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End of Week Production Notes 8/6/21: Zoey’s Gets Holiday Movie, Massive South Park Deal, and More News


Thanks God It’s Friday!

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (NBC)

This week has seemed longer than usual, but since there’s been so much bad news over the past few weeks, we wanted to start today’s news wrap-up with something more joyous, at least for fans of the recently-canceled NBC musical series Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. It was canceled just a few weeks after its Season 2 finale, while releasing the cast from their contracts in order to allow the show to possibly find a new home. Now, it looks like the cast might have another chance to sing and dance together, as a deal is nearly complete for a holiday movie on Roku with the main cast, including Jane Levy (who plays Zoey Clarke), returning.  The deal has to be finalized, but it could lead to a third season for the show, which would be a major coup for Roku, whose biggest deal to date was buying the entire Quibi library.

(Incidentally, our own Neil Turitz‘s latest “The Accidental Turitz” column is all about canceled shows like Zoey’s and Manifest, and you can read that here.)

GoldenGlobeLogoThere’s been a lot of talk over the past few months about the much-needed changes for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) i.e. the Golden Globes after a huge boycott by studios and talent agencies in recent months, as well as NBC canceling its 2022 awards show.

The membership passed new bylaws this week in hopes of continuing to “partner meaningfully with Hollywood,” as stated by the HFPA’s Board President Ali Sar, after the members voted to approve the necessary bylaw reforms. “Three months ago, we made a promise to commit to transformational change and with this vote we kept the last and most significant promise in reimagining the HFPA and our role in the industry. All of these promised reforms can serve as industry benchmarks and allow us to once again partner meaningfully with Hollywood moving forward.”

In response to the changes, an NBC spokesperson said, “We’re encouraged by the passage of the amended bylaws. This marks a positive step forward and signals the HFPA’s willingness to do the work necessary for meaningful change.” 

A spokesperson for dick clark productions said, “We applaud the adoption of new bylaws, and the important policy revisions over the last few months, as the HFPA strives for reform. We look forward to seeing continued urgency, dedication and positive change in order to create a more diverse, equitable, inclusive and transparent future.”

Despite the above, it hasn’t been announced whether dcp and NBC might change their minds on the 2022 ceremony or resume the Golden Globes in 2023.

Oddly, it was reported almost the same day that the HFPA was planning on sending its members on an expensive trip to the Venice Film Festival in September, a perk costing tens of thousands of dollars, although that plan was wisely waylaid due to the resurgence of the coronavirus in California. So maybe despite all the highly-touted changes, the HFPA hasn’t learned a thing?

Walt Disney Animation
Roy E. Disney Animation Building in Burbank

Before we get to any development and casting news, Walt Disney Animation announced that it will be opening a new animation studio in Vancouver, British Columbia, and the Vancouver studio is currently hiring.

Animation veteran Amir Nasrabadi will serve as the head of Walt Disney Animation Studios, Vancouver after serving as EVP/General Manager at WildBrain Studios, as well as a similar role at Pixar Canada after time at Illumination and Paramount Animation.

The Burbank studio will also expand its more than 900 employees as it remains Walt Disney Animation Studios’ exclusive hub for feature film projects as well as shorter-form series such as the recently announced Baymax and Zootopia+. Story development, storyboarding and production design for all projects will be based on the Burbank lot.

Chief Creative Officer Jennifer Lee said, “Disney Animation is creating more original storytelling for Disney+, expanding into series for the first time in our history with Iwájú, Tiana, Moana, Baymax and Zootopia+. As we continue to grow our original slate of projects, there are more creative, artistic and technological opportunities than at any previous time.”

The first project at the new studio will be a new Moana musical series, which will debut on Disney+ in 2024 with Oscar-nominated producer Osnat Shurer.

South Park
South Park (Comedy Central)

One of the biggest deals of the week, one that will lead to a ton of new animated content is the report that South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have signed a reported $900 million deal from ViacomCBS to continue the popular animated series on Comedy Central through 2027, as well as deliver up to 14 original movies for its streamer Paramount+. Two of those films will be South Park films that will premiere on the streamer this year with two more films a year planned through 2027.

Chris McCarthy, President/CEO  of MTV Entertainment & CCO/Adult Animation – Paramount+ said in a statement, “Matt and Trey are world-class creatives who brilliantly use their outrageous humor to skewer the absurdities of our culture and we are excited to expand and deepen our long relationship with them to help fuel Paramount+ and Comedy Central. Franchising marquee content like South Park and developing new IP with tremendous talent like Matt and Trey, is at the heart of our strategy to continue growing Paramount+.”

Last month, it was announced that Universal Pictures was paying out $400 million to launch a new The Exorcist trilogy, and it has set a date for the first movie in said trilogy for October 13, 2023. Director David Gordon Green will move straight onto that project after finishing up his current Halloween trilogy, also for Blumhouse Productions. Original star Ellen Burstyn is expected to return, similar to Jamie Lee Curtis returning for Green’s Halloween movies.

Shibumi (Crown)

In the world of movie development, John Wick co-creator Chad Stahelski — whose fourth John Wick movie planned for May 2022 was just undated, since it may not be ready on time — is developing an adaptation of Trevanian‘s Shibumi for Warner Bros. Pictures. Although John Wick star Keanu Reeves was once circling the project, Stahelski is starting from scratch with a new writer to adapt Trevanian’s 1979 novel about “the struggle between the Mother Company, a conspiracy of energy companies that secretly controls much of the Western world, and a highly skilled assassin named Nicholaï Hel.” Stahelski is producing the project through his 87Elevan company with producing partners Alex Young and Jason Spitz.

Producer Will Packer (Ride Along) continues to be a big movie player in Hollywood, and his Will Packer Productions has teamed with Mo Abudu‘s EbonyLife Studios to pick up the rights to Evan Ratliff‘s Bloomberg article, “The Fall of the Billionaire Gucci Master” about Nigerian Instagram influencer Ramon Abbas and has set it up as a “globetrotting action-thriller” at Universal. It’s being compared to a hybrid between Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can and Bryan Singer‘s The Usual Suspects. Packer and James Lopez will produce for Will Packer Productions while Abudu will produce via EbonyLife.

The latter said, “EbonyLife is uniquely positioned to ensure the depth and authenticity of this film. This is why we needed to partner with a major Hollywood producer like Will Packer Productions – they are equally invested in telling stories that resonate with our audiences. We understand the environment of poverty and deprivation that breeds highly talented and fundamentally flawed characters like Hushpuppi, and WPP knows how to create stories with global appeal.”

Packer added, “Ten months ago Mo pitched us a rich and entertaining concept steeped in Nigerian culture that can only be told with the help of her unique perspective. Together we knew Evan’s work was the definitive telling and the perfect anchor of this saga.”

Bill Marsilii and Terry Rossio are developing the sci-fi action-thriller Time Zone for Amazon Studios, “about a covert squad of first responders equipped with technology that allows them to manipulate time.” Marsilii and Rossio previously sold the spec script Deja Vu, which was turned into a $180 million blockbuster by the late Tony Scott for Disney. John Davis, John Fox, and Jeremy Stein will be producing the film through Davis Entertainment, having just released the recent Disney hit, Jungle Cruise.  Rossio recently wrote the hit Godzilla vs. Kong for Legendary and Warner Bros. Pictures, but he’s most well known for writing all five Pirates of the Caribbean films.

Sydney Freeland (Reservation Dogs) will direct the Native-American basketball movie, Rez Ball, for Netflix, which is described as a cross between “Friday Night Lights meets Hoosiers.” The production will take place in New Mexico, filming mainly on reservations with the permission and support of local tribal nations. The film is inspired by Michael Powell’s nonfiction sports novel Canyon Dreams, as well as a number of New York Times articles that preceded it with Freeland writing the script with Reservation Dogs‘ Sterlin Harjo. It will be produced by Maurício and Katie Mota’s Wise Entertainment along with LeBron James and Maverick Carter’s The SpringHill Company, the latter who just made the semi-hit sequel, Space Jam: A New Legacy. SpringHill’s Spencer Beighley and Jamal Henderson will exec. produce.

Rob Lowe
Rob Lowe (Netflix)

Actor Rob Lowe will star and exec. produce a new Netflix family film called Dog Gone, based on the true story of a father and son who repair their fractured relationship during a forced hike of the Appalachian trail to find their beloved lost dog.  It’s based on Paul Toutonghi‘s book, Dog Gone: A Lost Pet’s Extraordinary Journey and the Family Who Brought Him Home.

Production will start later this month in Georgia for Lowe’s second teaming Netflix with the rom-com Holidays in the Wild, one of Netflix’s most-watched movies. The movie is directed by Mr. Holland’s Opus and The Might Ducks helmer Stephen Herek, with Johnny Berchtold and Kimberly Williams-Paisley also in the cast. It’s written by Emmy nominee Nick Santora (The Sopranos), who is also producing for his Blackjack Films Inc.

Spider-Man: Homecoming breakout star, Jacob Batalon, has been cast to star in the Syfy series, Reginald the Vampire, according to The Hollywood Reporter. It’s been picked up in a straight-to-series order by the NBCUniversal cable network, and it’s based on the Fat Vampire book series by Johnny B. Truant. Harley Peyton (Twin Peaks, Syfy’s upcoming Chucky series) will be writing the script, exec producing and serving as showrunner on the series while Jeremiah Chechik (Shadowhunters) will exec produce and direct. The series comes from Great Pacific Media and Modern Story Company, with Todd Berger and Lindsay Macadam exec producing, as well as Julile DeCresce as a co-exec producer.

A few other quick casting bits, actress Lucy Boynton (Sing StreetBohemian Rhapsody) will play Marie Antoinette opposite Kelvin Harrison Jr. in Searchlight Studios‘ Chevalier

Also, Justice Smith has boarded Julianne Moore‘s con artist film, Sharper, being produced by A24 and Apple Original Film

We have mentioned the Production Listings over the past few months in our news wrap-up, but now is the best time to subscribe as the annual rate has dropped from $250 a year to $120 a year (which is about 33 cents per day), and from $50 a month to $30 a month. You can subscribe and learn more here.

Yellowstone (Paramount Network)

Taylor Sheridan‘s Yellowstone has been quite a big hit for the Paramount Network and a planned prequel series called 1883 has lined up its cast to include Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and Sam Elliott. The series follows “the Dutton family as they embark on a journey west through the Great Plains toward the last bastion of untamed America. It is a stark retelling of Western expansion, and an intense study of one family fleeing poverty to seek a better future in America’s promised land — Montana.” Elliot will play Shea Brennan, “a tough-as-nails, handsome cowboy with immense sadness in his past” who is guiding the group from Texas to Montana. McGraw and Hill will portray James and Margaret Dutton, the respective patriarch and matriarch of the Dutton family with more cast to be announced.

Unfortunately, it looks like another offshoot series isn’t going to production, at least not at HBO Max as the planned Bad Robot series, Overlook, based on Stephen King‘s novel, The Shining, will be looking for a new home.

In better news, the great Apple TV+ dramedy series, Physical, starring Rose Byrne, has been picked up for a second season.

Modern Family Co-Creator Steve Levitan is developing a new comedy pilot for Hulu called Reboot, and Keegan-Michael Key (Schmigadoon) and Johnny Knoxville (Jackass) have been tapped to star in it. Levitan co-wrote the pilot script with iZOmbie‘s John Enbom about the series that pokes fun at the recent wave of comedy revivals, specifically a 2000s family sitcom being rebooted by Hulu forcing the dysfunctional cast back together to deal with unresolved issues. Levitan and Enbom are executive producing along with the latter’s frequent collaborator, Danielle Stokdyk. 20th Television is the studio for the project.

Sag Harbor
Sag Harbor (Anchor)

HBO Max is developing an adaptation of Colson Whitehead‘s Pulitzer-winning novel Sag Harbor into a series with Boat Rocker Studios and Laurence Fishburne and Helen Sugland‘s Cinema Gypsy Productions, the company behind the hits black-ish and grown-ishDaniel “Koa” Beaty is writing the pilot for the adaption set in 1985, telling the story of Benji Cooper, one of the few Black students at an elite prep school in Manhattan who escapes to Sag Harbor in the Hamptons every summer where a small community of African American professionals have built a world of their own.

Katie O’Connell Marsh, Vice-Chair of Boat Rocker Studios, said in a statement, “Colson is a once-in-a-generation author who has the unique ability to craft beautiful and authentic stories that captivate and transform readers, and Sag Harbor is a true expression of that gift. We’re thrilled to be working with HBO Max, Cinema Gypsy and Koa to bring this coming-of-age story to the screen.”

Three more actors — Keir Gilchrist (Atypical), Elizabeth Marvel (Homeland) and  Tom Pelphrey (Ozark)  — have joined the HBO Max true-crime limited series, Love and Death, joining Elizabeth OlsenJesse PlemonsPatrick Fugit, and Lily Rabe.

It feels like it’s been a while since we’ve seen Neil Patrick Harris in anything, but he has been chosen to lead Darren Star‘s new Netflix series, Uncoupled, marking Harris’ return to the streamer after playing Count Olaf on A Series of Unfortunate Events. Harris will play Michael, a man whose husband of 17 years walks out on him, forcing him to confront the nightmares of being a single man in his mid-40s in New York City. The comedy series is created by Younger and Emily in Paris creator/EP Star with Modern Family EP Jeffrey Richman with Harris also exec. producing the show from MTV Entertainment Studios and Jax Media with filming taking place in New York later this year.

More news from Amazon is that it has ordered its first Canadian scripted series, The Lake, starring Jordan Gavaris, Julia Stiles, and Madison Shamoun.

And last but not least, Homeland‘s Raza Jaffrey has joined the currently-filming Starz drama series, The Serpent Queen.

Only one new trailer to share with you today, and it’s the first trailer for Clint Eastwood‘s upcoming drama, Cry Machoin which he plays horse breeder and former rodeo star Mike Milo, who takes a job from his ex-boss to bring a man’s young son home to Mexico.

The gritty drama stars newcomer Eduardo Minett as the young boy, Rafom Natalia TravenDwight YoakamHoward PolkFernanda Urrejola, and Horacio Garcia-Rojas. The screenplay is written by Nick Schenk and N. Richard Nash, based on Nash’s novel. The film was shot by Director of Photographer Ben Davis and Eastwood’s team included Production Designer Ron Reiss (who was set decorator on Eastwood’s Richard Jewell and The Mule), Oscar-winning long-time Eastwood editor Joel Cox (Unforgiven) and Editor David Cox, as well as longtime collaborator, Costume Designer Deborah Hopper. The music is by Mark Mancina.

Cry Macho will be released by Warner Bros. theatrically and onto HBO Max on September 17.

That’s it for this week. The big new theatrical release in theaters and on HBO Max now is James Gunn‘s The Suicide Squad, so check back on Monday to see how that fared.

Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas has written about movies for print and the internet for over 20 years, specializing in box office analysis, reviews, and interviews. Currently, he writes features for Below the Line and Above the Line, acting as Associate Editor for the former and Interim Editor for the latter.
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