A producer who viewed the nine-minute video said it was “an unbelievable way to sell a project,” adding that it inspired him to rethink how he takes out new material.
Margot Robbie swears. Ben Stiller begs for a role. Kaitlyn Dever and Joey King gush over a script in a notebook made from cardboard.
In a nine-minute “quarantine-style” video, which a source allowed The Hollywood Reporter to view but not share, the filmmakers behind last year’s indie hit The Peanut Butter Falcon are selling their next project in what may be the ultimate creative social-distance pitch.
Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz based their idea for a half-hour live-action comedy, The Wildest Animals in Griffith Park, on their own real-life experience living secretly in a park in the hills of Los Angeles while they developed the project that became The Peanut Butter Falcon. The pitch video now being circulated to prospective buyers includes photos from that experience. But in the prospective series, the protagonists would be two young women, played by the Booksmart and The Act stars. Robbie and her LuckyChap team are exec producing.
The pitch shows laptops mounted on a wall featuring “live” video of Robbie, Dever and King as they interact and share their vision for the half-hour live-action show. An audience of cardboard cutouts depicting Netflix chief Ted Sarandos and Amazon’s Jennifer Salke, among other potential buyers, is shown applauding enthusiastically.
In a landscape where Zoom pitches have become the new normal, the innovative pitch for The Wildest Animals in Griffith Park shows innovation as creators and producers look to break out from the pack. The clip, which was carefully circulated ahead of the Memorial Day weekend, was filmed in a makeshift studio at Nilson and Schwartz’s home.
The filmmakers describe the show using a succession of movie posters: It’s a twist on Alice in Wonderland with the cast of Girls living in a treehouse like Swiss Family Robinson, with the mindset of Fight Club and stealing from the rich and giving to the poor (as in Robin Hood), with fantastical elements like talking animals from The Never-Ending Story.
“It’s an unbelievable way to sell a project,” one top producer told THR of the pitch for Wildest Animals, noting that it inspired him to re-think how he takes out new material in today’s climate. “I’m 100 percent sure this will sell. It’s just such a fun way to hear a pitch.”
Sources tell THR the video has landed the Wildest Animals team follow-up meetings with premium cable networks and streamers. The series is expected to generate multiple offers, given the stars and creatives attached.
Reps for all involved declined comment.
Nilson and Schwartz lead the high-energy pitch, which features the duo outlining key character beats for the four central leads and the larger themes they plan to explore. The series revolves around Diane (Dever) and Jackie (King) as they move into a park to find their “inner wild” and purpose in life and how their lives intersect with a couple, Andy and Blair.
In an obvious tongue-in-cheek feint at casting, Nilson and Schwartz use photos of Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Brad Pitt as potential stars to play Andy, while Blake Lively and Reese Witherspoon’s images are used for Blair. Other characters include a mountain lion — who the filmmakers say should be voiced by Oprah or Benicio Del Toro — and a real raccoon that the duo befriended during their time living in the park. (The Peanut Butter Falcon star Shia LaBeouf is also subtly pitched for a supporting role.)
Stiller — who is friendly with Nilson and Schwartz — makes a cameo via FaceTime, at first declining to participate in the project but ultimately maneuvering to be part of it. (Sources say that was played for humor, and Stiller is not currently involved with the proposed series.)
Robbie’s LuckyChap partners Tom Ackerley and Josey McNamara, along with TV vp Brett Hedblom, met with Nilson and Schwartz a year or two ago and started developing the pitch. The project was taken to Warner Bros. TV, where Robbie’s company has an overall deal. With a pilot script already completed, the plan was for LuckyChap, Nilson and Schwartz to shop the project. Then the coronavirus pandemic shut down in-person meetings. Sources say Nilson and Schwartz then had the idea to use the safer-at-home mandate to find a creative way to pitch their show.
Along with Robbie, Nilson, Schwartz, LuckyChap’s Ackerley and Hedblom exec produce; Lije Sarki, who produced The Peanut Butter Falcon, is attached as a co-EP.