‘I Am Dick Gregory’ Documentary in the Works From Andre Gaines (EXCLUSIVE)

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Buffalo 8 Productions is partnering with filmmaker Andre Gaines to fast-track the documentary “I Am Dick Gregory,” Variety has learned exclusively.

The film, which chronicles the complex life of the late comedian, activist and author, is due to wind up production in the coming weeks in Los Angeles. Gaines and his team have amassed over 300 hours of archival footage of Gregory, who died on Aug. 19, including footage shot since last year. The producers are in early discussions with distributors.

Gaines had been working Gregory and his family on the project with the Gregory’s son Christian on board as an executive producer. Gaines and Valerie Edwards are producing through their Cinemation banner, alongside Michele Farinola. The other exec producers include Luke Taylor, Matthew Helderman and Patrick DePeters through Buffalo 8 and Chad Troutwine.


Dick Gregory is one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th and 21st Centuries,” Gaines said. “I say ‘is’ because he is still present to me, like he is to so many who admired his wit, intellect, jokes and wisdom. Telling his story and working with his son Christian to honor his legacy is as meaningful to me and my team as the short time we spent with Dick Gregory himself.”

Christian Gregory noted that his father was omitted during the “In Memoriam” segment of the Emmy Awards that aired Sept. 17 — the same weekend of his funeral.

“Although it is a highly disrespectful omission, I am certain of the fact my father would have had some colorful remarks to say about it before hurrying back to the hard work of fighting for justice and uplifting humanity,” he added. “I am especially proud of the work that Andre has been doing to tell his story. I know Dick Gregory was proud to be a part of the film before he passed.”

Gregory was the first black standup comic to perform in major white nightclubs, paving the way for Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock. At the height of his career in the 1960s, Gregory abandoned that career for the civil rights movement, supporting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Medgar Evers. He also became a health and spiritual advocate and motivational speaker.

Gregory also wrote “Murder in Memphis” which analyzed the 1968 assassination of King.” His most recent book is “Defining Moments in Black History: Reading Between the Lines.”

Producers plan to launch international sales at the American Film Market, which starts Oct. 31 in Santa Monica, Calif.

“Dick Gregory has been an integral part of every major American historical event since the 1950s, but he unfortunately has not always been given credit where it is due, especially in Hollywood,” Edwards said.  “Our film will change that by finally telling the truth, and reintroducing Dick Gregory and his legacy to a new generation.”

Buffalo 8 produced the Netflix Original Film “Rodney King.” Gaines’ credits include the “Bill Nye: Science Guy”  documentary and “Black Samurai” on Starz.



sonaBlast Records was set up by Gill Holland in 2002 in New York and is now based in Kentucky. Holland came from the film business, having worked in and around indie films since the 1990s, serving a stint at the French Film Office as well as working with legendary French Nouvelle Vague auteur Jean-Luc Godard.

Establishing the label (and eventually the publishing arm) was driven, he says, by necessity and out of frustration at the way the sync business worked and made it difficult – if not impossible – for smaller filmmakers to clear the rights to use music in their films.

Holland had previously dealt with a label on a soundtrack deal, but the cost of licensing music was, he says, “almost as costly as the production for the entire film” and that acts were making it unnecessarily difficult to have their music used. He felt creating a label that thought differently about sync was the way to go. Irish singer Mark Geary was an early signing and provided the template for how the company operated.


Holland cites the name of Godard’s production and distribution company Sonimage (a play on both “his image” and “sound image”) as an inspiration. “The last creative element in a movie is the music or score,” he says. “Godard’s company is called Sonimage – where he puts the word ‘sound’ in front of ‘image’ as he thinks it’s that important.”

His label was set up at a turbulent time in the record business – in that hinterland between the arrival of the original Napster and the launch of the iTunes store – when many felt that running a label was little more than an exercise in recklessness.

I always joked – even then, back in the ashes of Napster – that the label was really just marketing for the publishing company,” he says. “I thought people were just not going to pay for units of music due to technology and everything that was happening around that.”

Holland also says that he was happy to see the CD dissolve into irrelevance rather than trying desperately to shore it up.

“We were early to sign up to iTunes when everyone was telling us it would kill our physical sales,” he explains. “I told them that physical sales were a pain in the butt as you have to use a lot of toxic materials to create CDs and so on. I was happy to leave CDs behind. We might press up a couple of hundred CDs, but they are just for the artists to sell at their shows. Downloads are now starting to decrease – visibly; Spotify would appear to be picking up – visibly.”

Holland suggests that his long history in the movie and TV industries – plus his contacts there – gives his label a competitive advantage over others in the same space.

“For some people, the value add is touring or merchandise,” he argues. “The value add for us is that I know all the filmmakers as I have worked on over 100 movies. So I knew we would be good, no matter what.”

In an age of instant reporting and speedy payments in digital, Holland says the sync business is still moving at an embarrassingly slow speed – and that for small acts working and living hand to mouth, this is unworkable.

“I could be speaking to a filmmaker today and they are shooting a movie,” he says by way of illustration. “The movie is editing in the summer. It goes to Sundance in January 2018. It would be in theatres until 2019. And it won’t be on TV until 2020 and that is when the revenue comes in for the publishing. Then it’s 18 months after that – so 2022 – before you see any revenues from the performance [of the film].”

While Holland feels that copyright is hugely important, the frameworks around it are increasingly restrictive and sluggish, meaning opportunities are missed as deals take too long to be done.



I think copyright in America is going to be one of those things that will drastically change over the next 30-50 years,” he predicts, but adds that the DMCA is not something that can be tweaked here and there in order to become infallible.

“I don’t think you can just tinker with it,” he says. “If you want to build a car that does 400 miles to a gallon, you don’t tinker with an existing car – you blow it up and start anew. I feel like present copyright needs to be blown up and rethought. But I am not sure the studios are going to let that happen.”

An Escape For Kids Who Shouldn’t Have To Escape







An Escape For Kids Who Shouldn’t Have To Escape

Los Angeles June 6, 2017—The World Famous Laugh Factory will hold tryouts for its’ 33rd annual Laugh Factory Comedy Camp on June 17, 2017 from 11am to 3pm. Tryouts are open to disadvantaged children from lower income neighborhoods who are between 9 & 16 years of age.

Created in 1984 by Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada, the Laugh Factory Comedy Camp has helped over a thousand children in need to build self-confidence by developing their humor and creativity through the healing power of laughter.

The 8 week program is free of charge for those who are selected. Previous instructors have included: Richard Pryor, Jim Carrey, Chris Rock, Bob Saget, Paul Rodriguez, Dave Chappelle, Jon Lovitz, Damon Wayans, Adam Sandler, George Lopez, Chris Tucker, and Gabriel Iglesias to name a few.

All the aspiring young comedians are interviewed and evaluated based on their desire to perform stand-up comedy.  At the end of the camp, each child performs a six minute comedy set on stage in front of friends and family.

One of the camp’s incredible success stories is Tiffany Haddish, star of “The Carmichael Show,” and star of the new Will Packer Universal Pictures feature film “Girls Trip” which also stars Queen Latifah, Regina Hall and Jada Pickett Smith. Based on the fantastic buzz Tiffany is receiving for this film, she was hired to co-star in the new Tracy Morgan sitcom.

In addition to Haddish, Nick Cannon is also a Laugh Factory Comedy Camp alumnae. Comedy Camp was featured in the PBS documentary, “Standup: A Summer at Comedy Camp,” which aired nationwide.

“Laughter heals and gives these kids the self-esteem to overcome obstacles that many of us don’t have to face and to accomplish whatever they set their hearts and minds to,” says Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada

For more information please visit:


DMG Client Roger Guenveur Smith & Spike Lee's one man show gets picked up by Netflix


Spike Lee’s ‘Rodney King’ Starring Roger Guenveur Smith Acquired by Netflix (EXCLUSIVE)


MARCH 7, 2017 | 07:00AM PT

Netflix has bought the rights to “Rodney King,” directed by Spike Lee and performed as a one-man show by Roger Guenveur Smith. The streaming service has scheduled the project to premiere on April 28.

In addition to starring in “Rodney King,” Smith also serves as an executive produces. Steven Adams and Bob L. Johnson are producing for Luna Ray Media and Matthew Helderman, Luke Taylor, and Patrick DePeters are executive producing for Buffalo 8 Productions.

The date for airing “Rodney King” has been chosen to coincide with the upcoming 25th anniversary of the state court acquittals of the four LAPD officers who were videotaped beating King in 1991. The acquittals, which took place in Simi Valley, sparked three days of rioting that left 53 dead.

King was credited with having played a key role in ending the rioting, thanks to an interview he gave on May 1, 1992, the third day of the disruptions. A clearly distraught King asked plaintively, “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along?”

King died in 2012 by drowning, following a lifetime of battling alcohol and drug abuse and repeated run-ins with the law. The events led Smith to explore King’s life as the basis for a one-man show.

“When he died, I was struck with how much I was moved, how much this tragic figure mattered to me,” Smith told Variety.

He’s been performing the play for the past four years and will soon conclude the run with performances in Oakland, Calif.; Dallas, Texas; Los Angeles and Portland, Ore. The Netflix film was shot by Lee on Aug. 12 in New York City.

“It was a packed house at the East River Park Amphitheater on a sweltering night,” he recalls.

Smith has been performing one-man shows for more than two decades. starting with “A Huey P. Newton Story,” about the co-founder of the Black Panther Party. He also created “Juan and John,” about baseball players Juan Marichal and John Roseboro; “Frederick Douglass Now,” inspired by the 19th-century abolitionist; and “Who Killed Bob Marley?”

Smith credits Hal Holbrook’s “Mark Twain Tonight” for serving as an inspiration: “It’s incredible how he’s been doing that for more than 60 years and it’s fresh every time.”

Smith has appeared in half a dozen of Lee’s films, including “Do the Right Thing,” “Malcolm X,” “School Daze,” “He Got Game,” “Get on the Bus” and “Chiraq.” His extensive screen credits also include “Eve’s Bayou,” “Poetic Justice,” “All About the Benjamins,” and HBO’s “K Street” and “Oz.”

Smith’s Luna Rey Media, which includes manager and producer Steven Adams and entertainment attorney Bob L. Johnson, has a development slate includes film adaptations of previously produced stage productions of Smith’s performance work — “Inside The Creole Mafia”, “Frederick Douglass Now,” “Iceland” and “Who Killed Bob Marley?” executive produced by Steven Soderbergh.


Big News for Stranger Things Star Matthew Modine!

‘Stranger Things’ Star Matthew Modine Joins Animated Film ‘My Love Affair With Marriage’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Hot off of his SAG Awards win as a member of the “Stranger Things” cast, Matthew Modine has joined Signe Baumane’s animated feature film “My Love Affair With Marriage,” Variety has learned exclusively.

The film follows a fiery young woman with a wild imagination as she journeys through many marriages (some real, some imaginary) while confronting societal pressures. Modine will voice her second husband who has a shocking secret that eventually destroys their marriage. He will also executive produce the film with his producing partner Adam Rackoff for their company, Cinco Dedos Peliculas.

Modine has worked extensively in animation, voicing characters in “A Cat in Paris,” “Mia and the Migoo” and several Bill Plympton projects including “Santa,” “The Fascist Years” and “The Flying House.”




Winona Ryder’s Facial Expressions Steal the Show at SAG Awards


“I recently saw Signe Baumane’s first animated feature, ‘Rocks in My Pockets,’ and was very impressed with her animation style and storytelling,” Modine said. “I wanted to be an animator when I was growing up — I silently still do — and I love supporting independent animators.”

Baumane’s Kickstarter campaign for the film has raised more than $22,000 from more than 200 backers. Supporters of the project can receive original animation drawings from the film. The campaign ends on Feb. 24.

“My Love Affair with Marriage”  is written and directed by Baumane and produced by Sturgis Warner.

Modine plays Dr. Martin Brenner on Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” which won the SAG award Sunday for top drama series. His upcoming projects include the “Sicario” sequel “Soldado” and Comedy Central’s “Idiotsitter.”

MovieMaker Spotlight on DMG client Lara Katz

Mastering Music Supervision: Seven Pitfalls for the Over-Eager Indie Moviemaker

By Laura Katz on January 17, 2017

As the founder of music supervision company Supe Troop, my first recommendation—as you’ve probably already guessed—is to hire a professional supervisor to handle your film’s music for you.

I know it’s a big step for your indie film, but in so many cases, it’s worth it. Working with an experienced and creative music supervisor will help you avoid a lot of heartache and find music that adds immense value to your project. There are a lot of variables that go into the fee that a copyright holder will quote for a synchronization use, and there are no set prices.

A good music supervisor can help provide the right information and negotiate the price. On that note, start thinking about music as soon as possible. Give your music supervisor as much time as possible to both clear the songs you want and come up with creative ideas. Especially when you are trying to get lower prices, you’ll need as much time as possible to negotiate.

Dream big, but then listen to your music supervisor who can help you merge your expectation with reality. Think about how you can play with music—do you want it to add to the narrative? incite certain emotions? play against what is happening? Are the characters hearing the music or just the audience? There are so many different ways the music can change the audience’s perception.

Supe Troop music supervisor Laura Katz


1. Assume your friend can give you a song for free, even if he/she wants to. The thing is, even if an artist is your best friend and really loves your project and wants to gift it to you for use in your film, the label and publishers that are involved don’t necessarily care. A lot of them want to work with their artists, but they are in the business of making money–not giving away songs. So, make sure to involve the label and publishers in discussions as early as possible!

2. Think that if you’re using a lesser-known version of a song, you won’t have to pay that much. There are a few things to consider here. Straight away, you should know that there are two halves to a song – the master and the publishing. The publisher(s) stay the same no matter who the recording artist is, because the composition is the same. You also need to let the publisher(s) know if you aren’t using the original master and there’s no standard as to whether or not they will charge you more, less, or the same amount.

3. Assume that just because you just use a few lines of a song/you can’t really tell what the song is that you don’t have to pay for it. You have to clear everything. Really. Everything. Even if you’re mumbling it. If you can even slightly tell what the song is, you need to clear it! Even if a character is speaking the lyrics and not singing them. Even if no one hears the lyrics but they show up on screen (such as on a karaoke monitor).

4. Think that you only have a few songs so you don’t need to have a significant music budget. There’s so much more that goes into how you should budget for music than just the number of songs you want. Do you need the artists to be famous? Are there multiple parties involved? Do you need the licenses for all media, in perpetuity, etc.? Are there union musicians on the recording? If at all possible, consult a music supervisor to give you an idea about what is realistic as early as you can.

Alden Ehrenreich in Alexandre Moors’ The Yellow Birds, for which Katz helmed the music supervision. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

5. Assume that a song is public domain just because it is a standard. Not so fast! Just because a song is old doesn’t mean it’s in the public domain (and it may not be as old as you think!). Also, if it’s a standard, that just means a lot of people sang it and it’s part of the cultural zeitgeist, but that has no impact on whether or not it’s in the public domain (in fact, that also probably makes it more expensive). Each country has different laws regarding copyright duration that can get quite confusing. (P.S. Don’t trust Google!)

6. Wait until after you’ve filmed a song to clear it. OK, technically you can do this, but I don’t recommend it. You lose all leverage because you’re stuck with whatever price you get quoted, unless you want to cut the scene entirely. In the least, film a few options if you are not going to clear a song beforehand.

7. Try to get away with a cultural shorthand. Is your movie set in a small country in Eastern Europe or sub-Saharan Africa? Maybe it’s set in Brazil? When you are using music from a specific country, try really hard to make it the actual music of that country! Generalizing a whole culture or continent’s music is not only kinda racist, it’s just lazy. MM

Los Angeles native Laura Katz is the founder of L.A.-based music supervision company Supe Troop. At Supe Troop, Katz specializes in music supervision services for all types of media. Prior to launching Supe Troop, Katz led Cutting Edge Music Services’ Los Angeles music supervision team for feature films, TV shows, and other visual media projects. Katz’s notable film credits include The Grey, That Awkward Moment, Stuck in Love, Their Finest and The Yellow Birds (in competition at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival 2017).

Variety Exclusive

War Documentary ‘Apache Warrior’ in the Works From ‘Citizen Soldier’ Producers (EXCLUSIVE)

Dave McNary Film Reporter@Variety_DMcNary




DECEMBER 20, 2016 | 07:54AM PT

Strong Eagle Media, producer of “Citizen Soldier,” has signed a multi-picture agreement with A. Smith & Co. Dox to create a slate of film projects with “Apache Warrior” as the first title, Variety has learned exclusively.

“Apache Warrior” focuses on the U.S. Army helicopter crews in the war-torn countries of Iraq and Afghanistan. The film includes real-life footage of the crews providing 24-hour transport, air cover and rescue.

“Apache Warrior” is produced by Bert Bedrosian, David Salzberg and Christian Tureaud for Strong Eagle Media and Frank Sinton, Arthur Smith and Jason Mergott for A. Smith & Co. Dox. Other titles will be announced within the coming weeks.


A. Smith & Co. Dox is a recently-launched division of A. Smith & Co. Productions, which served as co-producer on “The Hornet’s Nest,” “Citizen Soldier” and “Danger Close.”

“Citizen Soldier,” released earlier this year, is told from the point of view of a group of soldiers from the Oklahoma National Guard’s 45th Thunderbirds Brigade about their tour of duty in Afghanistan. It’s been touted as offering a personal look into modern warfare, brotherhood and patriotism.

“The Hornet’s Nest,” released in 2014, was produced by Bedrosian, Salzberg and Tureaud. It grossed $312,706 in the U.S. and is the only film to ever be enshrined into the National Infantry Museum at Ft. Benning, Ga.

“With the successes of ‘The Hornet’s Nest’ and ‘Citizen Soldier’ we are delighted to unite with our co-producers on a new multi-picture deal under their A. Smith & Co. Dox banner and we look forward to a long and prosperous partnership,” Salzberg said.

Bedrosian negotiated the deal for Strong Eagle Media with Sinton for A. Smith & Co Dox.

“We’re proud to partner with Strong Eagle Media to tell some of the most gripping stories of our time with content that audiences wouldn’t normally have access to,” said Sinton, president of A. Smith & Co. Dox. “Our documentary films will serve to inform, educate, and lend voices to our veterans who put their lives on the line on a daily basis to protect our freedoms.”

A. Smith & Co. has produced more than 3,500 hours ofprogramming. Current productions include “Hell’s Kitchen,” “American Ninja Warrior,” “Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge,” “Ellen’s Design Challenge,” “Unsung,” “Behind the Label,” “Acting Out” and “Team Ninja Warrior.”

Eddie Perez- Emmy Winning Stunt Coordinator's Interview

Eddie Perez’ life can be a car wreck – but that’s purely by design.

The veteran stunt coordinator and director has worked on dozens of television shows and films, including Captain America: Winter Soldier, 24, Masters of Sex, and Arrow, and just recently won the Emmy for his work as stunt coordinator on Showtime’s Shameless, making him the first Latino to win in that category.

Perez grew up in New York where he worked as a nightclub doorman while receiving a degree in education and athletic training. His nightclub work introduced him to meet, and later train, actors like Mickey Rourke and Anthony Michael Hall. This led him to a career as both trainer and bodyguard for noteworthy acts like Pink Floyd, David Bowie, and Duran Duran.

Perez then parlayed his entertainment industry experience and contacts into becoming a fulltime stuntman and stunt coordinator.

Were you in the emergency room often as a child?

Actually, I wasn’t. Luckily enough, there was a limit. I wasn’t that crazy. But if we went upstate to camp, we’d have fun jumping off a cliff into the water or something. I had no problem with that. I kind of was the kid that everyone dared. You didn’t really have to push me that hard to do it. [As kids], we’d all watch movies and go out and jump off of stuff and do things that now you’d have a disclaimer for.

Do stuntmen and women have to overcome an innate natural survival instinct to do what you do?

I think most of us are athletes, so it’s kind of an inherited thing that we’ve grown up with. I boxed, so I’m used to enduring pain, enduring everything, and staying calm and focused.

You get a lot of guys that are gymnasts and professional athletes; it’s kind of ingrained in us. Some people say to us, “What you guys do is crazy” and I say, “No, it’s actually focused. There’s no craziness in it. Craziness would get you killed”. There’s a level of focus and calmness that comes with years of training, really.

Was it a natural progression to move from a bodyguard to stuntman? Is the idea that you’re throwing yourself into harm’s way anyway?

Yeah, that’s a good way of looking at it. Like I said, I started out wanting to do stunts. I was a personal trainer for a while and then I met some of the guys from Duran Duran and I started training them. There’s a good crossover between music and film.

Russell Mulcahy had done a lot their music and, after I came back to L.A., I started meeting more and more directors that were here. Living the rock ‘n roll lifestyle 10 months out the year and out of a suitcase gets old. And I thought, “I really want to do [stuntwork]; I really want to go back to that.” And I wanted to be more creative as well.

In a weird way, by nature I’m still protecting everybody’s safety on set. So, I guess that mindset has never really gone away.

Can you explain how you coordinate a stunt? Is there a difference when you set one up for television or film?

It varies. It’s pretty much the same between film and television. In television, we’ll get the script, have a meeting with the director, the showrunners, and the assistant directors, and sit down to discuss what it is we’re trying to accomplish in the scene.

There are a lot of films where the action is just gratuitous, but in Shameless in particular, it’s part of the storyline most of the time. So we try to stay true to the storyline.

We just did a bus crash a few weeks ago. It’s not a huge bus crash since it’s for Shameless. The bus happens to get stopped by a car so it doesn’t go any further, that’s the point of it. It’s not that it’s going to careen and destroy. You know, we’re not doing Speed. So, in that sense, it’s approaching it in that mindset of what facilitates the show.

How do you ensure that you’re reflecting the tone of the scene or of the show itself? As you were saying, are you measuring the magnitude of the stunt for something like Shameless versus if you were doing something like The Matrix?

Yeah, or like the TV show, Rush Hour. TV shows like that have more time [devoted to stunts] and it’s an action oriented show, so there’s something expected of you.

With Shameless, what I’m the most proud of on the show is when people heard when I won [the Emmy] were like, “There are stunts on that show?” And then they went back and watched the show and said, “Oh, my God, there was a lot of cool stuff happening, I never realized it!” And I say, “Great, we’re doing our job.”

What was the closest call you’ve had as a stuntman?

It’s probably the one I shouldn’t speak about, but I don’t care. On You Don’t Mess with the Zohan I was burned severely.  I spent some time in the Grossman Burn Center, and it was an eye opening experience.

Congratulations on your Emmy win. Were you surprised to learn you were the first Latino to win for your category?

Somebody said that to me, and I was kind of like, “Come on, man, really? I mean it’s a cool footnote, but really?” A few people looked it up and they said, “You’re the first one in this category to get nominated and win”. I was saying, “Come on, let me do more research. There’s got to be someone else out there.”

It still kind of fascinates me, but I don’t really know how I feel about it. To me [stunt coordinating is] my job, it’s my work. I never really put that much mental effort into [being the first].

It sounds as though you’re saying it’s a double-edged sword. It’s an honor, and a bit of a disappointment to you that it’s 2016 and you’re the first.

Yeah. Somebody pulled me aside and said “I know you’re always focused on working, but take this moment in. Not many people get firsts in this industry anymore.” You know, [the award is] something you take to your grave and beyond. So, in that sense it’s cool it’s an honor.

But, at the same time, we have so many issues now with the whole diversity thing. Sometimes, I don’t know how quite to feel about it all. I get it but I don’t.

It’s about your creativity, but how do you get your creativity out there? I guess, the comments that I’ve gotten from the Latino community have made me really feel proud of this because [of] the accomplishment, because of the people that came before me, what they’ve endured. 

It means more [to hear], “Hey, I’m really proud of you” coming from the senior people. I know what they’ve gone through, so if it makes them proud, then I’m proud to represent them.

Are you then feeling some amount of responsibility from this?

I’m part of the Latino committee, so that’s been something. I’m trying to work with the community to get people motivated and get them out there. I don’t know if much is going to change.

I think now if I can use the Emmy to go talk to kids at school and say, “You know, I was one of you guys. I never thought I’d wind up here so open your eyes and be open.” If I can motivate kids, then it’s awesome in that sense. Talking to a bunch of kids and putting that statue on the table and letting them hold it and saying, “This could be one of you guys,” is fulfilling. It’s amazing to see their faces, like, “Oh, wow! He looks like us!”

DMG Client Adi Hasak's interview with Deadline

Adi Hasak who is known for NBC's Shades of Blue is back this fall with a new hit series, Eyewitness. Order straight-to-series by USA, Eyewitness is based of a Norwegian series. Check out his interview below with Deadline.


‘Shades Of Blue’ Creator Adi Hasak On How He Got ‘Eyewitness’ On The Air In 2 Weeks & Being His Own Studio

by Nellie Andreeva   tipOctober 14, 2016 9:47am 

Adi Hasak has the rare distinction of going from a writer with no TV credits and no agency representation to back-to-back straight-to-series orders for dramas Shades Of Blue at NBC and Eyewitness, which is set to debut on USA this Sunday, October 16. The latter, a crime thriller adapted from the Norwegian drama Øyevitne, follows two small-town teenage boys who, while hooking up in a cabin, witness a murder that is being investigated by the local sheriff, played by Julianne Nicholson, and an FBI agent. Catherine Hardwicke directed the first two hours of the modestly budgeted 10-episode series, produced by Universal Cable Prods.

Deadline spoke with Hasak, the Netherlands-born son of Russian Jews from New York who served in the Israeli Army and worked as a journalist before segueing to screenwriting. In the interview, Hasak reveals how he landed the straight-to-series order for Eyewitness in just two weeks without a rights deal thanks to a chance encounter. The writer-producer, who will be a keynote speaker at the MIPCOM TV confab next week, also shares his vision for the future where he believes there will be one global TV market, with European companies producing U.S. primetime series, and explains how a one-man operation like his could serve as a studio.

USA Network

DEADLINE: How did you find the format for Eyewitness

HASAK: I’ve been traveling extensively in Europe, I’ve been attending MIPCOM for several years, seeking out relationships with distributors. I really wasn’t that eager to get into the content business, it was more me trying to get them to come on board as partners for my original material. There’s a company called DRG, a distributor out of the UK that is owned by MTG, which is a huge conglomerate based out of Sweden. I became friendly with the CEO over there, Jeremy Fox, and he asked if I was interested in this format. I said “not really,” and he said “you really should check out this one format called Eyewitness.” I took a look at it and it was absolutely riveting. I was very, very surprised that the format had been out there for a year. A pilot episode had been screened a year earlier in the UK. No one had taken a liking to it, and I said that I’d be really interested in the show. At this point NRK, which was the network in Norway, asked me what I could do with it, and I pretty much said “let’s see what happens.” We shook hands, and I said, “Give me two weeks, and I promise you that in two weeks I will sell this format.”

DEADLINE: So you didn’t have a deal? How did you get the project to USA?

HASAK: There was no deal, there was no paperwork. It was really a handshake, and they promised to give me two weeks. At the time I had sold a spec pilot, Shades Of Blue — this was my big break in television. It was in production as an NBC series, and our offices were in the Comcast building. I went from writing it on spec alone in a room to all of a sudden being with 12 writers. A professional showrunner was brought on board, and it really was an amazing experience.

It became clear to me early on that I probably was built more to work on a small, intimate show, something more personal, something I could be the sole lead creative voice on and offer an uncompromising vision. When I ran into Eyewitness, I figured this would be the show. I was heading towards a meeting in the Comcast building when I ran into (Universal Cable Productions EVP) Dawn Olmstead. I had known Dawn as a producer, I’d had wonderful experience developing with her 10 years earlier. I asked her what she was doing there, she said she was running UCP, and I asked her, “What is UCP?” She told me it’s a studio that develops for NBCUniversal’s cable networks and asked me what was going on. I told her about Shades Of Blue, and I started talking about Eyewitness. She hadn’t seen it yet but said it sounded riveting and asked “why don’t we do something with it?” I said, ‘Well I’m on this huge NBC show and the only way I would do it is if we went straight to series.” Dawn being Dawn said, ‘Well, we have a specific model, could you do it for this certain budget?” I said yes, and she said let’s go straight to series and let me call you tomorrow after I see the episode. She saw Episode 1 and within a week, literally within a week, much faster than I’ve ever thought possible, we agreed to start the series with UCP being the studio and USA being the network.

DEADLINEWhat has been your involvement on Shades Of Blue after Eyewitness was picked up?

HASAK: I pretty much phased my way out of Shades Of Blue and started working full-time on Eyewitness. I was in the room when we broke down the 13 episodes (of Shades). Three episodes already were written; there were outlines for about six or seven episodes. At that time I left to become the showrunner on Eyewitness,  and I took it upon myself to write all 10 episodes for Eyewitness.

DEADLINE: So Eyewitness was produced very similar to the European series with no writers’ room? Just you writing all 10 episodes?

HASAK: Yeah. There was a very small writers’ room, it was me really and two other writers. I wrote the first two episodes and just got so emotionally involved in the project that it seemed the simplest way to do it was for me to write all the episodes. The writers’ room worked on the outline, and I ended up writing all the episodes.

DEADLINE: What is the plan for a possible second season?

HASAK: The show was sold as an anthology. I’m really enamored with shows likeAmerican Horror Story and American Crime. I told USA that this would be an anthology called Eyewitness where every season would be told from the point of view of someone who witnesses a crime. That meant that the show would be resolved at the end of Season 1.

The remarkable thing, though, about the show was that we know it’s a not a whodunit. By the end of the first eight minutes we know who the killer is, and in that sense what this really is — it is a character study trapped inside a thriller. So it’s not one of these shows, a murder in a small town. What that allows is to put almost all the genre components on the side and then delve in the characters and in the relationships, the marriage of the sheriff, the two gay boys, and the FBI agent and her sister.

DEADLINE: You have a very lean company, you and two assistants. What is it that drives you to do business that way and will that continue?

HASAK: At the end of the day I’m a writer. I’ve been a writer for a while but I’m also very entrepreneurial. I realized that when I sat across from the studio I pretty much was duplicating what they were doing. The studio develops IP and I develop IP. The studio needs a broadcaster and I need a broadcaster. The studio has money and I can now find money through my relationships in Europe. So I’ve just become extremely entrepreneurial. I have two young people who are working with me but our company’s definitely growing. Jennifer Cote, who was my assistant on Shades Of Blue, ended up being the on-set writer-producer on Eyewitness.

We have a very small company. I cover all my overhead. I have no deal with anybody and when I’m not writing I’m traveling and pitching my original content. Now because of the success of Eyewitness, there’s certainly an influx of formats that we’re going through very carefully to find out what’s the next format that we can adapt. Literally out of my attic office we can run a production company that in essence is a one-stop-shop studio.


DEADLINE: Have you identified your next project or you will stay on Eyewitness?

HASAK: Well, we don’t know if there will be a Season 2 of Eyewitness. It’s been amazing to have two shows greenlit straight to series within the same year. We want to keep it slow. We don’t want to grow too quickly. We’re negotiating with an actor on a finished format and we’re also putting together a French format, and I just finished writing a spec script, that we’re also doing. Our idea pretty much is the package. Big shows with stars or in business models like Eyewitness that would go straight to series. If you look at what we’re doing, Shades Of Blue was a spec script, with a big international star, Jennifer Lopez, but it is still produced by an American studio (Universal TV) for an American network, NBC. In Eyewitness, it was a Norwegian format sold to me by a British distribution company owned by Swedish conglomerate. I still went with UCP and USA.

For the next show, we have financial backing out of Europe so it will either be a format from Europe or my original content. The financial backer will probably be a European distributor and we would then shop to American networks. That really is the new model that we’re working on, this global environment that I think is the next step. You’ll see a French broadcaster and a German broadcaster, a distributor producing for an American broadcaster, and not necessarily because there’s a licensing deal for the 10 o’clock slot on Saturday. I feel that in the future, there will be no foreign market or U.S. market, there will be one market.

The Wrap: (Guest Blog) Roger Guenveur Smith

The Rebirth of This Nation Will Be a Bloody Enterprise (Guest Blog)


A star of Nate Parker’s acclaimed film “The Birth of a Nation” reflects on Nat Turner and the ongoing search of the American soul

Roger Guenveur Smith | September 20, 2016 @ 4:27 PM

Fox Searchlight Pictures

I am a son of Virginia. My late father was a native of Portsmouth and admitted to study at the University of Virginia’s Law School. He then submitted a photograph to the school that indicated that he was a man of color. His admission was promptly rescinded.

He worked his way through Howard University, carrying luggage at Virginia Beach hotels and waiting tables on a steamboat that carried commuters from Norfolk to Washington, D.C., braving the notoriously rough confluence of the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River.

He worked that his younger son might some day have the opportunity to study history and theater and to combine those interests in an ever-evolving career inspired by his Southern heritage.

To tell the story of Nat Turner, another native son of the Old Dominion, is to walk in the footsteps of my ancestors, among them aboriginals, immigrants, slaves and masters.

My grandmother was an invalid poet, my grandfather a one-eyed red-headed colored cabbie and my great grandmother was a self-educated midwife, who brought more than 500 children — of all colors — into this world. And, of course, my uncle was an undertaker.

They lived and died where Nat Turner had done the same, in bondage and, then, in nominal freedom, the promise of Reconstruction betrayed by the rise of Jim Crow.

When Douglas Wilder ran to be the first Virginia governor of admitted African descent, my parents plastered their van with Wilder posters and drove cross-country from our California home to join the campaign trail. His victory in 1989 signaled to them the rise of the “new” South and the death of the status crow.

Our nation eight years ago was emboldened by the possibility of a “post-racial” America, as my elder daughter and I celebrated her 16th birthday freezing on the National Mall, our pilgrimage to the banks of the Potomac not unlike her grandparents’ southern sojourn.

And now on that same Mall there rises a great new museum, which holds Nat Turner’s Bible, 13 pages of the Book of Revelation mysteriously torn asunder. Perhaps one day it will be reunited with his terrible swift sword, presently encased in Southampton County, where it was famously bloodied in August 1831.

And perhaps his skull — said to be in Gary, Indiana — will someday will be reunited with his other mortal remains in Southampton, which have been diligently pursued by the the makers of a forthcoming documentary about Nat Turner. This remembering is a fascinating archeological and biographical expedition and has been distinguished by scholarship that has illuminated his peculiar moment in our nation’s history.

The growing body of literary, theatrical and cinematic work inspired by Turner’s saga has in turn inspired volumes of debate and will continue to do so, at least through the coming Oscar season.

But the search for Nat Turner is not simply the pursuit of one man. It is, rather, the ongoing search for the American soul, in which our relentless pursuit of freedom has been enslaved by our collective national amnesia, as we attempt to make “great again” that which was always flawed, and still in progress.

“He’s a God of love” my Isaiah reminds Nat Turner in Nate Parker’s upcoming film “The Birth of a Nation.” “And He is also a God of wrath,” Nat responds.

The uncivil war of 1831 is still being fought in America and the weapons are just as primitive. The rebirth of this nation will be a bloody enterprise.

Just ask my Great Grandmother the midwife. And my Uncle the undertaker.

Award-winning actor, writer and director Roger Guenveur Smith co-stars in Nate Parker’s critically acclaimed film “The Birth of a Nation,” which drew praise at the Sundance Film Festival in January and recently premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Smith continues the national conversation of Nat Turner’s story as the host of an upcoming documentary about the historical figure, which is set to air the week of the October 7 release of “The Birth of a Nation.”

HollyShorts 2016

The 12th Annual HollyShorts Film Festival was a huge success and DMG was in full effect. Located at The Chinese Theater in the heart of Hollywood, HollyShorts screened over 400 short films across the span of ten days. There were many highlights, from Jennifer Morrison (Once Upon A Time) making her directorial debut and winning the Trailblazer award, to Chad Michael Murray (One Tree Hill)  staring in the closing film. DMG had so much fun planning all the events and attending the screenings, we can't wait until next year!


 Jennifer accepting her Trailblazer award. 

Jennifer accepting her Trailblazer award. 

 The iconic Ed Asner ( UP, The Mary Tyler More Show) attending opening night. 

The iconic Ed Asner ( UP, The Mary Tyler More Show) attending opening night. 

DMG's SXSW Activation: Silver Sail Entertainment and Sabi Group

Two weeks ago at SXSW, Silver Sail Entertainment and Sabi group kicked off an invite only film and tech private happy hour. DMG was instrumental in putting the pieces together for one of the hottest events during SXSW, held at the beautiful, new hotel in Austin, The Hotel Van Zant. The event featured over 500 influencers in the film, tech and music arenas. Guests sipped on spirits from Tito's Handmade Vodka and Stella Artois. Silver Sail previewed their film Slate and upcoming mobile game "Six Bullets to Hell," based on the popular spaghetti western film Directed by Tanner Beard which will be released later this year.  

1st Annual Hollywood Comedy Shorts Film Festival

DMG was in full effect this past weekend at the inaugural Hollywood Comedy Shorts Film Festival. The festival, which took place at the TCL Chinese theater, featured over 80 short films ranging from web series to dark comedies. The red carpet was packed and everyone loved the films! You can read all about the winners here.  


Keedar Whittle's Comedy Special: Hear Me Out.

Actor and Comedian Keedar Whittle (The Walking Dead,For Better or Worse) has been doing stand up comedy for years, but always wanted to have his own comedy special. So he teamed up with Buffalo 8 Productions, and this past Saturday located at the beautiful El Portal Theater in North Hollywood, Keedar put on a one man stand up comedy show. Dumont Marketing helped make his dream a reality by lining up press and sponsors such as Pabst Blue Ribbon, Datebox and One Condoms. The event sold out and the crowd enjoyed every second of the show (including our entire staff at DMG). Stay tuned to find out when the comedy special airs!