EXCLUSIVE: Spectrum Originals is developing Tinseltown, a period drama series based on William J Mann’s 2014 bestselling book Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, And Madness At The Dawn of Hollywood. The project hails from Mann, The Son executive producer Kevin Murphy, Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment, Tracy Katsky’s KatCo and Paramount Television Studios.
Co-written by Murphy and Mann, Tinseltown is set against the seamy, glamorous backdrop of silent film era. It explores the lives of four pioneer women filmmakers whose lives and livelihoods were threatened by a scandalous murder and the brutal patriarchy of Hollywood’s nascent studio system.
What the description refers to is the famously unsolved murder of William Desmond Taylor, the popular president of the Motion Picture Directors Association.
“The show centers on four accomplished women filmmakers who get dragged into the grotesque media circus surrounding a murder,” Murphy said. “Their careers are upended and they find themselves pushed out of the burgeoning Hollywood studio system, a system Paramount founder Adolph Zukor has been building by strong-arming independent producers and exhibitors ravaged by the Spanish Flu shutdown.”
If the project goes to series, it will launch on the heels of a global pandemic, the current coronavirus crisis. That would mirror the setting of Tinseltown, which takes place in the early 1920s, immediately after the Spanish Flu pandemic.
There are also other aspects that make Tinseltown timely. Some refer to the events in the book — and its adaptation — as the origin story of the #MeToo movement.
“I believe this is a story about women in Hollywood and the resiliency of women in Hollywood,” Mann said. “We wonder how we got to where we are today, well, this is the origin story of so much.”
Kapital and KatCo acquired the rights to Mann’s book in 2014 in a competitive situation. Kaplan and Murphy had been talking about doing a project together for 7-8 years but Murphy never sparked to an idea until Kaplan sent him a copy of Mann’s Tinseltown. Murphy was coming off AMC’s The Son, starring Pierce Brosnan, which also included historical elements, and immediately jumped on it.
Murphy and Mann executive produce alongside Kapital’s Kaplan and Dana Honor and KatCo’s Katsky.
Mann, repped by APA, is a well known Hollywood chronicler who has previously written Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn; How to Be A Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor In Hollywood; Hello, Gorgeous: Becoming Barbra Streisand; and Wisecracker: The Life And Times Of William Haines.
Desperate Housewives and Caprica alum Murphy created/executive produced the series Valentine and Hellcats and co-created/exec produced Defiance. He is repped by Jamie Mandelbaum.