interworld

Do you have access to other Universal catalog titles if you want to develop more shows like 12 Monkeys?

We don’t have free reign but I think there’s a great library that, whenever we can, we try to mine. We have a couple announcements that are coming out that I can’t talk about yet but that are big shows that will tap into some of the Universal library, one in particular.

Names we’ll recognize?

Names we’ll recognize. And it changes, because the world changes and what we want to watch changes, but we don’t just lock it up. We say, “Is there a great filmmaker or writer who wants to tell that story?” If there is, and a lot of times we’ll internally try to break it to entice a great writer. Yeah, Universal has a great library that goes back to the 1920s. I think now more than ever, every feature studio, whether it’s Disney, it’s not like the feature world is saying, “This only can be in the feature world.” I think people are trying to cross-pollinate like what Marvel and DC does so well. We look for opportunities like that too to say, “What is currently happening?” It doesn’t have to be old movies. “What’s currently happening and is there part of that universe that we can [portray]?”

We’ve had that conversation with all different franchises that are either in theaters or about to come out in theaters or were just in theaters. We look at all the Universal films, is there a television play that can elevate both worlds? That we can have an elevated television show that doesn’t hurt the feature entity? We all talk so there’s a lot of conversations that happen between features and TV with all the execs. We call and say, “What are you doing? We had an idea for this? Does it step on [yours] or can it help promote?” There’s a thing called symphony inside our company.

Or we call it shared universe.

Yeah, shared universes. I think you’re going to see a lot more of that. Big filmmakers are not so protective anymore. They see the opportunities. They love the opportunities. They love television now. They’ll come right from the get go and you’re like, “All right, get your movie out first and then let’s talk about that.” I think the world is opening up so I think you’re going to see more and more not only library stuff but new stuff with Universal.

You announced some comic book series at Comic-Con, including the Neil Gaiman Interworld. Starz is doing American Gods too so why do you think now is the time that television caught up to Neil Gaiman?

I think storytellers have caught up to him that help him adapt his stuff. I think world building has caught up to him in television. So much of his stuff is so inventive and creative. I think now the scale and scope of television can actually really be benefited by projects like Interworld. I think also YA. It’s in that world. There are a lot more networks who have a strong desire. It used to be only a couple places. I think we’re going to do a lot more at Syfy, but you see Netflix, Amazon, they all see what’s happening in the feature world with YA and they want to do a lot more. It’s not just going to be basic cable. It’s going to be a lot more premium stuff happen.

Emily the Strange

Umbrella Academy is Dark Horse, The Woods is Boom Studios and Bushido is Top Cow. Those are publishers who haven’t had as much in the adaptation world as Marvel and DC. What do you see as the potential for them?

I think a lot of them work with really unique voices, like Gerard [Way] doing Umbrella Academy. I flew out Gerard to try to convince him to not sell it again to features, that this is a graphic novel with many chapters and many volumes. It belongs on television. You don’t want to take that whole universe and boil it down to two hours. I think there are such unique voices in some of these smaller imprints because they can afford to. They’re more boutique and so they have boutique voices.

The Woods is such an unusual story. One of our executives, Kate Fenske, found that one at Comic-Con and called me like, “You’re going to love this one! It’s a high school that winds up on another planet!” I think they are just able to tap into these younger or more outsider voices that aren’t immediately pulled into the DC or Marvel universe, just like great voices always come from Sundance every year. I think these smaller imprints sometimes have these really fresh takes and they take more chances. There’s not a more global corporation behind them that’s trying to feed a machine, so we just find a lot of really unique stories in there. Some of them we can’t get our hands on.

I’m dying to get my hands on Emily the Strange. I’ve talked to the writer a couple of times. IDW we do some stuff with too. A lot of times we go to them and say, “Look at our slate and you can see we’re big genre fans.” So we have just generals with them and say, “Look at what kinds of stuff we’re looking for.” A lot of times they’ll be like, “You know what? Now that you’ve said that, we have this one that we weren’t going to talk about but I’m going to send you it.” We just sold Concrete. Concrete is a Dark Horse property that Zak Penn, who’s doing Ready Player One with [Steven] Spielberg, we just sold to WGN and it is about a concrete man, this existential superhero. It’s a graphic novel, comic book writer’s comic book. It is up there in their minds with Watchmen. It breaks all forms. It’s contemplative, it’s soul searching, it’s lonely.

Is it a pilot order or straight to series?

We didn’t have a script on that so we took it out mainly because we didn’t want to wait. We had very limited time with Zak because he’s off with Spielberg right now doing Ready Player One. Matt Cherniss who runs WGN has the original artwork from Concrete in his office. So there were multiple bidders but he gave it to him because he’s such a fanboy of the material and he really knew and understood Zak is such a fan. When it was in the feature world, Bill Murray was attached to be the voice. It has real, real fans but it needs real love to keep it the way it should be and not be turned into The Hulk.

So the concrete man would be animated?

He would be I think a hybrid of motion capture and then augmentation.

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