The Bad-Ass Librarians Of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer



NYT Bestseller ‘The Bad-Ass Librarians Of Timbuktu’ Gets Movie Adaptation With Argent & ‘The Eagle Huntress’ Director

EXCLUSIVE: New York Times bestseller The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu is getting a documentary adaptation with director Otto Bell (The Eagle Huntress) and producers Argent Pictures (Chasing Coral), Idil Ibrahim (Fishing Without Nets) and fledgling UK outfit Cove Pictures.

Written by Joshua Hammer, the book, released in April 2017, follows the true story of a group of librarians who undertook a daring cultural evacuation to save ancient texts from Al Qaeda.

The documentary, which due to security concerns has been shot secretly over more than a year in Mali, Africa, focuses on the 300 days of jihadi occupation – from April 2012 to January 2013 – when the infamous Saharan city fell under Al Qaeda’s control. It hones in on a small group of scholars, led by Abdel Kader Haidara, who fearing for the future of their precious manuscripts, transformed themselves into a gang of world-class smugglers. Amid life-and-death stakes, they sneak thousands of books out from under the noses of their jihadi occupiers and transport them to safety across 600 miles of war-torn desert.

The film will include original vignettes shot on location in Timbuktu, Jihadi content filmed by Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, newsreel and TV archival footage, as well as footage from citizen journalists who filmed during the occupation. It is also due to have a Malian rock and roll soundtrack.

Argent Pictures, the film finance and production shingle run by Jill Ahrens, Ryan Ahrens and Ben Renzo, will finance and produce the film with Cove Pictures’ Dame Heather Rabbatts and Paul Sowerbutts. Argent partners Drew Brees, Tony Parker, Michael Finley and Derrick Brooks will be executive producers. CAA Media Finance reps North American rights.

Argent’s previous doc titles include the Netflix documentary Chasing Coral and They Fight (Fox Sports Films). The company has also backed movies including Hacksaw Ridge and The Birth of a Nation. The firm just finished shooting Good Joe Bell starring Mark Wahlberg and Connie Britton and is now in production on Kung Fury 2.

Argent’s Jill Ahrens said, “The story of the librarians and the hundreds of thousands of books they sought to preserve is a truly heroic act.  We all need more stories like this which will not only inspire audiences around the world but reinforce how critical the preservation of historical identity and heritage is for current and future generations.”

Idil Ibrahim said, “Otto and I are very grateful to Abdel Kader and his network for sharing this astonishing story with us. This band of scholars made history by saving history. Sadly, Mali remains under constant threat. We hope the film will provide a cause for celebration while also shining a light on Africa’s rich, but all-to-often silenced heritage and global intellectual contributions.”

Bell’s well-received Sundance 2016 doc The Eagle Huntress, narrated and executive produced by Daisy Ridley, was picked up by Sony Classics.

Cove Pictures is a new international TV production company based in London, New York and Los Angeles. Led by Rabbatts, the high-end drama, comedy, and factual outfit is a joint venture between Patrick Milling-Smith and Brian Carmody, the co-founders of Smuggler Inc, and Red Arrow Studios.

Hammer was represented on behalf of Sterling Lord Literistic by Hotchkiss Daily and Associates. Bell is repped by CAA.

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill


‘NOS4A2’ Renewed For Season 2 By AMC – Comic-Con

AMC’s NOS4A2 is coming back for a second go-round. Ahead of its season one finale, AMC has renewed the supernatural horror series for a 10-episode second season. Cast members Zachary Quinto and Ashley Cummings, showrunner and executive producer Jami O’Brien and executive producer Joe Hill shared news of the renewal during the show’s Comic-Con debut today in San Diego.

The renewal comes amid strong ratings for NOS4A2, which currently ranks as a Top 20 cable drama and the #2 new basic cable drama among adults 25-54 and 18-49 in Nielsen Live +3. Season 2 will go into production this fall for premiere on AMC in 2020.

NOS4A2, based on Joe Hill’s best-selling 2013 novel, centers on Vic McQueen (Cummings), a gifted young woman who discovers she has a supernatural ability to find lost things. This ability puts her on a collision course with Charlie Manx (Quinto), a seductive immortal who feeds off the souls of children, then deposits what remains of them into Christmasland – an icy, twisted Christmas village of Manx’s imagination where every day is Christmas Day and unhappiness is against the law. Vic strives to defeat Manx and rescue his victims – without losing her mind or falling victim to him herself. The series also stars Jahkara Smith, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Virginia Kull and Ebon Moss-Bachrach.

“This otherworldy series makes remarkable work of Joe Hill’s spine-tingling novel, deftly helmed by Jami O’Brien and with captivating performances by Zachary Quinto and Ashley Cummings and the rest of the talented cast,” said David Madden, president of programming, AMC, BBC America, IFC, SundanceTV, and AMC Studios. “NOS4A2 has kept viewers on the edge of their seats since its debut and we are ready to jump right back in to this story for season two.”

“I am so excited for the opportunity to bring the rest of Joe Hill’s amazing novel to television. Joe’s imagination is unparalleled,” said O’Brien. “I love the characters and the world, and our colleagues at AMC have been wonderful partners. I’m grateful to be playing in the NOS4A2 sandbox.”

The season one finale of NOS4A2 airs on Sunday, July 28 on AMC.

NOS4A2 is produced by AMC Studios in association with Tornante Television. The series is executive produced by Joe Hill, Jami O’Brien and Lauren Corrao.

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

‘Lock Every Door’ Series Based On Novel In Works At Paramount TV & Anonymous Content With ‘True Blood’ Duo


EXCLUSIVE: Paramount Television has put in development Lock Every Door, a thriller drama based on Riley Sager’s just-released novel, from Anonymous Content, former True Blood executive producer/showrunner Brian Buckner and executive producer Angela Robinson, and Michael Sugar’s Sugar 23. The project is a co-production between Paramount TV and Anonymous Content as part of the companies’ agreement.

Buckner will pen the adaptation and executive produce. Here is a synopsis for the book, published today:

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich, famous, or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s oldest, most elite and secretive buildings in the Upper West Side. When a fellow apartment sitter goes missing, Jules begins to dig into the Bartholomew’s mysterious history, discovering sordid secrets hidden within its walls and that her fate may already be doomed like those that came before her.

Buckner and Robinson, who also is set to direct, executive produce along with Sugar and Ashley Zalta for Sugar 23. Sager, David Kuhn, Michelle Brower also executive produce. Margaux Swerdloff will be overseeing the project for Sugar 23.

The project reunites Robinson and Buckner, their first collaboration since True Blood. Buckner worked on all seven seasons of the show, first as co-executive producer on seasons 1-5, rising to executive producer and showrunner for the final two seasons. Robinson joined True Blood in Season 5 as co-executive producer, rising to executive producer in season 7.

Sager is a pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer. Now a full-time writer, Sager also is the author of best-selling novel Final Girls. He is repped by Aevitas Creative Management and Hotchkiss Daily & Associates.

Lock Every Door, which has made multiple Summer 2019 Reads lists, was sold to Dutton, a division of Penguin Random House, by Michelle Brower of Aevitas Creative Management.

The Loudest Voice in the Room by Gabriel Sherman

‘The Loudest Voice’ turns the spotlight on Roger Ailes — the man who made President Trump possible


It was 2014 and Gabriel Sherman was in a funk.

The journalist, then at New York magazine, had just published “The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News — and Divided a Nation,” a critical biography of one of the most powerful and polarizing figures in American media.

Drawn from more than 600 interviews, the book detailed how Ailes, whose work as an executive producer on “The Mike Douglas Show” led to a job advising Richard Nixon on his television appearances, turned Fox News Channel into the most-watched cable news network in the country after less than six years on the air.

Ailes did not exactly welcome Sherman’s investigation, declining to sit for an interview, reportedly compiling a 400-page dossier of opposition research and enlisting allies such as Roger Stone in an effort to discredit Sherman. When it was released, Sherman’s portrait of Ailes as an evil genius, which also included multiple on-the-record allegations of sexual harassment dating back to his pre-Fox television career, was met with skepticism and even outright scorn by many in the media.

The process had been “incredibly stressful and emotionally taxing,” Sherman recalled recently. “I felt really defeated.”

So he focused on a new goal: learning to write screenplays. Rising at 5 a.m. each day, he began hammering out a script for what he envisioned as a darkly comic feature inspired by Ailes’ takeover of the Putnam County News and Recorder, a small upstate New York newspaper.

Five years and many dramatic twists later, a vastly different version of that project has come to fruition. Premiering Sunday on Showtime, “The Loudest Voice” is a seven-part limited series starring Russell Crowe as Ailes, Sienna Miller as his devoted wife, Elizabeth, and Naomi Watts as Gretchen Carlson, the anchor whose sexual harassment lawsuit ultimately led to Ailes’ departure from the network in 2016.

While numerous TV shows have crafted fictional story lines inspired by the #MeToo movement, “The Loudest Voice” is the first major scripted project to dramatize one of the real-life cases that helped spark a cultural reckoning. It is also a fact-based work of entertainment that aims to turn the mundane ingredients of TV news production — graphic packages and news tickers — into high drama, and is critical of a network that, in the view of its detractors, has eschewed journalism for ideological spin.

So how do you a tell a compelling story with a strong political perspective without distorting the truth?

“I think we have a very clear point of view about the damage Roger Ailes and Fox News have done to our culture,” Sherman said. “But that’s not why I wanted to write the show. We constantly wanted to draw the viewers in through the humanity, and that is nonpartisan.”

It helped that key creatives on the series had experience with controversial subject matter. Oscar-winning “Spotlight” filmmaker Tom McCarthy co-wrote the pilot episode with Sherman and serves as an executive producer, while “The Handmaid’s Tale” director Kari Skogland helmed three installments, including the premiere. Showrunner Alex Metcalf was a writer-producer on the caustic reality TV satire “UnREAL.”

McCarthy, a self-described “media junkie,” signed on without hesitation. “Gabe's research was so thorough and so deep and in some ways ahead of its time. I don't think people completely believed the book when it came out, just like we wouldn't believe some of the things that maybe our president is doing now.”

Rather than creating a cradle-to-grave biopic, the writers chose to focus on the last two decades of Ailes’ life, beginning with his ouster from CNBC in 1995 and ending with his death in 2017 — the timeline that best captured his influence on the country’s political discourse. Scenes of Ailes promising to “make America great again” during a visit to his depressed hometown of Warren, Ohio, foreshadow the election of Donald Trump, who “comes out of the id of Fox News,” Sherman said.

“We now have a reality TV celebrity in the White House, and that’s the legacy of Roger Ailes.”

As played by Crowe, Ailes is a charismatic but abrasive personality with a streak of wild paranoia and a penchant for inflammatory remarks. Skogland, who is also an executive producer, worked closely with Crowe, “making sure the character had dignity and we weren’t making him a twirly mustache villain,” she said. “It was very important to have a balanced perspective. You present the characters with their flaws and their foibles, and let the audience decided how they relate to that character.”

Early in the series Ailes tells his charges, “People don’t want to be informed, they want to feel informed.” According to Sherman, Ailes believed that “Fox News would fundamentally be a marketing and communications operations and not a newsroom” and understood that people ultimately “want their news to confirm and conform to their worldview.”

“You could call it cynical, you could call it manipulative,” he added, “But it was undeniable that it worked.”

For Sherman, making the leap to screenwriting — where taking dramatic license is not only permissible but necessary — was a major adjustment. He’d employed two fact-checkers and included 100 pages of end notes in his book because he knew it would face intense scrutiny. “It is literally as connected to the record as you can be,” he said.

But in the writers’ room for “The Loudest Voice,” events were compressed and chronologies shuffled for the sake of the narrative. Further complicating the process, some of those events involved Sherman himself, who is a character in the series, played by Fran Kranz.

“In the beginning, we would watch Gabe’s head explode,” Metcalf said. Every embellishment or omission was preceded by painstaking conversations in the writers’ room, which included Sherman’s wife, Jennifer Stahl, a former fact-checker at the New Yorker who vetted Lawrence Wright’s Scientology exposé for the magazine.

“If we could land on a fact, we’d land on a fact; if we couldn’t, we’d talk through the importance of that fact and why we should move it and where we should move it,” Metcalf added.

Sherman pointed to a scene from the second episode, set on 9/11 — a pivotal turning point in the history of Fox News. In the series, Rupert Murdoch (Simon McBurney) spends the night at Ailes’ house because the city is shut down, and the two men have a conversation about how the network will respond to the terrorist attacks. In reality, Sherman explained, the sleepover happened, but not until two years later, during the blackout of 2003.

“We took a real event and we moved it to fit the dramatic frame of our story,” he said. “I was nervous when the process started there was going to be some cliché Hollywood adaptation that was going to cheapen the work. The opposite happened. I think it actually elevated it, because they were able to take the raw material of the journalism and turn it into drama.”

Sherman also provided access to additional sources. Some came in for sit-downs with the writers. Others got cold feet about speaking on the record.

“I'm sure it's what reporters go through all the time when they're trying to follow a story, especially about something that's sensitive and people worry about their careers and legal retaliation,” McCarthy said, “but we felt very grateful for the people who did come forward and talked to us.”

The series was deep in the development process while Ailes was still alive, and McCarthy tried not to think about the legal minefield presented by the project. “We were touching stories people didn’t want us to touch. We just respectfully ignored it and kept doing our work,” he said.

Although Ailes’ death granted the writers some leeway, they had to tread more lightly when it came to virtually every other character in the series — including some figures who are still employed by Fox News, such as host Sean Hannity (played by Patch Darragh) and current chief executive Suzanne Scott (Lucy Owen). “All of these people are living, breathing human beings we need to be responsible to on some level,” Metcalf said.

A Fox News representative said that Showtime did not reach out to fact-check “The Loudest Voice.” Laurie Luhn, a former Fox News booker and one of Ailes’ alleged victims, has filed suit against Showtime over her portrayal in the series. (A Showtime representative declined to comment on ongoing litigation.)

And Hollywood will soon offer a competing take on the Ailes saga: Lionsgate’s as yet-untitled film about Fox News directed by Jay Roach (“Game Change”) and starring Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly, slated for release later this year. It will reportedly focus more on Kelly’s role in Ailes’ downfall. (Metcalf said he hadn’t read the script for Roach’s film, but noted that “from my point of view, Gretchen pushed over the first domino.”)

Whether there is an appetite for these stories beyond the chattering classes is an open question. But the creators of “The Loudest Voice” believe its message has relevance well outside their coastal bubble — to anyone who consumes TV or social media.

“We tend to take media as just what it is; if it’s on a screen, we believe it,” Metcalf said. “We never take a moment to recognize who is making the media and why.”

The Loudest Voice in the Room by Gabriel Sherman


Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes Gave Us Fox. These Shows Try to Make Sense of It All.

 “The Loudest Voice,” “Ink” and “Succession” map out the influential world the two men created.

Roger Ailes (Russell Crowe) begins narrating his own story, Showtime’s “The Loudest Voice,” as he lies dead on the floor. I mean, why wouldn’t he?

Ailes, who died in 2017, brayed and bullied his way to the center of media and politics. He built a noise machine, Fox News, that amplified conservatism and then devoured it. Even after he was forced out at Fox for sexual harassment, his worldview continued to blare from it.

What, you thought a little thing like dying would shut Roger Ailes up?

Ailes, a onetime campaign operative, programmed our current political environment. Rupert Murdoch, the Fox mogul, bankrolled Ailes’s furious vision in America while imposing his own in Britain. Together, they created a smash-mouth version of conservatism that married plutocracy with populism, reactionary politics with showbiz values. They exploited fear, prejudice and, in Ailes’s case, women.

Their decades of work paid off in 2016: in Britain with the success of the tabloid-fired Brexit campaign, and in America with the election of Donald Trump, the reality-TV businessman and “Fox & Friends” regular who bragged about grabbing women’s genitals (and who defended Ailes, his adviser in the general-election debates, after his sex-abuse disgrace). President Trump relied on a fervent, immovable base that Ailes laid the foundation for, with tools supplied by Murdoch.

We are living in their world, even if Ailes has departed it. Now television and theater are trying to make sense of how that world got built.

“The Loudest Voice,” the seven-episode series beginning June 30 on Showtime, is direct, damning and about as subtle as, well, Fox News. An ominous soundtrack follows Ailes (Crowe, plumped up and balded down) as if he were a monster from the deep. When Fox goes on air at the end of the first episode, we see an eerily glowing matrix of screens forming a Big Brother-ish American flag. This is less a biopic than a creature feature.

Based on Gabriel Sherman’s comprehensive bio-takedown, “The Loudest Voice in the Room,” the series skips over Ailes’s early years: working on “The Mike Douglas Show,” developing Richard Nixon’s 1968 TV strategy, becoming a Republican media guru. Instead, we meet him in the mid-90s, pushed out the door as president of CNBC and plotting his comeback.

Ailes is a true believer. He believes in conservatism, believes the rest of the media is its enemy, believes it is his calling to help his side “reclaim the real America.”

But he’s also a TV guy. (Or a “Television Man,” the Talking Heads song that is one of several nudging musical cues here.) He knows that viewers respond to emotion, outrage, flash. And he knows that cable TV is different from TV in the broadcast-network era. You don’t try to make things widely palatable to everyone anymore. You need “the loyalty of the passionate few,” he says. “In politics, it’s called turning out the base.”


Fox News would be the continuation of politics by other means. It put a telegenic sheen on a conservative theme Richard Hofstadter identified in 1964, in “The Paranoid Style in American Politics”: the belief that “America has largely been taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it.”

This is not just a performance for Ailes, who in “Voice” is so paranoid he could be fitted for a tinfoil business suit. Even the solidly right-wing Murdoch (Simon McBurney) is unsettled by his underling’s fervor. At one point, Ailes orders an investigation of Murdoch’s wife, whom he suspects of being a Chinese agent.

But he gets ratings, and with them, power. He intuits that Sept. 11 will unleash a cry for war (and counsels the Bush administration on leveraging that blood lust toward Iraq). He knows that Barack Hussein Obama — he insists on Fox’s using the middle name, three guesses why — will create an existential panic in his viewers. He understands, as Donald Trump eventually will, that his people want enemies and they want total war. Whatever fever burns in Ailes, it’s contagious.

Crowe gives Ailes more East Coast bluster than his actual speaking voice had; he sounds a little like a more-educated Archie Bunker, looks a little like Peter Griffin in a suit. There’s a menace to him, but also the theatricality of a man whose entire career was understanding the power of media performance. Are you not infotained?

Ailes is most plainly monstrous in his harassment and abuse of women, in the office and outside it. “Voice” (in the three episodes I’ve seen) tells that story mostly through his decades-long victimization of Laurie Luhn (Annabelle Wallis), a former Fox booker whom he blackmails into, essentially, sex slavery. Their scenes — Ailes making Luhn dance, ordering her to her knees, video-recording her as a means of control — are horrifying, bordering on lurid.

What there’s surprisingly little of in “Voice” is Fox News itself, as mainlined by viewers. There’s ample behind-the-scenes (Ailes implementing the news crawl the morning of 9/11; wishing Sean Hannity would “engage his brain before he talks”; dismissing one Bill O’Reilly harassment accusation after another).

But we’re left to imagine what the audience responded to on air — programming that was full of the paranoia and rage that pumped through Ailes’s veins but was also charged with excitement. In Sherman’s book, Ailes visits his childhood home in Ohio, and the woman living there tells him she watches Fox because its hosts “were having more fun” than other channels’.

She doesn’t say that in the version of Ailes’s visit we get in the series. But we do see Ailes give a demagoguing speech to the locals, after Obama’s election, that demonizes immigrants coming to steal people’s jobs and ends with, “Together, we can make America great again!”

The line is so on the nose it could dislocate your septum. But as Ailes might say, it speaks to a larger truth: Fox News was Trump before Trump was. Whatever America we’re living in now, Roger Ailes got there years ago.

Flag Day by Jennifer Vogel


‘Flag Day’ Shoot Under Way: Sean Penn Directs & Stars In Drama With Dylan Penn, Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Katheryn Winnick, More

Shoot is under way on Sean Penn-directed feature drama Flag Day, in which Penn will star alongside daughter Dylan Penn (Elvis & Nixon).

The strong supporting cast joining the production includes Josh Brolin (No Country For Old Men), Norbert Leo Butz (Fair Game), Dale Dickey (Hell Or High Water), Eddie Marsan (Happy-Go-Lucky), Bailey Noble (True Blood), Hopper Penn (War Machine), Miles Teller  (Whiplash), and Katheryn Winnick (Vikings).

Jez Butterworth (Edge Of Tomorrow) has penned the screenplay, which is based on Jennifer Vogel’s 2005 memoir Film-Flam Man: The True Story Of My Father’s Counterfeit Life. Based on a true story, the long-gestating film is a portrait of a daughter struggling to overcome the loving but dark legacy of her con man father.

William Horberg (The Talented Mr. Ripley), Jon Kilik (Babel) and Fernando Sulichin (Snowden) are producing the feature, which is a Wonderful Films, Rahway Road, New Element Films and Clyde Is Hungry Films production.

Rocket Science and Wild Bunch will executive produce and are handling international sales, with CAA Media Finance, which arranged financing and representing the U.S. and China rights.

Executive producers are Christelle Conan, Anders Erdén, Peter Touche, Phyllis Laing, Devan Towers, Thorsten Schumacher, Vincent Maraval, John Wildermuth, Sidney Kimmel and Allen Liu. Funding comes from Ingenious Media, New Element Media and Manitoba Film and Music.

Penn won Oscars for his lead performances in Milk and Mystic River and has previously directed titles including Into the Wild, The Pledge, The Crossing Guard and The Indian Runner.

He is represented by CAA and Hirsch Wallerstein. Dylan Penn, Brolin, Teller, Winnick and Butz are represented by CAA; Hopper Penn by ICM; Marsan by UTA and Markham, Froggatt and Irwin; Noble by Buchwald and Artists First, and Dickey by BRS and Gage Talent Agency.

Sweet Magnolias by Sherryl Woods


‘Sweet Magnolias’: Monica Potter, Brooke Elliott & Heather Headley To Headline Netflix Series

EXCLUSIVE: Monica Potter (Parenthood), Brooke Elliott (Drop Dead Diva) and Heather Headley (Chicago Med) are set as the leads of Netflix’s upcoming series Sweet Magnolias.

Netflix last fall made a push into the romance drama space, giving 10-episode series orders to Virgin River and Sweet Magnolias, both based on bestselling novels with female protagonists.

Sweet Magnolias, based on Sherryl Woods’ popular series of novels published by Harlequin imprint MIRA books, is set in the charming small town of Serenity, South Carolina. It centers on three women, best friends since childhood.

Potter will play Maddie Townsend, a low-key but resolute, warm and loving woman with a vocabulary like Southern poetry. She finds herself at a crossroads in her life and her best friends are trying desperately to convince her that now is the time for reinvention.

Elliott plays Dana Sue Sullivan. Everyone knows her as the strong-willed owner and head chef of Sullivan’s Restaurant, a cherished spot in the town of Serenity. A former wild child, she works constantly but is always willing to drop everything for her friends.

Headley plays Helen Decatur, a lawyer who has made it her goal to create an opportunity for the people of Serenity, her hometown. Whether professionally or as a friend, Helen is an ally — particularly to Maddie. Helen is selfless, and she has to be — her career means that she spends a lot of time focusing on other people’s problems.

Woods will executive produce with Sheryl J. Anderson, who also serves as showrunner. Dan Paulson, whose Daniel L. Paulson Productions is producing, also serves as executive producer.

Norman Buckley serves as co-executive producer and will direct six episodes.

Elliott, who stars in the “If I Had Wings” episode of Netflix’s upcoming anthology series Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings, is repped by Innovative Artists, Link Entertainment and Gochman Law. Potter is repped by Gersh and Pop Art management. Headley is with CAA.

North American Lake Monsters by Nathan Ballingrud


Hulu Orders Horror Anthology Series Based On ‘North American Lake Monsters’ Stories From Annapurna TV

Hulu has given an eight-episode series order to a horror anthology series based on North American Lake Monsters: Stories, a collection of short stories by Nathan Ballingrud, from Preacher writer-producer Mary LawsUnder the Shadow and Wounds filmmakers Babak Anvari and Lucan Toh, and Annapurna Television.

Created by, written and executive produced by Laws, The Untitled Mary Laws Project (working title) is a contemporary horror anthology in which, through encounters with Gothic beasts, including fallen angels and werewolves, broken people are driven to desperate acts in an attempt to repair their lives, ultimately showing there is a thin line between man and beast.

Toh and Anvari executive produce with Laws. Anvari also is set to direct. Annapurna Television produces for Hulu.

North American Lake Monsters: Stories,released in 2013 by Small Beer Press, was Ballingrud’s first published book. His second, novella The Visible Filth, was adapted by Anvari and Toh into their 2019 movie Woulds, which is distributed by Annapurna Pictures.

Anvari and Toh came to prominence with the 2016 internationally co-produced Persian-language horror film Under the Shadow, written and directed by Iranian-born Anvari in his directorial debut and produced by Toh. The movie premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. It was acquired by Netflix and also was selected as the British Oscar entry for Best Foreign Language Film.

Anvari and Toh’s followup horror film, Wounds, also written and directed by Anvari and produced by Toh, premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. It stars Armie Hammer and Dakota Johnson.

Anvari and Toh and their Two & Two Picturesrecently signed a first-look deal with AMC for television projects. Anvari also is developing projects with Black Bear and Film4.

Laws wrote on the first three seasons of AMC’s Preacher and co-wrote the screenplay for Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon.She’s also known for her plays Bird Fire Fly, Blueberry Toast (Yale School of Drama) and Wonderful , among others.

The Untitled Mary Laws Project joins Hulu’s existing horror series, J.J. Abrams and Stephen King’s Castle Rock and Jason Blum’s anthology Into the Dark.

Annapurna TV has HBO miniseries The Plot Against America, Netflix seriesMixtape and Amazon comedy pilot Half-Empty starring Cazzie David

The River at Night by Erica Ferencik


Miramax Acquires Rafting Survival Tale ‘The River At Night;’ Kevin Williamson, Eli Roth & Roger Birnbaum All Paddling

EXCLUSIVE: Miramax has acquired screen rights to the Erica Ferencik novel The River At Night. The project will be shaped by Kevin Williamson and Eli Roth, teaming for the first time after each had an illustrious genre past with the original Miramax. Williamson and Ben Fast will produce through their Outerbanks banner and Roth is producing with Roger Birnbaum. Roth is eyeing this as a potential directing project. Melanie Toast is in talks to write.

For Roth and Birnbaum, this marks the first project for The Arts District, their new production label that has been staked to a first look deal by Miramax chief Bill Block. Michael Besman is the company’s head of development. Williamson and Fast already tethered Outerbanks to Miramax for movies.

Stifled by a soul-crushing job, devastated by the death of her beloved brother, and lonely after the end of a fifteen-year marriage, Wini is feeling vulnerable. So when her three best friends insist on a high-octane getaway for their annual girls’ trip, she signs on, despite her misgivings. What starts out as an invigorating hiking and rafting excursion in the remote Allagash Wilderness soon becomes an all-too-real nightmare; a freak accident leaves the women stranded, separating them from their raft and everything they need to survive. When night descends, a fire on the mountainside lures them to a ramshackle camp that appears to be their lifeline. But as Wini and her friends grasp the true intent of their supposed saviors, long buried secrets emerge and lifelong allegiances are put to the test. To survive, Wini must reach beyond the world she knows to harness an inner strength she never knew she possessed.

“Kevin and I had long been a mutual admiration society, and when he told me this was Girls Trip meets Deliverance, I said, I’m in,” Roth told Deadline. “I’ve always been drawn to these clash of culture movies like Cabin Fever and Hostel, where they go for an adventure and everything turns against them and we see what they’re made of. The book is fun and it’s a smart thriller. As for working with Kevin Williamson, I was 22 and had written Cabin Fever and someone told me they read this new guy Kevin Williamson’s script Scary Movie. I took it home, read it on a bus going back to Newton, Mass., and thought, ‘Okay, this is what a real script looks like, it was so good. On my first meeting with him years ago I brought the Dawson’s Creek calendar I’d put in my apartment and he noticed that the only appointments were reminders to tape that show. He said it was the funniest, saddest thing he had ever seen, my empty life in Los Angeles.”

Said Williamson: “It was just sad and I remember suggesting he get a life. But we’ve been friends for years and always talked about working together. I stumbled upon the book, saw the reviews and just ordered it and found it a terrific story of courage and survival. Turns out Eli likes rafting.”

Roth said that the new company he formed with Birnbaum came out of their work on the Death Wish remake, and they sparked to Block’s pitch that he is looking to turn Miramax back into a haven for edgy crossover genre movies that have a chance to break out in the mainstream.

Deal was done by Hotchkiss Daily & Associates on behalf of Erin Harris at Folio Literary Management.

Faun by Joe Hill


Netflix, Sugar23 Win Film Rights Bidding Battle For Joe Hill Short Story ‘Faun’

EXCLUSIVE: Netflix won a three-studio bidding battle to acquire screen rights to Faun, an upcoming short story by bestselling author Joe Hill. Jeremy Slater will write the script and Michael Sugar will produce through his Sugar23 banner with Ashley Zalta. The story will be published in a new short story collection in the fall. A TV series based on his novel NOS4A2 was just unveiled by AMC at TCA, and Hill’s thriller bestsellers include Heart Shaped Box, The Fireman and Horns.

Price was not disclosed but I heard that Sony and Paramount were the other studios in the mix Friday. Here was the pitch presented to buyers:

Narnia. Hogwarts. Neverland. All magical places that mortals can travel to and marvel at the strange creatures and wonders not seen in our world.

What if a door to a magical land was discovered and instead of pure hearted adventures, a man saw an opportunity to charge a fortune for an exclusive private game reserve where you can “bag” a magical creature.

Multi-millionaire Tip Fallows is a recreational hunter looking for more interesting challenges. Another wealthy hunter, Stockton, has a secret to share and a journey to offer. All they need to do is pay a quarter of a million dollars to go through a little door in an old house in rural Maine.

We see a supernatural adventure film that bring a fresh magical take on The Most Dangerous Game.

Spotlight producer Sugar puts this through his first look deal at Netflix, where he is producing The Laundromat, the drama about the Panama Papers that Steven Soderbergh is directing with a cast that includes Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas and David Schwimmer.

Slater’s credits include Fantastic Four, The Lazarus Effect, Death Note and most recently the Netflix series The Umbrella Academy.

The deal was brokered by Hotchkiss Daily & Associates on behalf of The Choate Agency. Slater is repped by UTA and Kaplan/Perrone Entertainment.

As Long As We Both Shall Live by JoAnn Chaney


Bruna Papandrea’s Made Up Stories Lands JoAnn Chaney Thriller Novel ‘As Long As We Both Shall Live’

EXCLUSIVE: Bruna Papandrea’s Made Up Stories has acquired film rights to As Long As We Both Shall Live, the upcoming JoAnn Chaney novel that Flatiron Books will publish January 15. Made Up Stories will develop the project for film in partnership with Endeavor Content.

It adds to a number of female-centric novels that Made Up Stories has percolating, including Signe Pike’s The Lost Queen, Holly Ringland’s The Lost Flowers Of Alice Hart, and Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers.

The novel is about a complicated marriage gone very wrong. Matt Evans and his wife Marie are on a hike not far from their home in Denver, when Marie goes off a cliff to near certain death in the river below. Matt frantically seeks out park rangers to report the incident, claiming it was an accident. But detectives investigating uncover an incident over 20 years ago when his first wife was killed in a home invasion that he miraculously escaped. When a body is finally pulled from the raging river, all hell breaks loose. Is he twice unlucky or a cold blooded killer?

Papandrea will produce the film alongside Made Up Stories’ Steve Hutensky and Jeanne Snow, and Janice Park will also shepherd the project on behalf of the company. Papandrea has mined this territory before in films that include Gone Girl and All Good Things.

“JoAnn Chaney’s latest novel is exactly the kind of thriller I have been looking for, with a Hitchcockian mystery, jaw-dropping twists, and razor-sharp teeth,” Papandrea said. “We at Made Up Stories are thrilled to be shepherding this riveting story to the screen.”

The author said Papandrea’s track record made her the choice to turn the tale into a film. “Her past projects, like Big Little Lies, are nothing short of amazing, and I’m so excited to see the vision Made Up Stories has for As Long As We Both Shall Live.“

Chaney writes from Colorado and this is her second novel behind What You Don’t Know, which Flatiron published in 2017. Her deal was made by Hotchkiss Daily & Associates on behalf of Stephanie Cabot at The Gernert Company.

Sweet Magnolias by Sherryl Woods


Netflix Orders Romance Drama Series ‘Virgin River’ & ‘Sweet Magnolias’ Based On Novels

Netflix is making a push into the romance drama space, giving 10-episode series orders to two scripted dramas, Virgin River and Sweet Magnolias, based on the best-selling novels by Robyn Carr and Sherryl Woods.

The Virgin River series, produced by Reel World Management and Roma Roth, is a contemporary romance based on Carr’s Harlequin book series. It centers around Melinda Monroe, who answers an ad to work as a nurse practitioner in the remote California town of Virgin River thinking it will be the perfect place to start fresh and leave her painful memories behind. But she soon discovers that small-town living isn’t quite as simple as she expected and that she must learn to heal herself before she can truly make Virgin River her home.

Sue Tenney (Good Witch, Cedar Cove) will serve as showrunner and executive producer. Roth and Chris Perry will executive produce. Production is slated to begin next year.

The Virgin River book series consists of 20 books which have sold more than 13 million copies. Virgin River was named to The HarperCollins 200 list, which celebrates 200 iconic books of the past 200 years.

Sweet Magnolias, based on Woods’ popular series of novels published by Harlequin imprint MIRA books, centers on three South Carolina women, best friends since high school, as they shepherd each other through the complexities of romance, career, and family.

Woods will executive produce with Sheryl J. Anderson, who also serves as showrunner. Dan Paulson, whose Daniel L. Paulson Productions is producing, also serves as executive producer.

Defending Jacob by William Landay


Chris Evans To Star In ‘Defending Jacob’ Apple Limited Series From Mark Bomback & Morten Tyldum

Apple has given an eight-episode straight-to-series order to drama Defending Jacob, headlined and executive produced by Captain America and The Avengers star Chris Evans.

Created and written by Mark Bomback (Planet of the Apes trilogy) based on William Landay’s bestselling novel, the limited series comes from Paramount Television and Anonymous Content. Oscar-nominated Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game, Counterpart, Jack Ryan) is attached to direct the series and executive produce.

Defending Jacob is described as a a gripping, character-driven thriller based on Landay’s 2012 novel published by Random House. The book tells the story of a father dealing with the accusation that his son is a 14-year-old murderer.

Bomback,,who also will serve as showrunner, Evans and Tyldum executive produce with Rosalie Swedlin and Adam Shulman for Anonymous Content.

At Apple, Anonymous and Paramount TV also have a series order for the untitled Hilde Lysiak detective project.

Evans will next be seen in his final turn as Captain America in the fourth Avengers film. He recently starred on Broadway to critical praise in Lobby Hero and is about to begin production on The Devil All the Time.

Bomback’s screenwriting credits include the Planet of the Apes trilogy, The Wolverine and Live Free or Die Hard.

Tyldum received an Oscar nomination for the Benedict Cumberbatch starrer The Imitation Game. He also helmed the Jo Nesbo adaptation Headhunters and most recently the Jennifer Lawrence-Chris Pratt sci-fi saga Passengers. In TV, Tyldum serves as executive producer on Amazon’s Jack Ryan and Starz’s Counterpart and directed the pilot episodes of both.

Evans is repped by CAA, 3 Arts and attorney Jason Sloane. Tyldum is repped by WME, Anonymous Content, and Bloom, Hergott, Diemer. Bomback is repped by WME, Anonymous Content, and David Colden. The novel was represented on behalf of the Alice Martell Agency by Hotchkiss Daily and Associates.


Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin


Pascal Pictures Acquires Uzma Jalaluddin Novel ‘Ayesha At Last’

EXCLUSIVE: Amy Pascal’s Pascal Pictures has acquired Ayesha at Last, a Muslim romantic dramedy novel by Uzma Jalaluddin. Eric Fineman and Isabel Siskin will be the execs shepherding it. The novel, which was published in Canada and will debut in the U.S. next year, is a present day retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in a Muslim community in Toronto.

The novel was shopped as interest swelled in Crazy Rich Asians, and it was helped by an appetite to tell a fun story focused on historically underrepresented characters.

The protagonist Ayesha has dreams of being a poet but has set them aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn’t want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid, who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and dresses like he belongs in the seventh century.

When a surprise engagement between Khalid and Hafsa is announced, Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and his family; and the truth she realizes about herself. But Khalid is also wrestling with what he believes and what he wants. And he just can’t get this beautiful, outspoken woman out of his mind.

Deal was done by Sean Daily at Hotchkiss Daily & Associates on behalf of Ann Collette at Rees Literary Agency.

Sean Daily Gets Name On Door Of Hotchkiss Daily & Associates


EXCLUSIVE: Gotham-based book-to-film/TV lit agency Hotchkiss and Associates is changing its name to Hotchkiss Daily & Associates, as prolific dealmaker Sean Daily moves upward alongside founder Jody Hotchkiss.

Daily joined Hotchkiss and Associates in 2004 and has developed specialties in elevated sci-fi, horror, and fantasy, narrative nonfiction, and high-concept YA and children’s books. His sales have included 13 Reasons Why, A Futile and Stupid Gesture and most recently the greenlighted supernatural drama Locke and Key to Netflix, Resurrection to ABC, The Book of Negroes on CBC/BET, Sacred Lies on Facebook Watch, NOS4A2 to AMC and the recently wrapped untitled Babak Anvari thriller from Annapurna starring Armie Hammer and Zazie Beetz.

Daily said he was “extraordinarily grateful for the opportunities that I’ve had over the years at Hotchkiss and the flexibility and freedom we have to serve authors and help their books find their way to the screen. I’m very lucky to work with a great group of writers telling compelling, diverse, fun, frightening, and eye-opening stories.”

Hotchkiss left Sterling Lord Literistic to form his agency in SoHo four months after 9/11. Recent agency deals include the Amy Poehler-produced upcoming NBC sitcom I Feel Bad; the upcoming Showtime pic The Loudest Voice in the Room: Roger Ailes, which stars Russell Crowe; and Hallmark Channel’s Chesapeake Shores. Features have included The Wizard of Lies, War Dogs, Secretariat, American Gangster, The Kite Runner and Hotel for Dogs.

“I like to say that agenting is about ‘chopping the wood and hauling the water each day’—doing the work,” Hotchkiss said. “Sean has certainly done the work since the day he started here, and he has also brought great insights while at the same time developing into an effective and respected agent.”

On Her Own Ground by A'Lelia Bundles


The New York Times

Octavia Spencer to Star in ‘Madam C.J. Walker’ on Netflix

Octavia Spencer’s next project is a literal rags-to-riches story. The Oscar winner will executive produce and star in “Madam C.J. Walker,” a limited series on Netflix that tells the true story of the woman who went from washing clothes to becoming one of the very few African-American female millionaires of the early 20th century.

Ms. Walker was born in Louisiana in 1867 to two former slaves. She was orphaned at 7 and married at 14. She washed clothes for $1.50 a day, until the birth of a daughter motivated her to seek a better life.

“As I bent over the washboard and looked at my arms buried in soapsuds, I said to myself: ‘What are you going to do when you grow old and your back gets stiff? Who is going to take care of your little girl?’” she said in an interview with The New York Times in 1917.

Ms. Walker decided to enter the hair-care industry at a time when few products were geared toward black women. Around 1906 she started her own business and soon created lines of hair straighteners, hair-growth elixirs, shampoos and pomades. As she earned riches and respect in the business world — extremely rare achievements for a black woman at the time — she gave back thousands to the N.A.A.C.P., the Tuskegee Institute, churches and Y.M.C.A.s; she also delivered lectures and helped organize protests against inequality and violence toward African-Americans.

The Netflix series is based on a 2001 biography of Ms. Walker by A’Lelia Bundles, her great-great granddaughter.

The project is being spearheaded by Ms. Spencer, who won an Oscar for her role in “The Help” and has since starred in “Hidden Figures” and “The Shape of Water.” “Since making ‘Hidden Figures,’ I don’t have a problem saying to a room of male executives: ‘I need a female writer or a female director,’ or ‘I need a black voice or a Latin voice,’” she said in a Times interview in 2016.

The news was announced at a Television Critics Association press tour on Sunday. Kasi Lemmons (“Talk to Me”) will direct the first episode, and LeBron James will serve as one of the executive producers. The eight-episode series does not yet have a release date.

Locke & Key by Joe Hill


‘Locke & Key’ Drama From Carlton Cuse & Joe Hill Gets Series Order At Netflix, Aron Eli Coleite & Meredith Averill Join As EPs

It’s official: Four months after Hulu opted not to go forward with its Locke & Key pilot, the project — an adaptation of Joe Hill’s comic Locke & Key, from Carlton Cuse and IDW Entertainment — has closed a deal for a 10-episode series order at rival Netflix. Talks between Netflix and the Locke & Key producers started shortly after Hulu surprisingly passed on the pilot in March.

As we previously reported, Netflix is not picking up the existing Hulu pilot, written by Joe Hill, to series but will be redeveloping the scripts and re-casting the new series.

Joining Hill and Cuse on the creative team of the new version are Aron Eli Coleite and Meredith Averill.

The Netflix series was created by Hill and developed by Cuse, Coleite and Averill; the new first episode will be written by Hill and Coleite; Cuse and Averill will serve as showrunners.

It director Andy Muschietti, who helmed the Hulu pilot, is working on the film’s sequel, so he will not be available to direct the new version for Netflix. But he will serve as an executive producer on the series, along with Barbara Muschietti as well as Cuse, who has been instrumental in the project’s efforts to find a new home, via his Genre Arts production company, Hill, Averill and Coleite. Also exec producing are Lindsey Springer through Genre Arts, Ted Adams and David Ozer for IDW Entertainment and David Alpert and Rick Jacobs via Circle of Confusion.

Locke & Key, written by Hill, is a horror/fantasy series that revolves around three siblings who, after the gruesome murder of their father, move to their ancestral home in Massachusetts only to find the house has magical keys that give them a vast array of powers and abilities. Little do they know, a devious demon also wants the keys, and will stop at nothing to attain them.

Staying on from the three young actors playing the siblings is It co-star Jackson Robert Scott.

The Hulu pilot’s cast also included Frances O’Connor, Nate Corddry, Samantha Mathis, Owen Teague and Danny Glover.

Locke & Key was ordered to pilot in April 2017, before the top management changes at Hulu. The surprising pass on the pilot came after Hulu’s creative team, who had supported it, had given the project a blinking green light — setting up a full writers room that produced 6-7 backup scripts and having the sets built with everyone ready to go.

This marks a happy ending for Locke & Key, which previously was adapted during the 2010-11 development season when it reached the pilot stage at Fox with Josh Friedman writing, Mark Romanek directing and Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci producing alongside DreamWorks TV. Back then the pilot, starring Sarah Bolger, Miranda Otto and Nick Stahl, did not go to series, though the title has remained a cult favorite, with Hill and IDW Entertainment in 2016 announcing that they were taking a new stab at it for television. The unaired Fox pilot screened at Comic-Con in 2011.

The IDW Publishing Locke & Key comic book franchise, co-created by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez, has garnered both awards and acclaim during its ten-year run; has been translated into dozens of languages across the globe; and has sold millions of copies worldwide.

The Loudest Voice in the Room by Gabriel Sherman


Russell Crowe To Star As Roger Ailes In Limited Series Greenlighted By Showtime

Showtime has given an eight-episode order to a limited series about Roger Ailes, with Oscar winner Russell Crowe set to star as the controversial Fox News founder in his US television debut.

The as-yet untitled series (fka Secure and Hold: The Last Days of Roger Ailes), a Blumhouse Television and Showtime co-production, is based on Gabriel Sherman’s bestselling book The Loudest Voice in the Room and his extensive reporting for New York magazine about the sordid allegations of sexual harassment that prompted the late Ailes’ ouster at Fox News. Sherman co-wrote the initial episode with Spotlight writer Tom McCarthy, who will executive produce with Jason Blum.

Showtime landed the Roger Ailes limited series for development in April 2017, a month before Ailes’ death.

“In many ways, the collision between the media and politics has come to define the world we live in today,” said David Nevins, President and CEO, Showtime Networks. “We’ve seen this phenomenon depicted on screen as far back as the story of Charles Foster Kane, and it finds contemporary embodiment in the rise and fall of Roger Ailes. With Russell Crowe in the lead role, this limited series promises to be a defining story for this era.”

The Roger Ailes limited series was one of the first homegrown projects for Blumhouse’s independent TV studio, which launched with an ITV Studios investment shortly after the company had acquired the rights to Sherman’s book last year. Blumhouse attached McCarthy, an old friend of company principal Jason Blum, before setting the project up at Showtime. The greenlight comes after a small writers room led by McCarthy shaped up the series and produced multiple scripts.

According to the producers, telling the story of Ailes, who molded Fox News into a force that irrevocably changed the conversation about the highest levels of of government, will help understand the events that led the rise of Donald Trump. The series focuses primarily on the past decade in which Ailes arguably became the Republican Party’s de facto leader, while flashing back to defining events in Ailes’ life, including an initial meeting with Richard Nixon on the set of The Mike Douglas Show that gave birth to Ailes’ political career and the sexual harassment accusations and settlements that brought his Fox News reign to an end. Told through multiple points of view, the limited series aims to shed light on the psychology that drives the political process from the top down.

McCarthy, Blum and Alex Metcalf executive produce with Marci Wiseman and Jeremy Gold for Blumhouse Television.

McCarthy won the screenwriting Oscar for co-writing 2017’s best picture winner Spotlight, and earned a second Oscar nomination for directing the film.

Crowe won the best actor Oscar for his role in Gladiator and received two other best actor noms for A Beautiful Mind and The Insider. He most recently played Henry Jekyll in Universal’s The Mummy reboot and will next be seen in the Joel Edgerton-directed drama Boy Erased. Crowe is repped by WME and Bloom Hergott Diemer.

Blumhouse TV’s upcoming series slate also includes Sharp Objects on HBO, Into the Dark on Hulu and The Purge on USA/Syfy.

Showtime has been examining the intersection of politics and media with its docuseries The Circus: Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth.


Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser


‘Fancy Nancy’ Renewed By Disney Junior Ahead Of Series Premiere

EXCLUSIVE: Five weeks before the Fancy Nancy series premiere, Disney Junior has ordered second season of the toon based on the children’s books by Jane O’Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser.

The family comedy, which debuts July 13, centers on Nancy (Mia Sinclair Jenness), a high-spirited 6-year-old whose zest and enthusiasm for all that is exquisite – including language, nature, art and color – transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary. Excited to experience what the magnificent world has to offer, Nancy uses her ingenuity and resourcefulness to exemplify that even if life doesn’t always go as planned, it’s important to make the most of each day and encourage others to do the same.

Alyson Hannigan, Rob Riggle, Mia Sinclair Jenness and Spencer Moss also star, with Season 1 recurring voices including Christine Baranski, George Wendt, Kal Penn, Dana Heath, Tatyana Ali, Ian Chen, Chi McBride, Malachi Barton and Madison Pettis.

Geared toward kids ages 2-7, Fancy Nancy episodes include two 11-minute stories that showcase themes of self-expression, originality and love of family. Nearly every episode features new original songs whose styles range from pop and jazz to big band, classical and swing.

The series is executive produced and directed by Jamie Mitchell and developed and story edited by Krista Tucker.

I Feel Bad by Orli Auslander


‘Abby’s’ & “I Feel Bad’ Comedies Picked Up To Series By NBC

Twenty five years after Cheers ended its 11-season run on NBC, the network has greenlighted another multi-camera comedy series set in a bar. The network made its first pickups on the comedy side, giving series orders to buzzy half-hour pilots Abby’s, executive produced by Mike Schur, and I Feel Bad (fka Untitled Aseem Batra), executive produced by Amy Poehler.

Both projects come from NBC sibling Universal Television, as do all three new drama series picked up by NBC so far — New Amsterdam, The Village and The Enemy Within. What’s more, both Abby’s and I Feel Bad are female starring vehicles, with Natalie Morales and Sarayu Blue as the two leads, and both pilots were directed by female directors, Pamela Fryman and Julie Anne Robinson

Abby’s, from Uni TV, Fremulon and 3 Arts, was written by Josh Malmuth. He and Fryman executive produce with Schur and 3 Arts’ David Miner. In addition to Morales, the cast includes The Middle‘s Neil Flynn, who is segueing to the NBC series as the ABC comedy wraps its nine-season run. Nelson Franklin, Jessica Chaffin, Leonard Ouzts and Kimia Behpoornia.

Abby’s is set at the best bar in San Diego, home to good prices, great company and, of course, Abby. This unlicensed, makeshift bar nestled in her backyard is the opposite of everything annoying about today’s party scene. There are rules at Abby’s: no cell phones (not even to “look something up”), earning a seat at the bar takes time and losing a challenge means drinking a limey, sugary “not-beer” drink. As the oddball cast of regulars will tell you, hanging out at Abby’s is a coveted honor. But once you’re in, you’re family. The show is shot outside in front of a live audience.

Written by Batra, the single-camera  I Feel Bad, from Uni TV, Paper Kite Prods, CannyLads Prods and 3 Arts , stars Blue as Emet, the perfect mom, boss, wife, friend and daughter. OK, she’s not perfect. In fact, she’s just figuring it out like the rest of us. Sure, she feels bad when she has a sexy dream about someone other than her husband, or when she pretends not to know her kids when they misbehave in public, or when she uses her staff to help solve personal problems. But that’s OK, right? Nobody can have it all and do it perfectly.

The cast also includes Paul Adelstein, Aisling Bea, Zach Cherry, Johnny Pemberton and James Buckley. Batra executive produces with Robinson, Poehler, Dave Becky and Josh Maurer also executive produce.