6 Queer Creators Share the Dream TV and Film Projects They Haven’t Been Able to Sell (Yet)

Last year, the screenwriter and director Nisha Ganatra (Late NightTransparent) tried to sell a show based on her life to TV network executives, about a queer, Indian-American high-school freshman obsessed with Madonna. Ganatra was nervous about how the project would be perceived — initially, she’d written the main character as a straight girl — but Amy Poehler was producing it, so she thought that Poehler’s star power might help push the series onto the air.

Ganatra had reason to be tentatively optimistic. More mainstream queer television is being made than ever before — during the 2018-2019 season, according to GLAAD, the number of queer characters on network TV was at an all time high. Pose featured the largest cast of trans characters in history, CBS’s Instinct brought us the first-ever openly gay lead in a drama, and the CW’s Supergirl debuted television’s first trans superhero. But despite these milestones, many queer creators, even those with decades of success behind them, still say they have a hard time convincing the gatekeepers at TV networks and film studios to take risks on their pitches. Ganatra, who’d won a Golden Globe award for her work as a director and producer on Transparent, says she was shocked by some of the responses she heard when she pitched her pilot to executives.

“We were told by one network that they already had a show that had a young queer character on it, but it was about a boy — an Irish-American boy,” Ganatra says, with a dry laugh. “To me, that’s a very antiquated way of thinking. I can’t imagine them saying, ‘You know what, we already have a show with a straight white character and it takes place at the same time, so there’s no space for another one.’” Ultimately, the networks passed on the project. “It still feels like tokenism — that there’s only one of everything, and that’s enough.”

In conversations with Vulture this month, several writers in TV and film reported experiencing tokenism among today’s industry executives, which might explain why, despite the proliferation of queer characters on television shows and in movies, those characters are rarely leads — Pose and Instinctbeing welcome exceptions to the rule. “I think it’s getting easier to have a gay sidekick,” Jamie Babbit (But I’m a Cheerleader, Russian Doll) says. “And I’ll take a gay sidekick because I just feel like it’s good to saturate the market with as much queer propaganda as possible. But no, I don’t think it’s easy to sell a queer project today.”

Jonathan Gabay, a senior vice-president of development at Berlanti Productions who recently left Fox, said that he thinks we’re on the “cusp” of a major shift toward more queer content in mainstream venues. When he started buying comedy series for Fox eight years ago, he says, “any time someone would pitch a show the goal was, ‘How can we reach the broadest audience?’” Executives had little faith that a queer-centric show would appeal to the masses. Now, there’s less pressure to meet that goal. “In 2019, I think that has completely changed due to the amount of cable networks and streaming channels, where you can make a more niche show,” he says. And once a niche show succeeds, Gabay points out, executives invariably try to replicate its success. “The minute something works people are like, ‘Great! Give us more of that.’”

Jamie Babbit’s Lesbian Period Film Starring Kate McKinnon

Sam Bain [the co-creator of Peep Show] and I have a project that we want to do called Lavender. It’s a period movie that takes place in the early ’50s about a young ingenue who’s in a lavender marriage“Lavender marriage” is a phrase used to describe a union between a man and a woman, one or both of whom are LGBTQ, who are seeking to conceal their sexual identity by participating in a straight relationship. with a closeted gay actor. Sam’s a child of a lavender marriage, and it would be great for both of us to explore that area. After working on Marvelous Mrs. Maisel in New York, I just love that period.

The idea for the project was partially inspired by Rock Hudson’s manager,Rock Hudson’s manager was Henry Willson.who was a famous manager to gay actors, and who found straight wives for them. But it’s also a lesbian romance between a young gay actress who marries a very well known gay actor, and in the meantime, has an affair and relationship with a very famous lesbian director. My dream cast is Kate McKinnon to play the lesbian director, and Emma Watson to play the young ingenue.

There’s something really fucking hot about a very closeted environment that I think most queer people understand — the taboo of it, and the high stakes. As someone who is a dyke from the early ’90s, there’s a really hot aesthetic in the whole butch/femme underground thing that I find very remiss in current queer movies that I would like to explore. So that’s our dream. And we have a pitch document we’ve been sending around to European financiers. No luck yet.

It’s always hard, I think, to get queer projects made. You know, for me, I’m interested in period, and I’m also interested in comedy, and people always assume any queer project set in the past is a tragedy. Hopefully we’ll find a home for it. But I think people always assume it’s a niche market. You know, no matter how many movies are successful — Brokeback MountainLove, Simon — people always claim that. Making movies is a gamble in any market, so queer stories just make people nervous. Movies are expensive, and it’s straight white men who mostly control the money. When you go and speak to your financier, it’s very subtle, the way that homophobia is expressed. I’m constantly pushing queer characters into the stories. And there’s some nudging back in a very liberal way.

Silas Howard’s HBO Movie About Billy Tipton

There’s this one project I had in development with HBO back in 2006. It was a movie based on Billy Tipton,The bandleader and musician Billy Tipton never legally married, but had several relationships with women who referred to themselves as Mrs. Tipton. a jazz musician, who married all of these women, and when he died, it was discovered he was born female. I haven’t taken the project out recently, but my producer just emailed me about it, and I still think about it often. I’d still love to get it made.

I was in a band for years,In the 1990s, Silas Howard played guitar in the San Francisco band Tribe 8. a punk band, so I had this connection to Billy. Music was a passport to occupy other spaces; music allowed him to find home. A lot of the movie was about finding home, and then ultimately, it was a love story, too. My producer and I, we went and met Billy’s last wife, Kitty,Katherine “Kitty” Kelly and Billy Tipton adopted three sons together. a retired Vegas show woman. By the time we met her she was in her 80s, and she got deeply involved in the project. Her house had a mini–Grey Gardens vibe, and I remember when we first met Kitty, she was standing in front of this velvet painting with a naked woman laying out and a volcano in the background. As soon as we walked in, she was like, “See that painting? That’s me. The artist was in love with me.” And then she goes, “See that volcano? That’s me too.” All the characters around Billy were amazing.

Back in 2005, we got so close. [The movie] was in development for over a year. We did location scouting and casting. But then one of our executives who was really onboard with it left, and it got kicked up to another executive who just didn’t connect to it. I could tell he had no sense of the story, and I knew then that we were just going to die there. And then the words came out of my mouth that we’d rather take it back than try to reinvent the story.

Since then, I’ve done director’s labs with it. I just did a radio project about it, and I’ve done a monologue. It’s set in the ’40s, so it’s not super cheap. Back in 2005, a lot of Hollywood people didn’t get it — people couldn’t understand Billy as a he. In terms of representation of trans people, it was a long time ago. Since then, I think I’ve had a few people read it and had interest here and there. But yeah, it’s always been sort of picked up and looked at but never quite crossed the finish line. I do think things are changing and moving in a certain direction, but I think the power structure is still the power structure. It’s not like TV and movies are being made by a bunch of outsiders now.

Gabe Liedman’s Queer Workplace Comedy

The first show I took around to pitch, that ten networks all passed on, was a gay-led comedy based on my own experience of being a sales boy at Barneys while trying to start my writing career. It was this workplace comedy and the whole ensemble was queer. It just seemed like the most obvious TV show to me — like, I would love to watch a queer show that takes place in a crazy fancy department store.

I based the characters on people I knew and on myself. I’m a stoner; I’m not a fashion person. I got a job at Barneys through a friend and just always sold enough to not get fired, but I was not who you think of as the sales guy at Barneys. The arc of the season revolves around this unlikely sales person, and this one crazy customer who was based on a real person who came into Barneys every day but never bought anything. And they eventually become best friends, and it turns out that she’s rich enough that she can keep him afloat to have someone to visit every day. That part wasn’t based on real life. [Laughs.]

I was pitching it back in 2013, and I did hear back then, “Oh, we already have a gay show in development.” No one says it directly to your face. You go and pitch your show and everyone nods or laughs or stifles yawns, and then you go away and they tell your agent yes or no and a brief sentence. It really was pretty direct: They already have a gay show; they’re passing. They’d say, “Oh, we already have Looking, and we have other stuff in development with a gay main character, so we’re just covered.” One of the weirdest responses I got was, “We already have a show with a female boss.” Weird.

I don’t hear those words that much anymore, to be honest. Hopefully people just know not to say that. And I think that’s something. I still use [the Barneys comedy] as my writing sample to get jobs. I’d still love to sell it. I know there’s a show in there, it just seems so obvious. There’s some High Maintenance/Ugly Betty mash-up in there that has not been done.

Justin Noble’s 30-Something Gay Dating Story

I had an ABC pilot a year and a half ago that came super close to getting ordered. At front and center was a gay character, and half of the pilot was a gay dating story. It was a workplace comedy set in a luxury hotel, about what it’s like working for guests who are exorbitantly rich when you are basically living paycheck to paycheck, where you only get to see the dream, but you can’t quite touch it. It was seen through the eyes of these two concierges, as they had to deal with all the complaining guests.

One of the concierges is this gay guy who’s 31, who felt like he’d aged out of gay dating. He wasn’t in shape, and he didn’t have a six pack, and he was a hopeless romantic who didn’t have the right outlet to find a person. In the pilot, he meets this guy at trivia night, and they have a meet-cute. One of my favorite Drag Race contestants of all time was on it, and there’s a great closing moment as “Toxic” by Britney Spears blares at the bar. I was trying to go hard: The show is fucking gay.

The pilot did really well — it got ordered, and it was shot, and it tested really well. The gay character, in particular, tested astronomically well. The audience wanted more of him, but the resounding note we got from the development process itself was to cut down on the gay dating story and focus more on other things, and that note was very hard to swallow. At the end of the day, I don’t know why they never ordered a full season. We got so close. I was getting calls from executives saying, “Here’s a writer you should have in the room when your room starts up.” And then the pilot arrived into a room where the heads of ABC/Disney make decisions, and it didn’t come out alive.

I almost always do a twofer thing, with one gay lead and one straight lead, because even though I want to have my gay character front and center, I’ve been through this enough to know that baby steps are the way to go. It’s more of an uphill battle when the entire cast is gay, though there’s another pitch I’m currently working on that I want to take out soon. I’ve always wanted to write a workplace comedy about the people who work in a drag club, and by now, I’ve met maybe 80 to 90 percent of the gay actors in Hollywood, all these fantastic performers whom I want to write this show around. So that’s a dream. But I won’t pitch this one to a network, even though I’ve only worked exclusively in the network space. If I pitched this to them, they’re just going to take it off the table, and it won’t make it onto air, so I just have to avoid taking that paycheck and hope to sell it to a place that will maybe actually put it out there. Netflix buys a lot of different things these days, and it’s willing to go niche because it can afford to. I just can’t imagine one of the big networks buying an extremely queer show.

Nisha Ganatra’s Amy Poehler–Backed Project

There was this one project I got to write for Amy Poehler — it was called Primadonna. It was about a young Indian-American girl who’s obsessed with Madonna, and it’s a coming-of-age story. In the pilot, you meet our girl and her family, and you learn that she and her brother are two of the only Indian people at their high school. She’s navigating her first year of high school, and everything that sucks about being a freshman, and over the course of the episode, she runs into the girl who will become, in future episodes, her girlfriend. And she’s navigating the world through her obsession with Madonna, and trying to follow the advice of Madonna. It’s a little bit radical because Madonna is giving her the advice of a young white woman, and she’s following Madonna’s advice to a tee, but it’s not working out for her, and without saying so, you know it’s not working out for her because she’s not a young, white, talented singer or dancer. She’s a little nerdy Indian girl. It says it without saying it.

Originally, I actually had changed the character to not be queer, basically, because of a career full of [hearing] “too Indian, too gay, no, no, no, no, no.” But then Amy Poehler was like, “It’s gotta be as close to your experience as possible — make the character queer!” So I made the character queer. I thought, Well, maybe with the strength of Amy, that no will become a yes. She’s obviously not had a career of being told “too gay, no.” She’s always pushing the boundaries. And you need a champion. But even with her, we couldn’t make it. That was shocking to me, and sad.

This was last year, when we went out with it. We were told by one network that they already had a show that had a young queer character on it, but it was about a boy, an Irish-American boy. And I was like, But ... okay. Then we were told by another network that it already had a show that took place in the late ’80s/early ’90s. Both of these were interesting to me because I can’t imagine them saying, “You know what, we already have a show with a straight white character and it takes place at the same time, so there’s no space for another one.” To me, that’s a very antiquated way of thinking — that there can’t be two Indian-American shows, or two queer shows. It still feels like tokenism — that there’s only one of everything, and that’s enough. Like, We did that; we satisfied that.

We have to push past this idea that diversity and inclusion is giving voice to one token. It’s gotta be a thing that’s seen as what it is: representative of our culture, and something that’s benefiting all of us. Until we move into that space of thinking and away from this idea that we’re gracing this one outlier — this one anointed voice — with the great gift of welcoming them into the mainstream, until we start understanding that the mainstream is not the mainstream and never was, until we turn that whole fiction on its head and expose it as the fiction it always was, things aren’t really going to change.

Rain Valdez’s ‘Insecure But With Trans Women’

I have a lot of pieces I’m juggling, but the one that I feel most needs to happen now, more than ever, is my half-hour comedy pilot. It’s called Girl Out, and it’s basically Insecure but with trans women. It’s set in L.A. and it follows Alex, who had lived a stealth life for over ten years, but is now coming out and finding herself a fish out of water in her own community. It grapples with what it means for her to be queer and trans, and what that community means to her, but it also is about the heteronormative life she’s created over the past ten years.

In the pilot, she has to upend her life — she’s a writer for an online magazine, and she gets fired from her job because she’s not queer or relevant enough, and she tries to come out, but it’s too late. Then her relationship with her longtime boyfriend ends because he’s helped keep the secret of her transness, and it was this pact that they’d made. She’s trying to deal with her best friends in her heteronormative life — her Sunday-brunch girlfriends — and her best friend who she cut ties with in order to live a stealth life. (Trace Lysette is attached to play the best friend she cut ties with.) It’s really about Alex’s two worlds coming together, and finding herself in the cross fire of wanting and needing to have deeper relationships with the people in her life, but in order to do that, she has to upend everything and start telling the truth of who she is.

There isn’t a blueprint out there for how to pitch your idea, especially if you’re an up-and-coming filmmaker such as myself. But I’ve been pitching to different production companies, and a few have expressed interest. I think the struggle is that still, in the grand scheme of things, even though trans stories and nonbinary stories are being told and are much more visible, we’re still being tokenized, and we’re still on the threshold. Like, someone told me, “Oh, we already have a trans show,” which is Pose. Or, we already have a trans character on the show. This is where I think the level of consciousness needs to be taken up into a higher frequency. I think it’s a matter of a network or a production company wanting to take further risks. That’s the threshold I feel like I’m hitting when I go into rooms: Are they willing to take a risk even though there’s another show with a trans character, or multiple trans characters, or there’s Pose, or Transparent — even though those shows have nothing to do with mine? Are they willing to tell this authentic story that doesn’t yet exist?

Caroline Kusser Mini-VRP

Caroline Kusser is SVP US & International Distribution at Fremantle. Previous to joining FM, Kusser set up Carokusser, a TV content distribution service whose clients included ZDF Enterprises. Kusser was also part of the Red Arrow Intl. team for 10 years and in 2011 was relocated to L.A. as the senior VP of North America where she was responsible for establishing and building the group’s U.S. business. Prior to Red Arrow Intl., Kusser held roles at Bavaria Media TelevisionPeppermint and Beta Film.
In the Media:
Starz Acquires BBC Suspense Drama ‘Dublin Murders’ for US, Territories  |  Screen Daily  |  Jan 25, 2018
Premium cable network Starz has acquired upcoming BBC One drama series Dublin Murders for the US and Canada and for its streaming platforms in Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

Deals for “select additional territories” on the series, handled internationally by Fremantle, are still to be announced, Starz said.

Adapted from the first two Dublin Murder Squad crime novels by American-Irish author Tana French, the series was originally commissioned by BBC One and is also set to air on Ireland’s national public service network RTÉ, with support from Northern Ireland Screen.

Sarah Phelps is creator and writer of the series, in which Killian Scott and Sarah Greene lead a predominantly Irish cast.

The series is produced by Euston Films, Veritas Entertainment Group and Element Pictures, and the executive producer roster includes Sarah Phelps and Saul Dibb, Kate Harwood and Noemi Spanos for Euston, Alan Gasmer and Peter Jaysen for Veritas, Ed Guiney for Element, and Elizabeth Kilgarriff for the BBC.

Starz president and CEO Chris Albrecht commented: “This series is brilliantly adapted by Sarah Phelps, who in blending the first two novels has constructed a complex and enigmatic world for this suspense-filled drama. We look forward to bringing viewers along on this intense ride.”

Caroline Kusser, senior vice-president, distribution US, international at Fremantle, added: “Starz is the perfect home for Dublin Murders and we are thrilled to be partnering with Starz to showcase this brilliant psychological drama from Euston Films, Veritas Entertainment Group and Element Pictures.”

FremantleMedia Intl Names Caroline Kusser As U.S. SVP Sales and Distribution  |  Variety  |  Dec 10, 2015
FremantleMedia International has hired former Red Arrow International exec Caroline Kusser as SVP, Sales and Distribution of its U.S. arm. The newly created position will see the exec based in LA and reporting to New York-based SEVP of Television & Digital Distribution for North America, Lisa Honig. Kusser was formerly SVP of Red Arrow North America from 2011.

Her new post will be to build FMI’s brand in the region and to maximize opportunities for the company’s 22,000 hours of content across linear, digital and home entertainment platforms. Fremantle licenses such series as the upcoming The Young Pope (whose producer, Wildside, was recently acquired by FremantleMedia); the Got Talent and X-Factorformats; Storage Wars; and Deadliest Catch. It also recently added Luther creator Neil Cross’ next project, Hard Sun as part of an increased focus on drama.

Kusser’s other previous positions include having set up content distribution service Carokusser, whose clients included ZDF Enterprises. She was part of the Red Arrow International team for 10 years, relocating to LA in 2011 to establish the group’s U.S. business. Before that, she held roles at Bavaria Media Television, peppermint and Beta Film in Germany.

Honig said, “Caroline’s vast experience, pivotal drama distribution knowledge and exceptional relationships in the U.S. will play an important part in FMI’s U.S. expansion strategy and push into high-end drama. With teams in both New York and LA, a well-established history of sales across multiple genres and long-standing client relationships, we’re in a good position to take our business up to the next level and Caroline’s understanding of this key market will help us to achieve further success.”

Kusser added, “It’s a really exciting time for FMI. I’m looking forward to joining its U.S. team and helping to further enhance its reputation across the region.”

Oliver Jones VRP

Oliver Jones is Director of Scripted Development at Fremantle North America. Jones joined Fremantle from The Weinstein Company where he served as Manager of Development. During his tenure there, he worked on series such as GUANTANAMO, THE ROMANOFFS, WACO, SIX, YELLOWSTONE and focused on their UK slate including LES MISERABLES, THE CITY & THE CITY and FEARLESS. Prior to The Weinstein Company, Jones worked at Imagine Television, where he focused on programs such as EMPIRE, 24: LEGACY, SHOTS FIRED and GENIUS. In addition, he also worked in the UK for World Productions.
Twitter (4.4K followers): https://twitter.com/olliekjones
Instagram (2.9K followers): https://www.instagram.com/olliekjones/
In the Media:
FremantleMedia North America Adds Three Scripted Executives  |  Deadline  |  Jan 25, 2018
FremantleMedia North America is beefing up its scripted division under new scripted president Dante Di Loreto with three hires. Reid Shane has been named EVP of Production, Jennifer Sherwood has joined as SVP of Scripted Development, and Oliver Jones as Director of Scripted Development.

Shane will oversee all aspects of scripted production for FMNA. He reports to FMNA’s EVP of Scripted Business Operations and Production, Susan Gross.

As SVP Scripted Development, Sherwood will be responsible for developing and pitching original scripted television programming. In addition, she will source international programming to be acquired and translated into the North American marketplace.

Shane joins FMNA from Media Rights Capital where he served as SVP of Television Production, overseeing series such as Ozark and Counterpart. Prior to MRC, Shane served as EVP of Production at Paramount Network TV where he shepherded series such as Frasier, JAG, NCIS, Numbers and Star Trek. Additionally, Shane also served as the co-executive producer on Bad Robot’s Fringe and Almost Human.

Sherwood developed and supervised such HBO longform projects as Game Change, Taking Chance and Temple Grandin. Most recently, Sherwood was with Silk Road Productions where she was a Partner Producer and served as a consulting producer on the Netflix series, Anne With An E.

Jones moves to FMNA from The Weinstein C. where he served as Manager of Development. There he worked on series such as Guantanamo, The Romanoffs, Waco, Six, Yellowstone and focused on their UK slate including Les Miserables, The City & the City and Fearless. Previously, Jones was with Imagine Television, where he worked on series such as Empire, 24: Legacy, Shots Fired and Genius. He also worked in the UK for World Productions.

FremantleMedia North America has one homegrown scripted series currently on the air, Starz’s American Gods. The company also is behind the upcoming History six-episode limited series, The Breach: Inside the Impeachment of Bill Clinton.

“I couldn’t be more pleased to be expanding our team with these three industry veterans,” said Dante Di Loreto, President of Scripted Entertainment, FremantleMedia North America. “At FMNA we have a clear and defined vision. Building on the success of American Gods and our global series The Young Pope, Hard Sun, as well as the upcoming Picnic at Hanging Rock and My Brilliant Friend, we strive to align ourselves with the very best creative talent.”

The Best Movies You Can’t See (Yet) We turned five scripts from the 2018 Black List into comics.

This week marks the release of the 14th edition of the Black List — the annual rundown of the most-liked unproduced screenplays to make the rounds in Hollywood as voted on by 300 studio and production-company executives. Over the past decade, the list has become not only an index of hot properties but a kind of super-early Oscars preview — these are the movies we’ll see getting trophies sometime between 2020 and 2030. That’s not hype: Ten of the last 20 Best Screenplay Oscar winners first showed up on the Black List, which was founded and is overseen by Franklin Leonard, a development exec who has worked with, among others, Will Smith and Leonardo DiCaprio. American HustleArgoArrivalHell or High WaterThe Imitation GameJunoManchester By the SeaMichael Clayton,Spotlight, and Whiplash were all Black List scripts; so is this week’s new arrival Bird Box.

The roster of Black List screenplays that have gone on to be produced and distributed runs to 300 — almost as impressive a number as the 700 that (so far) haven’t. That would be a great batting average in baseball and is an astonishing one for film development, especially since a significant number of Black List scripts are not really meant to be produced. They’re biopics of people who haven’t sold their life rights, or based-on-a-true-story accounts that would never clear any studio’s legal department but still serve as effective calling cards for their authors — showy work that can put them on the map, demonstrate their skill at dialogue, character, and/or structure, and improve their chances to be hired for a project a film company wants to make.

But the Black List serves another purpose: It’s a yearly glimpse of the state of the art by the art’s next great group of creators. Critics often speak approvingly of movies that feel “of the moment,” but because of the vagaries and challenges of production, that moment can be maddeningly long in coming. The Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic On the Basis of Sex, which opens this week, was a Black List selection — in 2014. How It Ends, an action film that arrived earlier this year, made the list way back in 2010. And the Best Picture nominees Nebraska and The Revenant took eight years to move from script to screen. Any year’s most-acclaimed movies usually started as glimmers in a writer’s eye between two and ten years earlier. Those perfect Trump-era takes? They were probably written during the Obama era.

But the arrival of the Black List allows us to look at Hollywood in a different way: What are writers most eager to pursue right now? There are 73 class-of-2018 Black List scripts (it took at least seven votes to make the list, and this year’s winner, Elissa Karasik’s Frat Boy Genius, received 36). Together, they constitute a kind of group show of writers at or near the beginning of their careers (the typical Black List scribe can be found somewhere on IMDB, often under “miscellaneous crew”); their work collectively showcases unmistakable themes, frustrations, and obsessions that are indeed of this moment.

This year’s scripts include at least two with central roles for trans protagonists, and the roster of up-to-the-minute villains, according to the list’s loglines, includes “Gamergate trolls” and a “social-media influencer.” One theme, though, announces itself louder than any other (no, not that one). A good writer knows to avoid anything too on-the-nose, which is why there appear to be zero scripts about you know who. But one Trump-adjacent plotline — how did [asshole’s name here] ever get so much power? — is pervasive. Frat Boy Genius is about Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel. Cody Brotter’s Drudge, about Matt Drudge’s rise during the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, also made this year’s top four, and other scripts on the list include takes on (if not takedowns of) Rupert Murdoch’s ex-wife Wendi Deng, former Gawker editor A. J. Daulerio, and Chris Wylie and Cambridge Analytica. (Almost a decade later, The Social Network, a 2009 Black List selection, clearly casts a long shadow.) Biopics or episode-in-the-life-of stories are pervasive: Sally Ride, Bill Gates, Vanilla Ice, and a high-school-age Samuel L. Jackson all have scripts devoted to them, as do Richard Williams (Venus and Serena’s father), Tiger Woods, and Kobe Bryant (Mike Schneider’s Mamba focuses on the sexual-assault case against him).

Given its yearlong ubiquity in headlines, #MeToo is, perhaps, the most striking omission from the current list — though an understandable one given the likelihood of almost any screenplay reaching the desk of at least one offender. Race, however, proved an irresistible subject. In Sascha Penn’s CI-34, a black agent teams with a Mafia hit man to solve the 1966 murder of a civil-rights activist in Mississippi. A 1964 murder involving white supremacists is the subject of Michele Atkins’s One Night in Mississippi; the title character of Nicholas Mariani’s The Defender is a black defense lawyer in the Jim Crow South; and in Chris Kekaniokalani Bright’s Conviction,Clarence Darrow finds himself defending the white murderers of a native Hawaiian who had been falsely accused of rape. Some scripts offer more contemporary perspectives: Meredith Dawson’s Spark is about an African-American woman encountering Silicon Valley VC bro culture, and Queen & Slim (by Master of None Emmy winner Lena Waithe, one of the list’s few recognizable names) depicts a black couple on a first date who go on the run after killing a cop in self-defense.

As ever, there’s a lot of sci-fi, with heavy emphasis on altered consciousness, timestream do-overs, and loss. Young writers have evidently been watching Groundhog Day as well as a lot of Black Mirror; they also seem to have spent a good deal of time staring at screens while thinking, “I’m losing my mind,” which feels very fin-de-2018. The overall theme is one of intense melancholy. The logline for Mattson Tomlin’s Little Fish reads, in part, “a couple fights to hold their relationship together as a memory-loss virus spreads.” In Alanna Brown’s The 29th Accident, a man loses his wife on their wedding day only to wake up next to her four years later. The consciousness of a dead man is implanted in a new body 20 years later in Matt Kic and Mike Sorce’s The Second Life of Ben Haskins. In Naked Is the Best Disguise(by The Imitation Game’s Graham Moore, the only Oscar winner on this year’s list), “a woman who deals in black-market memories is accused of murdering a man she does not remember knowing.” Meet Cute, by Noga Pnueli, is a time-travel comedy about a woman trying to repeat and thus fix a first date. And In Retrospect, by Brett Treacy and Dan Woodward, portrays a man trying to dive into his estranged wife’s subconscious to retrieve her after “an experimental procedure.”

A couple of categories are Black List perennials: The killer high-concept sell will never go out of style. Who could resist the logline for Chris Thomas Devlin’s Cobweb (“Peter has always been told the voice he hears at night is only in his head, but when he suspects his parents have been lying, he conspires to free the girl within the walls of his house”)? Sold! In this case, literally: Lionsgate is putting up the money. The Black List is not an unknown-talent contest; more than two-thirds of the films on the list already have producers attached, and more than a quarter have financing. But a great five-second pitch never hurts, and you’d have to be profoundly incurious not to want to know at least a little more about Jason Rostovsky’s Hare (“What starts as a fun day for a group of friends in the woods turns into a living nightmare for one rabbit”) or Jason Kessler’s Escher, in which the artist uses “his unique view of the world” to battle Nazis as part of the Dutch Resistance during World War II. Even screenplays the descriptions for which are so low concept they could seemingly appear on any year’s list — like Greg Kalleres’s Our Condolences, about a couple reevaluating their relationship after their friends lose a child, or Covers, by Flora Greeson, about a woman trying to become a music producer — are intriguing precisely because it’s clear that their power must be in the execution, not the concept.

Not all of these scripts will become movies, and not all that do will be any good; Dan Fogelman’s Life Itself, which finished second among all scripts on the 2016 Black List, became one of 2018’s most critically reviled movies. And inevitably, since Hollywood never met a list it didn’t try to game, some titles may have been boosted by the clubbiness or horse-trading (“I’ll vote for your guy if you vote for mine”) to which any enterprise like this is susceptible. Still, it’s hard not to feel that if this list resulted in 73 immediate green lights, the next two years at the movies — including the misfires — would be infinitely more interesting. — Mark Harris

Since we’re impatient and couldn’t wait for Hollywood’s green light, we asked comic artists to draw pivotal scenes from five of the screenplays on this year’s Black List, including Elissa Karasik’s Frat Boy Genius (which received 36 votes); Harry Tarre’s Queen (8); Michael Waldron’s The Worst Guy of All Time, and the Girl Who Came to Kill Him (26); Amanda Idoko’s Dead Dads Club (11); and Jason Kessler’s Escher (8).

Original Article: https://www.vulture.com/2018/12/best-movies-the-black-list-2018.html

Does It Pay to Be a Writer?

Writing has never been a lucrative career choice, but a recent study by the Authors Guild, a professional organization for book writers, shows that it may not even be a livable one anymore.

According to the survey results, the median pay for full-time writers was $20,300 in 2017, and that number decreased to $6,080 when part-time writers were considered. The latter figure reflects a 42 percent drop since 2009, when the median was $10,500. These findings are the result of an expansive 2018 study of more than 5,000 published book authors, across genres and including both traditional and self-published writers.

“In the 20th century, a good literary writer could earn a middle-class living just writing,” said Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the Authors Guild, citing William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and John Cheever. Now, most writers need to supplement their income with speaking engagements or teaching. Strictly book-related income — which is to say royalties and advances — are also down, almost 30 percent for full-time writers since 2009.

Writing for magazines and newspapers was once a solid source of additional income for professional writers, but the decline in freelance journalism and pay has meant less opportunity for authors to write for pay. Many print publications, which offered the highest rate, have been shuttered altogether.

The decline in earnings is also largely because of Amazon’s lion’s share of the self-publishing, e-book and resale market, Ms. Rasenberger said. The conglomerate charges commission and marketing fees to publishers that Ms. Rasenberger said essentially prevent their books from being buried on the site. Small and independent publishers, which have fewer resources and bargaining power, have been particularly hard hit. Book publishing companies are passing these losses along to writers in the form of lower royalties and advances, and authors also lose out on income from books resold on the platform.

In some ways, these changes are in line with a general shift toward a gig economy or “hustling,” in which people juggle an assortment of jobs to make up for the lack of a stable income. But the writing industry as a whole has always eluded standardization in pay. In a conversation with Manjula Martin in the book “Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living,” edited by Ms. Martin, Cheryl Strayed said, “There’s no other job in the world where you get your master’s degree in that field and you’re like, ‘Well, I might make zero or I might make $5 million!’”

In a recent call, Ms. Martin said that “the people who are able to practice the trade of authoring are people who have other sources of income,” adding that this creates barriers of entry and limits the types of stories that reach a wide audience. There is also, she added, a devaluation of writing in which it is often viewed as a hobby as opposed to a valuable vocation.

“Everyone thinks they can write, because everybody writes,” Ms. Rasenberger said, referring to the proliferation of casual texting, emailing and tweeting. But she distinguishes these from professional writers “who have been working on their craft and art of writing for years.”

“What a professional writer can convey in written word is far superior to what the rest of us can do,” Ms. Rasenberger said. “As a society we need that, because it’s a way to crystallize ideas, make us see things in a new way and create understanding of who we are as a people, where we are today and where we’re going.”

Original Article: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/05/books/authors-pay-writer.html

Making President Trump’s Bed: A Housekeeper Without Papers

At the president’s New Jersey golf course, an undocumented immigrant has worked as a maid since 2013. She said she never imagined she “would see such important people close up.”

BEDMINSTER, N.J. — During more than five years as a housekeeper at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., Victorina Morales has made Donald J. Trump’s bed, cleaned his toilet and dusted his crystal golf trophies. When he visited as president, she was directed to wear a pin in the shape of the American flag adorned with a Secret Service logo.

Because of the “outstanding” support she has provided during Mr. Trump’s visits, Ms. Morales in July was given a certificate from the White House Communications Agency inscribed with her name.

Quite an achievement for an undocumented immigrant housekeeper.

Ms. Morales’s journey from cultivating corn in rural Guatemala to fluffing pillows at an exclusive golf resort took her from the southwest border, where she said she crossed illegally in 1999, to the horse country of New Jersey, where she was hired at the Trump property in 2013 with documents she said were phony.

She said she was not the only worker at the club who was in the country illegally.

Sandra Diaz, 46, a native of Costa Rica who is now a legal resident of the United States, said she, too, was undocumented when she worked at Bedminster between 2010 and 2013. The two women said they worked for years as part of a group of housekeeping, maintenance and landscaping employees at the golf club that included a number of undocumented workers, though they could not say precisely how many. There is no evidence that Mr. Trump or Trump Organization executives knew of their immigration status. But at least two supervisors at the club were aware of it, the women said, and took steps to help workers evade detection and keep their jobs.

“There are many people without papers,” said Ms. Diaz, who said she witnessed several people being hired whom she knew to be undocumented.

Mr. Trump has made border security and the fight to protect jobs for Americans a cornerstone of his presidency, from the border wall he has pledged to build to the workplace raids and payroll audits that his administration has carried out.

During the presidential campaign, when the Trump International Hotel opened for business in Washington, Mr. Trump boasted that he had used an electronic verification system, E-Verify, to ensure that only those legally entitled to work were hired.

“We didn’t have one illegal immigrant on the job,” Mr. Trump said then.

[Read more immigration coverage from Miriam Jordan]

But throughout his campaign and his administration, Ms. Morales, 45, has been reporting for work at Mr. Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, where she is still on the payroll. An employee of the golf course drives her and a group of others to work every day, she says, because it is known that they cannot legally obtain driver’s licenses.

A diminutive woman with only two years of education who came to the United States speaking no English, Ms. Morales has had an unusual window into one of the president’s favorite retreats: She has cleaned the president’s villa while he watched television nearby; she stood on the sidelines when potential cabinet members were brought in for interviews and when the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, arrived to confer with the president.

“I never imagined, as an immigrant from the countryside in Guatemala, that I would see such important people close up,” she said.

But Ms. Morales said she has been hurt by Mr. Trump’s public comments since he became president, including equating Latin American immigrants with violent criminals. It was that, she said, along with abusive comments from a supervisor at work about her intelligence and immigration status, that made her feel that she could no longer keep silent.

“We are tired of the abuse, the insults, the way he talks about us when he knows that we are here helping him make money,” she said. “We sweat it out to attend to his every need and have to put up with his humiliation.”

Ms. Morales and Ms. Diaz approached The New York Times through their New Jersey lawyer, Anibal Romero, who is representing them on immigration matters. Ms. Morales said that she understood she could be fired or deported as a result of coming forward, though she has applied for protection under the asylum laws. She is also exploring a lawsuit claiming workplace abuse and discrimination.

In separate, hourslong interviews in Spanish, Ms. Morales and Ms. Diaz provided detailed accounts of their work at the club and their interactions with management, including Mr. Trump. Both women described the president as demanding but kind, sometimes offering hefty tips.

While they were often unclear on precise dates of when events occurred, they appeared to recollect key events and conversations with precision.

Ms. Morales has had dealings with Mr. Trump that go back years, and her husband has confirmed that she would on occasion come home jubilant because the club owner had paid her a compliment, or bestowed on her a $50 or sometimes a $100 tip.

To ascertain that she was in fact an employee of the club, The Times reviewed Ms. Morales’s pay stubs and W-2 forms, which list the golf course as her employer. She also made available her Individual Taxpayer Identification, a nine-digit number that is issued by the Internal Revenue Service to foreigners to enable them to file taxes without being permanent residents of the United States. Having a number does not confer eligibility to work.

The Times also examined the documents Ms. Morales presented as proof that she was entitled to work — a permanent resident card, or green card, and a Social Security card, both of which she said she purchased from someone in New Jersey who produced counterfeit documents for immigrants.

The Times ran Ms. Morales’s purported Social Security number through several public records databases and none produced a match, which is often an indication that the number is not valid. The number on the back of the green card that Ms. Morales has on file at the golf course does not correspond to the format of numbers used on most legitimate resident cards. For example, it includes initials that do not match those of any immigration service centers that issue the cards.

Ms. Diaz produced similar documents, though since she has gained legal residence she has been issued a genuine Social Security card and green card.

The Trump Organization, which owns the golf course, did not comment specifically on Ms. Morales or Ms. Diaz. “We have tens of thousands of employees across our properties and have very strict hiring practices,” Amanda Miller, the company’s senior vice president for marketing and corporate communications, said in a statement. “If an employee submitted false documentation in an attempt to circumvent the law, they will be terminated immediately.”

The White House declined to comment.

Mr. Trump opened the golf club in 2004 and has spent all or part of about 70 days at Bedminster since taking office.CreditChristopher Gregory for The New York Times


Hotels See Panic Buttons as a #MeToo Solution for Workers. Guest Bans? Not So Fast.

The hotel industry is betting that a simple device can help solve the complex problem of guests sexually assaulting and harassing workers.

It’s known as a panic button, a small gadget that housekeepers can use to swiftly call for help. The technology takes different forms, including GPS devices that track employees as they walk through the building, buttons that emit an audible alarm and smartphone apps.

After a yearlong cascade of stories about the sexual harassment of hotel workers, questions about how to address the problem remain largely unanswered. The most popular solution, one that hotel executives and labor activists can agree on, is small enough to fit in a pocket.

Through company policy or legislation pushed by local officials, panic buttons have become increasingly widespread at hotels across the country. But the hotel industry has fiercely resisted measures that would punish the accused, saying that they would threaten guests’ due process rights.

Juana Melara, a housekeeper in Southern California, believes a panic button could have gotten her out of a frightening situation several years ago when she was working in Cerritos, Calif.

Ms. Melara said she was cleaning a bathtub in a hotel room when she turned to see a guest staring at her. She asked him to leave the room and went on her break. When she returned to her housekeeping cart, she said, the man was walking in the hallway toward her with his penis pulled through his pants.

“I was so scared, I said, ‘Oh my God, what do I do?’” Ms. Melara said in an interview. “The rooms were empty — there were a lot of checkouts on Sunday. There was not anyone who could hear me.”

Ms. Melara, 53, said she escaped into a nearby room and locked the door. She called her supervisor and the front desk but said that no one came to the room for about 20 minutes.

When she moved to Long Beach, Calif., years later, Ms. Melara continued to work as a housekeeper and began organizing with Unite Here, a union that represents hotel workers that was advocating a law mandating panic buttons at hotels. Statewide legislation failed earlier this year, but on Tuesday, separate ballot measures in Long Beach and Oakland requiring panic buttons at hotels of a certain size passed easily.

Over the past year, Seattle has become the main battleground for the industry and the hospitality union’s dueling interests. Two years ago, voters approved a ballot measure mandating panic buttons and instituting a system that would place guests accused of sexual misconduct on a blacklist, which would make hotel workers aware of their presence but not bar them.

Under the ordinance, if a hotel worker makes a sworn statement accusing a guest of sexual misconduct or if evidence supports the accusation, the guest would be barred from returning to that hotel for three years. If the worker makes the accusation without signing an affidavit, the guest’s name will be added to the list for five years. If the worker agrees, the hotel should report the allegations to the police.

In late 2016, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, the main trade group representing major hotel chains, and other local trade organizations sued the city over the ordinance. The groups argued that requiring hotel management to bar and blacklist guests would violate guests’ due-process rights.

“That told us loud and clear that the industry was more concerned about their guests’ comfort level than protecting their employees from sexual harassment,” said Erik Van Rossum, the president of Unite Here’s chapter in the Northwest, which covers Seattle and Portland, Ore.

The hotel and lodging association counters that workers’ safety is a top priority. But Katherine Lugar, the association’s president, said it objected to the ordinance partly because “we don’t believe it’s prudent to put a Seattle employee in the position of acting as a surrogate for law enforcement.”

In June 2017, a judge ruled in favor of the city, but the trade groups appealed and were back in court arguing their case this month.

While the hotel trade group fights these rules, it has embraced panic buttons as worth a significant financial investment. Chicago officials estimated that a hotel security system including panic buttons with tracking capabilities would cost about $100 per room. The lower-tech option that emits an audible alarm is about $25 per device, a Hyatt spokeswoman said.

This fall, 17 hotel brands — including major chains like Hilton, Hyatt and Marriott — said they would put the safety devices in place at all their hotels across the country by 2020.

Industry groups were not always enthusiastic backers of the devices. Ms. Lugar said the trade association previously had concerns that the hotel union was using worker safety as a “fig leaf for labor’s laundry list of other wants and desires.”

Panic buttons were under consideration, and in some places, in operation, before the #MeToo movement, Ms. Lugar said. But the cultural reckoning has clearly played into the industry’s calculations.

For many years, business leaders rarely prioritized protecting their workers, said Tina Tchen, a lawyer who served as Michelle Obama’s chief of staff. Management did only as much as the law required when it came to sexual harassment policies and training, said Ms. Tchen, who advised hotel chains this year on the panic button initiative.

“One of the failings of the past is that we looked at anti-sexual-harassment policies and trainings as one-size-fits-all,” she said. “That’s why people tuned out.”

Before the hotel industry embraced panic buttons, cities including Chicago and Miami Beach, Fla., mandated them through ordinances passed by their city councils. Collective bargaining agreements have also required the devices at union hotels.

New York was the first city to require panic buttons on a broad scale when the provision was included in a contract struck in 2012, the year after a hotel housekeeper accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the chief of the International Monetary Fund and a French politician, of sexually assaulting her. Washington, D.C., followed suit with its own agreement.

But enacting legislation that includes measures to punish guests has proved difficult in the shadow of Seattle’s legal battle. In California and Chicago, the bills initially were supposed to be modeled on Seattle’s ordinance, including the provisions on barring and blacklisting certain guests. Later, those provisions were abandoned.

Laws in cities including Seattle and Chicago require hotels to maintain sexual harassment policies with procedures to follow if an employee reports harassment by a guest, such as allowing them to temporarily work at a location separate from the alleged harasser.

Some hotels are encountering practical challenges as they put the panic button technology in place. Four months after Chicago mandated panic buttons, some small hotels are struggling to pay for the technology, said Alderman Michelle Harris. Larger hotels, she noted, had faced challenges with establishing reliable Wi-Fi connections in every corner of their buildings.

In California, Al Muratsuchi, an Assembly member who spearheaded the legislation there, said he had not given up on a statewide law. Although he wants to find a way to punish guests accused of sexual misconduct, he said the panic buttons are the first step.

Original Article: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/11/us/panic-buttons-hotel-me-too.html?action=click&module=News&pgtype=Homepage&login=email&auth=login-email

The Gotham Group VRP

The Gotham Group is a diversified management and production company in the entertainment industry. The company was founded by Ellen Goldsmith-Vein in 1994. Goldsmith-Vein and her company have produced such projects as THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES and the MAZE RUNNER franchise.
Address: 1041 N Formosa Avenue, Formosa West Building, Suite 200, West Hollywood, CA 90046
Number: 310.285.0001
Selected Filmography:
THE BLACK HAND In Development
HEFT In Development
BIOPUNK In Development
Drama Writers:
Henry Selick (CORALINE)
Olan Rogers (FINAL SPACE)
Mitch Glazer (ROCK THE KASBAH)
Boaz Yakin (NOW YOU SEE ME)
Jeff Buhler (PET SEMATARY)
In the Media:
Gotham Group, Chariot Entertainment Option Muslim YA Novel ‘Internment’  |  Hollywood Reporter  |  October 24, 2018
The Gotham Group and Chariot Entertainment have teamed to option an upcoming young adult novel that imagines a United States in which American Muslims are interned.

Samira Ahmed’s Internment, which is set to be published March 19 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, follows Muslim teenager Layla Amin, whose life is transformed when the U.S. institutes a set of Exclusion Laws that greatly restrict the civil rights of Muslim Americans, including subjecting them to curfews and forbidding her relationship with her Jewish boyfriend, David. When a new executive order forces Layla and her family into internment camps, she must find the courage to stand up for both the faith and the country that she believes in.

“Internment is the book of my heart — written out of fear, but also hope,” said Ahmed, whose debut novel Love, Hate & Other Filters became a New York Timesbest-seller in January. “I’m thrilled to be working with Gotham and Chariot, who I know will do justice to Layla’s story as they bring it to life.”

The two production companies are eyeing Internment as a feature, although a limited series is possible. Gotham Group previously found YA adaptation success with the Maze Runner franchise. The management-production company also produced last year’s indie drama Kodachrome, starring Ed Harris, Jason Sudeikis and Elizabeth Olsen. Chariot was launched by veteran producer-manager Ahmos Hassan last year to develop film and television projects that can represent Muslims in a more realistic and accurate light.

“Samira’s admirable novel is an important one for a critical time in our country,” said Hassan. “I’m delighted to be working with such socially conscious partners at the Gotham Group to bring it to the screen.”

Ahmed is repped by Paradigm on behalf of P.S. Literary Agency’s Eric Smith.

Outside Magazine Teams With The Gotham Group To Develop Film, TV Projects  |  Deadline  |  July 16, 2018
Outside, the magazine which has published feature articles that were the basis for both film and television projects such as Everest, The Perfect Storm, Into the Wild, Blue Crush and 127 Hours, has just teamed up with The Gotham Group for representation for film and television. Outside Studios will produce content for film, television and new media for what will be different platforms and distributors. Outside, which began in 1977 and is owned by the Mariah Media Network, is also known as the only magazine to have won three consecutive National Magazine Awards for general excellence.

If you add up the box office for those aforementioned feature projects alone, it totals ovver $700M worldwide. Larry Burke (Outside chairman) and Ellen Goldsmith-Vein(The Gotham Group’s CEO/founder and an avid sports enthusiast), are currently in talks with production companies, financiers, streaming services, broadcast and cable entities to start the partnership rolling.

“Over the last few weeks, we’ve met with many smart and visionary executives at the studios, streaming services and broadcast outlets. With the incredible guidance and expertise of Ellen Goldsmith-Vein and her team at The Gotham Group, I’m confident that Outside Studios will be a major content provider in the entertainment sector,” said Burke who is also Outside‘s Editor-in-Chief. “In addition to our award-winning articles in print, we’re already producing over 300 stories a month for our digital platform … those two content streams provide a rich portfolio of ideas for potential film and television projects. Outside’s legacy has always been rooted in award-winning, long form journalism involving survival, heroism, human endurance, natural disaster, adventure, and a celebration of the human spirit.”

Outside also publishes the Outside Buyer’s Guides, Outside Online, the Outside Podcast, Outside Television, Outside Events, Outside+ App (also available on Google Play), Outside Books, and Outside GO, a revolutionary, 21st-century adventure-travel company. They reach — wait for it — 38M consumers every month through their many branded projects.

Burke has grown the brand exponentially since the late 1970s. The original founders for the magazine was Jann Wenner, William Randolph Hearst III and Jack Ford (son of the former U.S. President) but then they sold it off to Burke who then merged it with his already existing title Mariah magazine. (Why Mariah? “They call the wind Mariah” from the Clint Eastwood, Lee Marvin western musical Paint Your Wagon).

Outside is all Burke and after it was under his wing, the magazine just took off, filling a niche for consumers interested in outdoor (and adventurous) lifestyles. Advertisers quickly sat up and took notice. So did readers. The magazine, whose motto is “Live Bravely,” flourished with the early introduction of smartly written, feature articles — some of those would end up starting the film and television careers of some of its freelance writers such as Sebastian Junger. The latest featured article in Outsidedelves into the story of Spanish athlete Kilian Jornet’s back-to-back Everest climbs and the questions swirling around the athlete could have possibly accomplished it.

The move to join with a company like The Gotham Group almost seemed inevitable given the way the brand has been expanding over the years. The magazine’s circulation is currently 675K with an audience and share size estimated at 2.4 million.

For The Gotham Group, it’s clientele in publishing and comics is significant and Outside is another biggie. Other clients include Village Voice Media, Dark Horse Entertainment, Simon & Schuster’s Children’s and Young Adult libraries, Gallery/Scout Books, HarperCollins U.K., Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Bloomsbury/Walker US Children’s libraries, Penguin Young Readers Group, Marshall Cavendish, Abrams and Com.x. In addition, Gotham develops original IP product with such publishers as Diversion, Little, Brown & Company, Sourcebooks and Abrams and serves as co-agent to over 50 individual literary agencies around the world.

From those relationships have come both The Spiderwick Chronicles and the Maze Runner franchise. Gotham also produced Kodachrome with Jason Sudeikis, Elizabeth Olsen, and Ed Harris, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and was released theatrically by Netflix; Stephanie, directed by Akiva Goldsman; The Big Game, which chronicles the phenomenon of daily fantasy sports; and Train Man, about Darius McCollum, the New Yorker who became notorious for driving subway trains illegally.

On the television side, Gotham has Star Trek’s Zachary Quinto set to star in and executive produce Biopunk and is developing Randi Zuckerberg’s New York Times‘ bestselling book Dot Complicated: Untangling Our Wired Lives as a series. The company most recently optioned film rights to Ruth Ware’s The Lying Game, which debuted at number three on the New York Times‘ bestseller list; Janelle Brown’s suspense thriller Watch Me Disappear, and Robyn Harding’s bestseller The Party. Gotham is also producing Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10 horror novels.

Wes Ball, Gotham Group Developing Suburban Horror Film ‘The Chrysalis’  |  Variety  |  January 18, 2018
Wes Ball’s Oddball Productions and the Gotham Group are teaming up on a movie project based on Brendan Deneen’s horror novel “The Chrysalis.”

The novel centers on a twentysomething couple who are forced out of New York City and buy an old house in the suburbs, where the husband gets a big-bucks corporate job and the pregnant wife opens a small gym catering to moms-to-be. They make friends despite their worries about becoming boring suburbanites. But they also discover something growing in the basement, which begins to slowly destroy their lives.

The novel, which will be published in September, is described as “The Shining” meets “Alien.” Deneen has written “The Ninth Circle,” “Mortimer The Lazy Bird” and a variety of “Flash Gordon” titles.

No decision has been made on cast or a director.

Ball and Gotham Group’s Ellen Goldsmith-Vein have teamed on each installment of the “Maze Runner” franchise, based on the dystopian science-fiction book trilogy written by James Dashner. The third film, “Maze Runner: The Death Cure,” stars Dylan O’Brien and Kaya Scodelario and opens Jan. 26. Ball has directed all three movie in the “Maze Runner” trilogy. He served as a producer on the last two, along with Goldsmith-Vein, Wyck Godfrey, Marty Bowen, and Lee Stollman.

Lisa Hamilton Daly VRP

Lisa Hamilton Daly is the Director of Content Acquisition at Netflix. She previously served as the VP of Programming at A+E Networks and VP of Feature Development/Literary Department at DreamWorks Studios.
From Lisa’s LinkedIn:

Entertainment Executive, Creative Strategist, and Development Specialist recognized for expertise in uncovering the next opportunity and securing, shaping, and packaging high-potential concepts to become relevant and award-winning programming. Highly engaged leader who ensures the smooth transition of early-stage projects from development to production. Draws upon an extensive network of long-term, global contacts across the industry available for idea generation, talent introduction, project sourcing, and collaboration.

Twitter: (323 followers) https://twitter.com/lkhd7
LILA & EVE 2015
In the Media:
Actors Hope for Recovery as Hundreds Watch Lifetime Film ‘Flint’ Premiere  |  M Live  |  Oct 22, 2017

FLINT, MI – As a 9-year-old when Flint’s water switch occurred in 2014, Kamira Vorrice had to retrain herself to stay away from the tap in her home kitchen sink.

She had to stop bathing in the water. She couldn’t brush her teeth normally. She couldn’t drink it.

Now 12, Vorrice said she still wants to see change, with pipe replacements throughout the city and a greater sense of resolve for the city’s residents. The seventh-grader at Flint Southwestern Classical Academy was one of the hundreds in attendance Saturday night at the free showing and red carpet premiere of ‘Flint,’ the Lifetime network’s story of the city’s water crisis.

“I really thought it was special and heart-touching,” she said. “Everything that basically happened here, other cities don’t know what we have been through, and I liked the film because it’s telling the world our story. It’s been hard, and we’ve been through a lot.”

The television film, shot in Toronto, stars Queen Latifah, Betsy Brandt, Jill Scott, Lyndie Greenwood and Marin Ireland.

Executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron joined Brandt and Ireland were in attendance, speaking to the crowd ahead of the screening from the heart what they learned. about Flint and its residents through filming.

During the screening, Flint residents in the crowd cheered and jeered the different portrayals of local residents, politicians, and locations around the city. The crowd drew out resounding applause and cheers when actors playing Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha and Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards first appeared on screen, as well as erupting laughter when Latifah mentioned high water bill prices.

Attendees were able to meet with Brandt and Ireland afterward for a meet and greet with photo opportunities on the red carpet in the lobby of The Whiting, where the premiere was held.

Brandt is a Bay City native, graduating from Bay City Western High School in 1991. She said her memories of Flint in high school were traveling to Genesee Valley Center because it was “better than any mall closer”, and that the basketball and football teams would face off every year. She recalled making trips to Auto World as a child.

Brandt plays Flint resident LeeAnne Walters in the film and said residents’ resilience amidst the water crisis shows the strength of the character of Flint’s moral value. Brandt said she takes the story very personally, seeing the residents as her neighbors.

“I can only imagine what it feels like to be dealing with this when you’re living here. One day while shooting the movie, I said, ‘It’s like Groundhog Day, but it’s the worst Groundhog Day,'” Brandt said. “It has been well over 1,000 days of no clean water. I tell my kids about this, about thinking you couldn’t take a bath without getting a rash.

“I don’t wish this on anyone in any town, and certainly not the people of Flint. I just want Flint residents to know that everyone stands with them. It’s important to show up, and I hope that in the not so different future, we are celebrating that everyone has clean water.”

Lisa Hamilton Daly, vice president of original movies at Lifetime, said the spark for the movie came from the discussion after reading a TIME magazine cover story about the water crisis.

Hamilton Daly said Lifetime has an invested interest in stories about powerful women looking for their voice to be heard, and that this film needed to be made.

“This film served a double role. It shows you can be a citizen. You can be an average person and you can still try to effect change. We know the problem in Flint is ongoing, but we think that what these women did in really bringing it to the forefront and trying to get the process started to fix it is of incredible importance,” Hamilton Daly said. “That is a story we really wanted to tell. I am amazed by the resilience of this community. I was heartbroken to discover what happened, horrifying healthy issues, and we just wanted people to know what happened.”

Ireland, who plays Flint resident and water activist Melissa Mays, said Flint will not be forgotten. She said after hours on the phone with Mays, and meeting her family she couldn’t believe how she had the energy to continue to protest for clean water.

She said this film is a guide for the rest of the country, as infrastructure continues to crumble beneath us, on how to participate in politics and fight against injustice.

“You just do it. There’s no magic answer. Nobody is a special hero with special powers. Everybody is tired and doesn’t feel good. You just get up and do it. I want Flint to know that we haven’t forgotten,” Ireland said. “This town is a shining example of how to fight, how to fight with love and how to fight together. It’s so beautiful.”

Mike Bartlett VRP

Mike Bartlett

Mike Bartlett is a multi-award winning playwright and screenwriter. Series two of DOCTOR FOSTER aired on BBC in 2017 as did his adaptation of his stage play KING CHARLES III.

He was Associate Playwright at Paines Plough, Writer-In-Residence at the National Theatre, and Pearson Playwright in Residence at The Royal Court Theatre.

His play KING CHARLES III won Critic’s Circle Award for Best New Play, Olivier Award for Best New Play and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best New Play. LOVE LOVE LOVE won Best New Play in the 2011 Theatre Awards UK, COCK won an Olivier Award in 2010 for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre, he won the Writer’s Guild Tinniswood and Imison prizes for NOT TALKING, and the Old Vic New Voices Award for ARTEFACTS.

His television series THE TOWN was nominated for a BAFTA for Breakthrough Talent. DOCTOR FOSTER also earned BAFTA nominations (Radio Times Audience Award, Best Mini Series, Best Leading Actress – Suranne Jones (win). Bartlett won Outstanding Newcomer for British Television Writing at the British Screenwriters’Awards 2016 for DOCTOR FOSTER.

Agent: Nick Quinn (The Agency—UK)

THE MAN (TV) In Development
PRESS (TV) 2018
TRAUMA (TV) 2018
DOCTOR FOSTER (TV) 2015 – 2017
THE TOWN (TV) 2012
In the Media:
‘Johnny English Strikes Back’ Star Ben Miller Joins ITV Psychological Drama ‘The Man’  |  Deadline  |  September 10, 2018
Johnny English Strikes Back and Paddington 2 star Ben Miller has joined the cast of ITV psychological drama The Man.

Miller will star alongside Christopher Robin and Killing Eve star Ken Nwosu in the three-part bullying drama, which was created by Doctor Foster and Press creator Mike Bartlett.

Also joining the cast are Sean Sagar (Top Boy), Susannah Fielding (Black Mirror), Gwilym Lee (Bohemian Rhapsody), Phoebe Nicholls (Downton Abbey), Ritu Ayra (Humans), Alexandra Roach (Black Mirror), Michael Cochrane (The Archers) and Debbie Chazen (Doctor Who).

This contemporary drama will be directed by Julia Ford (Safe) and produced by Colin Wratten (Killing Eve). It is produced by ITV Studios’ Tall Story Pictures, the production company that recently produced Barlett’s Adrian Lester and John Simm-fronted Trauma.

The Man is a workplace psychological drama centered around middle management. Nwosu plays Thomas Benson, a hard-working father and husband who works in a business park outside of London.

The Man is a workplace psychological drama centered around middle management. Nwosu plays Thomas Benson, a hard-working father and husband who works in a business park outside of London. Reliant on bonuses and winning pitches, Benson often finds himself leading the team when trying to win new business.  When he freezes during a pitch the fall out is monumental. Determined to win back a big client, Thomas goes to increasingly desperate lengths to remain successful. But as he does, he begins to feel undermined, under attack and out of control. Has he lost his confidence and just feeling paranoid or is his own team, and maybe the wider world, now out to get him?

Catherine Oldfield (Trauma) will executive produce the new series alongside Bartlett. The Man was commissioned by ITV’s Head of Drama Polly Hill. ITV Studios Global Entertainment is handling international distribution. The series begins filming in September 2018.

Press Review – an Old-fashioned View of Journalism, but an Entertaining One  |  The Guardian  |  September 6, 2018
I am not a proper journalist; I have never done a death knock. This cub reporter from the Post is doing his first here in Mike Bartlett’s drama (BBC One), ringing the doorbell of the family of a footballer who has killed himself. A gay footballer, it turns out. It does not go well. The dad slams the door in the journalist’s face. He tries again, though, this time telling the dad it will be a tribute, an opportunity for his son’s story to be heard. Even though this will turn out not to be true, this time he is in.

The Post is a sensationalist tabloid – the Sun, basically. The editor, Duncan Allen (Ben Chaplin), is a smooth, bull(y)ish man, maybe a decent journalist once, but now tarnished by his profession and his high opinion of himself. I would be surprised if Piers Morgan and Andy Coulson were not in Bartlett’s peripheral vision when he gave birth to Allen.

Then there is the deep-pocketed owner, George Emmerson (David Suchet), interfering from the back of his Rolls-Royce. Is that you, Rupert? Well, maybe not, because George is not happy about some of the trashy stuff; he is not worried about losing money, but he would like some more serious journalism. More of a Jeff Bezos figure, perhaps?

It is impossible, watching Press from inside (even if not properly inside) the industry, not to wonder about the inspiration. The other paper I am struggling with. The Herald – formerly the Yorkshire Herald, where Holly Evans (Charlotte Riley) is deputy news editor – is a prize-winning, liberal, left-leaning paper that exposes hypocrisy and corruption and holds power to account. Or, to its enemies and detractors, boring, smug, all principle and no trousers. Bartlett must have got this one from his imagination, as it is not ringing any real-world bells in my head. Looks like a brilliant place to work, though.

It is also hard, watching from the inside, not to get a bit defensive, to feel under attack, to be on the lookout for mistakes. We do see journalists behaving badly here, but also journalists doing some important things (mainly at the Herald, obviously). In both, there are people who are passionate about journalism and news, from wherever they are coming. So that is good.

It also engages with some real stuff. Declining sales, desperate attempts to halt them, press regulation, the difference between public interest and of interest to the public, journalistic integrity, whether something becomes fair game just because it is in the public domain. Bartlett clearly spoke to a lot of people in his research; it is more like reconnaissance than assault.

I wonder about the vintage of the people to whom he spoke, though. Perhaps it was mostly retired hacks, because – although Press is set in the present and deals with a lot of issues affecting the industry today – the general mood of it, the colour, feels more like newspaper journalism 20 years ago. I am thinking about the heavy drinking after work. (A sub adds: that still happens, Sam – it is just that you are not invited.) I am thinking about the institutional misogyny and the macho rivalry of two papers operating out of buildings so close that they share the same coffee van. I am looking at the size of those newsrooms, staff levels and expense accounts.

Also it is mostly about print, actual papers, like the internet never really happened. Even some of the stories ring bells. The footballer one – the Justin Fashanu tragedy, no? (It is impossible not to try to match up stories, fiction with fact, as well.) Perhaps it should have just been set 20 years ago, when newspapers were more outrageous places.

None of this will matter to most people, that the colour may not match the age. What will is that there is plenty of it – colour – as you would expect from the man behind Doctor Foster. And pace. There is a lot going on here. As well as the footballer, here is an old photo of the work and pensions secretary, naked; another of her snorting coke back in the day. Meanwhile, the Herald is trying to investigate an MI5 leak, but it is hard, as there is very little actually leaking out. And Holly finally gets round to looking into her flatmate’s hit-and-run death, by a police car. A busy news day, in both newsrooms.

Press comes from somewhere between the two buildings, around about the coffee van. It is serious and interested in my industry. And if it does not always ring 100% true, hey, it is entertaining. Never let the truth etc, as we say. As they say, I mean.