Gods for Warner Bros Pictures down the line. New Gods will be the second such film for DuVernay, who was the first woman of color to helm a $100 million-plus live-action film with Disney’s A Wrinkle In Time earlier this year.
DuVernay is repped by CAA and attorneys Nina Shaw and Gordon Bobb.