Amazon Studios has entered the arms race for top TV showrunner talent with a mega overall deal with Westworld creators/executive producers/showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, and their company Kilter Films.
No one would comment but I hear the pact, which had been in the works for months, is for five years and is valued in the nine figures, believed to be in the low- to mid-nine-figure range, ranking as one of the richest TV overall deals in the marketplace.
Under the pact, the husband-and-wife duo will work with Amazon Studios to create and produce original series that will premiere exclusively on Amazon Prime Video worldwide. The deal builds upon Nolan and Joy’s existing relationship with Amazon, where they have been developing sci-fi drama series The Peripheral.
Nolan and Joy segue to the deal after separate overall pacts at Warner Bros TV, where Nolan had been based for almost two decades. While their development will be exclusive to Amazon, Joy and Nolan are not leaving their praised HBO/WBTV drama Westworld, on which they are the main creative forces. They have inked a show deal to continue to write and executive produce the sci-fi Western for multiple additional seasons.
“Jonah Nolan and Lisa Joy are two of the most talented and inventive creators in the business,” said Jennifer Salke, Head of Amazon Studios. “They have mastered the art of working in tandem as well as individually on so many fantastic projects across film and television. They each bring their own unique storytelling abilities to the partnership, creating unforgettable characters in addictive and compelling worlds. We are ready to jump right in and can’t wait to deliver their future projects to our Amazon Prime Video audience.”
The pact with Nolan and Joy reaffirms Amazon’s commitment to be a player in the current battle for top TV showrunner talent that has pushed the prices into the eight- and nine-figure range for the biggest names.
Asked by Deadline last year whether Amazon would make a $100 million overall deal, Salke said, “Absolutely… I don’t think there’s any shortage of resources to support talent deals here, at all. I think it’s about being strategic and selective about who those people are, and you’ll see that anyone that I make a deal with, for the most part, has one thing in common. They all want to break out and be original. They want a cultural impact, and they want to be entertaining. They’re not looking to do something small. They want a lot of eyeballs on it. So, there’s a certain amount of ambition but also original voice and purity of vision and voice that these deals have.”
With the deal, Nolan and Joy enter an exclusive club of giant, nine-figure deals that includes pacts for Ryan Murphy and Shonda Rhimes at Netflix, Greg Berlanti at Warner Bros TV and Mike Schur at Universal TV.
Joy and Nolan created Westworld, which was inspired by Michael Crichton’s classic 1973 film. The series has amassed 43 Emmy nominations for its first two seasons, along with WGA, PGA and SAG Awards nominations. Production on Season 3 starts this spring, with Nolan directing the premiere.
The duo first got in business with Amazon last spring when the streaming service landed for development their techno-thriller drama The Peripheral. Inspired by William Gibson’s novel of the same name, the project continues to be in the works at Amazon Studios’ genre department run by Sharon Tal Yguado. The drama, from WBTV and Amazon Studios, is written by Scott B. Smith and directed by Vincenzo Natali who executive produce with Nolan, Joy and Steven Hoban. The Peripheral follows a woman in a near future America in which technology has started to subtly alter society.
“We are incredibly excited to begin this new adventure with Amazon Studios,” said Nolan and Joy in a joint statement. “Jennifer Salke’s vision for the future of our business is bold and forward-thinking, and she’s assembled a brilliant creative team to execute it. We can’t wait to dive in to make some batshit crazy television together. And we’re thrilled to continue our collaboration with our friends and partners at Warner Bros and HBO on Westworld, The Peripheral and more for seasons to come.”
The Amazon deal also covers Joy and Nolan’s Kilter Films. In addition to Nolan and Joy, the company’s team includes Kilter president Athena Wickham, creative executive Halle Phillips and creative producer Noreen O’Toole. Kilter has also has produced interactive and transmedia marketing for its series, including a Westworld Super Bowl spot directed by Nolan.
Joy is directing her debut feature film Reminiscence, distributed by Warner Bros, starring Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson. Joy wrote the script, which landed on The Black List, and produces with her Kilter Films partner Nolan, Michael De Luca and Aaron Ryder. The film is co-produced by Warner Bros, Kilter Films, Michael De Luca Productions and FilmNation Entertainment.
Joy began her writing career on the cult ABC series Pushing Daisies. Her TV directorial debut was on Westworld.
Nolan’s additional credits include writing, with his brother Christopher, Interstellar; the acclaimed Batman films The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises; The Prestige; and indie classic Memento, for which he received an Oscar nomination and a Sundance Film Festival Waldo Salt Screenwriters Award. Nolan was nominated for a DGA Award for the pilot of Westworld, and an Emmy for the Season 1 finale. Nolan segued to Westworld after creating and executive producing the popular CBS sci-fi crime procedural drama Person of Interest, which ran for five seasons.
Nolan and Joy are both repped by WME and attorney Michael Schenkman.