Syfy is starting to beef up some of its scripted shows, and is looking toward M. Night Shyamalan to help.
Shyamalan is working with former "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" producer Marti Noxon to bring "Proof" to the cable channel in the form of a put-pilot, according to The Hollywood Reporter. That means that whether Syfy decides to pick up "Proof" as a series or not, it will plan to air the pilot in some form or another.
This will be Shyamalan's first return to the network since 2004 when he was part of what was described to viewers and the media as a documentary about the director that was supposed to reveal a "big secret." Instead, the "documentary" was actually a marketing gimmick for Shyamalan's movie "The Village," which was being released about the same time.
Bonnie Hammer, then president of the cable channel, responded to criticism of the gimmick by telling reporters that "we created a fictional special that was part-fact and part fiction, and Night was part of the creation from the beginning. Perhaps we might have taken the guerilla campaign one step too far. We thought it would create controversy, and it probably went one step too far."
Shyamalan, however, is now working on an actual scripted project that has a very good chance of being turned into a series because of its put-pilot status. Both he and Noxon will co-write the pilot about an heir to a billion-dollar fortune offering a large reward for anyone who can prove that there is life after death. Shyamalan will direct as well.
Noxon, who has most recently been working on the Fox series "Glee," has been a producer on a number of shows in recent years, including "Mad Men," "Grey's Anatomy" and "Prison Break." She also was a screenplay writer for the 2011 film "I Am Number Four," which earned $55 million domestically, just above its $50 million budget.
Shyamalan is trying to find his footing again creatively after a string of box office disappointments, most recently with "The Last Airbender," which earned $131.6 million domestically against a $150 million budget. However, despite the fact that his films don't resonate with audiences the same way "The Sixth Sense" and "Unbreakable" did, much of his work has remained positive financially.
"The Happening," for example, earned $64.5 million domestically in 2008, but cost only $48 million to make. "The Village" in 2004 earned $114.2 million domestically against a $60 million budget. "Signs" in 2002 pulled in $228 million in North America, far exceeding its $72 million budget.
His only real bomb during all of that besides "Airbender" was "Lady in the Water" in 2006, which cost $75 million to make, but made only $42.3 million in North America.
Syfy isn't stopping with "Proof," however. Deadline.com is reporting that Bryan Fuller and Robert Halmi Sr. have finally received a pilot order for "High Moon," based on the John Christopher novel "The Lotus Caves."
"This is a fresh and compelling vision of an exotic new world driven by character, intrigue and greed," said Mark Stern, Syfy's president of original programming.
The pilot will move Syfy back to space, set on a Moon mining colony. Everyone gets along fine until life is discovered, and then everyone is fighting to take advantage of its powers.
Fuller, who got his start with series like "Star Trek: Voyager" and "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," has been extremely busy as of late. NBC ordered a pilot of his "The Munsters" remake called "Mockingbird Lane" that could be considered for mid-season, while the same network has ordered his "Hannibal" remake to series.
Halmi, who immigrated to the United States from Hungary more than 40 years ago, has spent decades producing television movies and miniseries for various networks. Most of his work lately has been for Syfy with movie projects like "Treasure Island," "Neverland," "River World," "The Phantom" and "Alice." He also was an executive producer on Syfy's "Flash Gordon" for its single-season run in 2007 and 2008.
Although it's not clear if Fuller's and Halmi's project is in put-pilot status as well, it is likely that if Syfy does not order a series, it could very likely air the project as a winter movie project.
About the Author