More Haven

Posted: October 6, 2009, 16:45
More about Haven from The Blobe and Mail:

Stephen King has penned some of the literary world's most memorable horror novels, from Carrie to The Shining. But what in the name of Cujo could possibly send shivers up the author's spine?

The answer has finally come: U.S. television studios.

In a deal that will be announced today in Cannes, France, Mr. King has partnered with Canadian television producer E1 Entertainment Inc. to make his latest creation, a television series titled Haven, based on his best-selling novella The Colorado Kid.

It is a deal that shatters the conventions of big-budget television productions. Rather than take his concept directly to a Hollywood studio, the author has specifically gone outside of the U.S. in order to retain more creative control over how the series is made.

When complete, Haven will be offered up to networks to buy, but the author is strategically looking to avoid the studio formula of producing a pilot episode, then hoping it generates enough interest to be picked up for a whole season. Instead, Toronto-based E1 will make an entire season - 13 one-hour episodes - before it is shopped to broadcasters in several countries, including the U.S.

"He had his reasons. He might have been disillusioned a little with the development process in the U.S.," Peter Emerson, president of E1's television division, said of Mr. King's decision to partner with the Canadian company.

"He wants to be able to do it without putting it through a studio that's going to pay 100 per cent of it and consequently have that control. ... That created a unique problem for us, because that's not normally how the business works. Normally you get the U.S. studios involved first and then sell internationally."

Mr. King is not commenting on the deal. However, the author is said to have been upset with the treatment of some of his work on television and in films, and also wants to retain a greater share of the proceeds from Haven than he would if the rights were bought by a studio.

The concept of making a complete season is outside the norm for the big TV studios, which want to limit their financial risk if a show stumbles in its first few episodes. However, the full-season model has been increasingly used by premium cable networks, such as HBO and Showtime, and other cable outlets to develop more complete storylines.

Mr. King, who has sold more than 300 million horror novels in his career, began talking to E1 last year when he decided to adapt The Colorado Kid to television. The story is based on the cursed residents of a small town in Maine. E1 was initially approached by Mr. King's agent, Los Angeles-based Creative Artists Agency, based on its past work making shows for U.S. and Canadian networks.

The company has helped make Hung for HBO, The Bridge for CBS and CTV, and Copper for ABC and Global Television. To secure the financing needed to make a TV series that is network quality, E1 needed a partner to help it foot the bill of more than $2-million (U.S.) an episode for Haven.

For that, E1 turned to the international arm of NBC's production studio, Universal Networks International. In exchange for putting up some of the production budget, Universal will get the rights to show Haven on pay-television channels outside North America and Scandinavia. E1 is free to sell the show in North America, noting that it will likely end up on science fiction channels on cable. Though Universal is connected to NBC in the U.S., the network has no claim over Mr. King's series.

The U.S. studio model has been in flux since the Hollywood writer's strike two years ago forced the major networks to look beyond heir own operations for new shows. Roma Khanna, president of Universal's international operations, said the deal is a nod to the increasing quality of Canadian productions and a sign of the shift in the U.S. market.

"It says a lot of the production world that we're in now, to think outside the traditional U.S. studio system," said Ms. Khanna, a former executive with CHUM Ltd. in Toronto who moved to Universal's London office three years ago.

Thanks to Bev Vincent