7 Days of Deals
DEAL OF THE WEEK: What A SAG-AFTRA Merger Means For Actors: It took nearly a century, but film and television actors might finally be close to joining forces in a single union. A joint committee's Jan. 16 completion of a merger proposal between SAG and AFTRA — led by presidents Ken Howard and Roberta Reardon, respectively — is expected to lead to board approval, followed by member voting in March. Guild observers already are debating what the merged entity, to be called simply SAG-AFTRA and to be led initially by both Howard and Reardon, will mean for rank-and-file actors. Beyond eliminating the guilds' overlapping jurisdiction over television and new media, a key benefit, supporters argue, would be that more actors will reach the qualifying income thresholds for pension and health coverage when their work is no longer split between competing unions. That probably will be true, but not until the guilds' pension and health plans also merge — a separate process, since the plans are legally distinct from the guilds themselves. The proposal has so far generated widespread support among the 125,000 SAG members and the 77,000 AFTRA card-holders (about 44,000 hold dual memberships), but a small group of ardent merger opponents in the SAG Hollywood division counter that the new pension and health plans are destined to be worse than the existing SAG plans. However, it's not obvious why this would be so: Federal law provides certain protections in the pension arena, and beyond that, the issue is shrouded in economic uncertainty. Wages and residuals won't change, at least until the current contracts expire: March 2013 for the commercials agreement and June 2014 for TV/theatrical. The latter will be a nail-biter negotiation, with the studios and the combined guild likely to begin jostling for position when talks start in fall 2013. Will a combined union automatically be invincible at the bargaining table? No, warns union merger expert Gary Chaison: "Anyone who expects a revolutionary change in labor relations will be disappointed." — Jonathan Handel
L.A. Reid Staffs Up Epic Records
Six months into the job, Epic Records chairman/CEO (and X Factor judge) L.A. Reid has named a No. 2. Mark Shimmel, who was head of music at the Turner networks for the past seven years, joins as COO. The duo go back to LaFace Records, where Reid and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmunds discovered Usher and TLC, and Arista, where Shimmel was senior vp marketing and artist relations and Reid was CEO. "He will be fundamental in leading Epic," says Reid. Joining Shimmel is president of A&R Christopher "Tricky" Stewart and brother Mark Stewart, executive vp of A&R operations. "We're putting together an all-star team that will make us the best record company," Tricky boasts. The producer behind Beyonce's "Single Ladies" and Justin Bieber's "Baby," Tricky has signed on as executive song producer for Universal's March film Dr. Seuss' The Lorax. "I have a 15-month-old daughter, so I'm listening to sounds at home and watching what intrigues a child," says Tricky. "I love Dr. Seuss. That hat had mad swag." — Shirley Halperin
Jessica Chastain (CAA, Mosaic, Hansen Jacobson) will lend her voice to DreamWorks Animation's Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, joining Bryan Cranston and Martin Short as new additions to the cast that includes Ben Stiller, Chris Rock and Sacha Baron Cohen.
Hugo and Rango writer John Logan (CAA, Jim Bagley) will adapt the hit Broadway musical Jersey Boys for producer GK Films.
Ethan Hawke (CAA, George Sheanshang) will star in Vigilandia, a futuristic thriller that Blumhouse Productions, Platinum Dunes and Why Not Productions are making for Universal. James DeMonaco wrote the script and is directing.
Marcus Nispel (WME), director of Conan the Barbarian, will helm Hack/Slash, Relativity's adaptation of a horror-action comic book.
Horrible Bosses director Seth Gordon (WME, Brillstein, Sloane Offer) will direct Identity Theft, a Universal comedy starring Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy.
Abigail Spencer (ICM, Untitled, Hansen Jacobson), who played Don Draper's mistress on Mad Men, will star in In Your Eyes, a "supernatural romance" that Joss Whedon wrote and is producing. Brin Hill (the upcoming Planet B-Boy) is directing for Bellwether Pictures, a "micro-studio" Whedon created with Kai Cole to produce smaller-budget movies.
Writer David Seltzer (ICM, Hansen Jacobson) will work on Kiss and Tango, Fox 2000's adaptation of Marina Palmer's memoir about a high-flying ad exec who quits her job at age 30 and moves to Buenos Aires, rediscovering herself with tango dancing.
Entertainment One has picked up the North American distribution rights to Virginia from writer-director Dustin Lance Black starring Jennifer Connelly, Emma Roberts and Ed Harris.
Proof playwright David Auburn (CAA, Code, Hirsch Wallerstein) will pen A Discovery of Witches, Warner Bros.' adaptation of the supernatural fantasy novel by history professor Deborah Harkness.
Zach Helm (CAA, Gotham Group, Hirsch Wallerstein) will write Deep Water, Fox 2000's adaptation of the 1957 suspense novel by Patricia Highsmith, who wrote Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley.
Hunger Games and Orphan actress Isabelle Fuhrman (CAA, Trilogy Talent) is in talks to join After Earth, Columbia's sci-fi action adventure starring Will and Jaden Smith. M. Night Shyamalan is directing.
Jack the Giant Killer writer Darren Lemke (UTA, Loeb & Loeb) will pen Goosebumps, Columbia's adaptation of the children's horror series. Neal Moritz's Original Film is producing with Scholastic Entertainment's Deborah Forte.
The Devil Inside director William Brent Bell (CAA, Ziffren Brittenham) will helm an untitled project from a script he wrote with Matthew Peterman for financiers/producers Sierra/Affinity and Incentive Filmed Entertainment. Sierra/Affinity will shop the project at February's European Film Market in Berlin.
Marc-Andre Grondin (UTA, Thruline) will star in L'homme qui rit (The Man Who Laughs), an adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel for director Jean-Pierre Ameris. Gerard Depardieu and Emmanuelle Seigner also star.
The Inbetweeners, a comedy hit in the U.K., has been picked up for U.S. release by fledgling production and distribution outfit Wrekin Hill Entertainment.
Sarah Bolger (CAA, Mosaic, the U.K.'s Hamilton-Hodell) and John Corbett (CAA, Lovett Management) will star in Kiss Me, an indie coming-of-age drama that will be directed by veteran Survivor host Jeff Probst.
Fox has given pilot orders to comedies Living Loaded, from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia producers Rob McElhenney and Rob Rosell, and Ben Fox Is My Manny, from Couples Retreat writer Dana Fox. The network also has ordered to pilot a law drama from Greg Berlanti (Friends) and a serial-killer thriller from Kevin Williamson. Both hail from Warner Bros. TV.
NBC has ordered pilots for an untitled best friends comedy from writer Kari Lizer and Warner Bros. Television and the Western drama Frontier from Cold Case executive producer Shaun Cassidy, director Thomas Schlamme and Sony Pictures Television.
Shonda Rhimes (ICM, Brooke Wharton) and Betsy Beers (UTA, Sloane Offer) have received a pilot order for Gilded Lillys, a New York-set hotel period drama with Gossip Girl's K.J. Steinberg attached to write.
National Geographic Channel has ordered two unscripted series, Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout? from producer Thom Beers and Wicked Tuna from producer Craig Piligian, and a two-hour documentary based on Killing Lincoln, a nonfiction book by Fox News' Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard.
The CW has ordered the musical chairs reality competition series Oh Sit! and a Canadian tween soap, L.A. Complex.
A&E is developing a Psycho prequel series, Bates Motel, with Anthony Cipriano (Twelve and Holding) attached to write. A&E also has acquired rights to the Danish format Those Who Kill, with Glen Morgan (Final Destination) adapting.
OWN has picked up three unscripted series for 2012: Lovetown, USA; Lives on Fire; and Are You Normal, America?
IFC has greenlighted sketch variety show Comedy Bang! Bang! and game show Bunk, giving 10-episode orders and June launches to both projects, which will air back-to-back.
TLC has ordered eight episodes of U.K. series My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding; Animal Planet has renewed aquarium-building docuseries Tanked, with 20 episodes set to be split between spring and summer.
TNT has ordered 10 episodes of adventure reality series The Great Escape from The Amazing Race producer Bertram Van Munster, among others.
The Kennedys producer Asylum Entertainment has picked up North American remake rights to the French dark police drama Braquo.
Breckin Meyer's (Gersh, Thruline, Sloane Offer) TBS comedy Men at Work has been ordered to series.
TV Land has renewed Hot in Cleveland for a fourth season and ordered a spinoff, Have Faith, starring Cedric the Entertainer (CAA, Visions, Del Shaw), to series. … USA has renewed Psych for a seventh season. … Oxygen has picked up a second season of reality competition series The Glee Project.
Paradigm has acquired AM Only, a Brooklyn-based company that represents some of the biggest names in dance music, among them David Guetta, Tiesto and Skrillex.
Electronic Arts has struck a deal with pop star Katy Perry for The Sims, with plans to develop multiple video games within the life-simulation franchise that will feature Perry-themed content and virtual goods like clothing and furniture.
Digital Broadcasting Group, the company behind Kiefer Sutherland's The Confession web series, has teamed with Zooey Deschanel's website HelloGiggles.com to distribute the second season of web series The Single Life. Deschanel also will serve as a creative consultant.
Yahoo has teamed with Electus and CollegeHumor for Blindsided, a 10-part Punk'd-style prank series targeting athletes and sports fans that will stream on Yahoo Sports.
Stacy Keibler, whose TV credits include Chuck, Psych and How I Met Your Mother, has signed with WME. … Debi Mazar, who had a long stint on HBO's Entourage, has signed with APA for scripted representation. … Leah Pipes, whose feature credits include indies Cousin Sarah, Conception and Musical Chairs, has signed with Gersh. … Evan Peters, who stars as Tate on FX's American Horror Story, has signed with CAA. … Teen actor Ryan Lee, who played Cary in Super 8 and next appears in Judd Apatow's This Is 40, has signed with ICM. … Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, the likely No. 1 pick in April's NFL Draft, has signed with Wasserman Media Group. Will Wilson joined the firm to serve as his agent.