EXCLUSIVE: Black Bear Televison has partnered with Crazy Heart writer-director Scott Cooper to develop a limited dramatic series Angels & Demons. Making his television debut, Cooper will write and direct all the episodes.
The drama is based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning St. Petersburg Times article by Thomas French, a powerful and personal true crime drama examining the tragic murder of three women whose bodies were found floating in the shallow tidewaters of Tampa Bay.
Cooper is no stranger to tough subject matter mixed with emotion and heart on the big screen, directing Crazy Heart, Hostiles, Black Mass, Out of the Furnace, and the upcoming thriller Antlers that Searchlight will release next February.
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Black Bear will serve as the studio and will be executive produces along with Cooper. Tom French will serve as a Consulting Producer.
The deal with Cooper comes as the feature division of Teddy Schwarzman’s Black Bear Picture scored a big feature sale on the J Blakeson-directed darkly comedic satire I Care A Lot, with Rosamund Pike and Peter Dinklage starring. Netflix paid $10 million for U.S. rights and the rights to select countries including Germany, Latin America, South Africa, the Middle East, and India. It was one of the biggest deals of a film that played at the pandemic-challenged TIFF.
While many companies were forced to re-trench during the pandemic, Black Bear president/CEO Schwarzman said the company has gone in the other direction. Expansion plans could include distribution, and even the management space. The escalation of deals and development has been on an uptick since Schwarzman named long time Black Bear exec Ben Stillman to run the TV studio that can cash flow the development and production of series like Angels & Demons (another fast track project is a series based on Irish author Naoise Dolan’s Exciting Times). Schwarzman also brought in 26 Keys’ head of film Leigh Kittay to head Black Bear’s film division. The company has the financial resources to build aggressively to build slates of material and filmmaker-centric content reflected in past pics The Imitation Game, Mudbound and Ben Is Back.
“We’ve made a strong commitment at a time it’s become more difficult than ever to create content,” Schwarzman told Deadline. “We picked up 10 projects in film and TV in the last six months, some in the development phase and others close to going into production. We’ve had production releases, from the Dave Franco-directed The Rental coming out over summer and becoming one of only two films to be number one in the theaters and on digital. We have up and coming Heidi Ewing’s I Carry You With Me, which won the Audience Award and Innovator Award in the Next Section at Sundance, just premiered at the New York Film Festival, and will come to audience soon through Sony Pictures Classics. And now J Blakeson’s nasty, delicious film I Care A Lot, a satire on the American dream, stemming from the research he did on real atrocities that befell members of the elderly community that are seemingly legal in a system that just wasn’t providing adequate protection as legal guardians were taking over people’s legal rights and possessions, locking them up and basically using the elderly as cash cows. It’s a look at what it takes to get ahead and what some people are willing to do in our country, which lent itself to fictional satire. We hope to have in production by January the latest Memory, with Martin Campbell directing Liam Neeson, and The Marsh King’s Daughter. We’re not constrained by capital but want to make sure they add something to the genre they’re in. It that means four to six films a year, we will do that.”
Setting Stillman to head TV and Kittay to steer film has given Schwarzman more of an ability to strategically diversify the company into other growth opportunities.
“We created Elevation five years ago and have moved that company quickly to be the number one distributor in Canada, releasing 35 films a year with outputs with STX and many others, and a growing co-production business,” Schwarzman said. “And even though consumer behavior is shifting, we’re continuing to look at opportunities in core traditional distribution in areas complementary to what we already have in Canada. Similarly we are happiest when we are most connected to content and content origination and that has led us to look a great deal at literary and talent management right now. It’s obviously a time of great upheaval, and human capital mobility between agencies, management companies and upstarts all having their moment. Frankly, if we can find a way to be in closer proximity to the caliber of writers and directors we’ve been in business with over the years and do it in a way that avoids conflicts of interest but helps further their careers and projects, then we want to be in that space. To that end, we have had and are currently having conversations with existing management companies, with agents that have expressed interest in possible transitions and upstart entrepreneurs looking to do something new. If we’re going to enter that space, it needs to be a cultural fit where we are partnered with people who are honorable in business dealings, do the hard work, have exceptional creative taste and first and foremost put their clients and projects first. It’s an area we are exploring and are excited to continue those conversations.”
CAA reps Cooper.
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