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Netflix Sets Wachowskis Free with J. Michael Straczynski for New Original Content Series 'Sense8'

Thompson on Hollywood By Anne Thompson and Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood March 27, 2013 at 12:58PM

Video service Netflix continues to blaze trails in the original content game. In a brilliant move, the company has tapped the Wachowskis ("Cloud Atlas," "The Matrix") and "Babylon 5" creator Michael J. Straczynski to develop a new series, "Sense8." The few details we know about the project promise a ten-episode first season, available exclusively to Netflix members in late 2014, that spans a global tale of "minds linked and souls hunted."
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Andy and Lana Wachowski
Andy and Lana Wachowski

Video service Netflix continues to blaze trails in the original content game. In a brilliant move, the company has tapped the Wachowskis ("Cloud Atlas," "The Matrix") and "Babylon 5" creator Michael J. Straczynski to develop a new series, "Sense8." The few details we know about the project promise a ten-episode first season, available exclusively to Netflix members in late 2014, that spans a global tale of "minds linked and souls hunted."

David Fincher-Kevin Spacey collaboration "House of Cards" (review here) was a critical hit, and pulled plenty of media attention and seemingly plenty of eyeballs, despite Netflix's refusal to release viewership numbers. (Our TOH! interview with "House of Cards" showrunner Beau Willimon is here.)

Up next for the DVD and streaming service is the long-awaited return of "Arrested Development."

Netflix relies on the site's complex algorithms, which produce data on viewing trends, in choosing which content to develop. Clearly the Wachowskis fit a  popularity profile among Netflix subscribers; chief content officer Ted Sarandos states that they are "among the most imaginative writers and gifted visual storytellers of our time." He's in a good mood: Netflix shares are soaring on Wall Street after a surge in subscribers yielded a strong quarterly report.

The series marks the Wachowskis' first foray into television, a medium that may prove a good fit for the unconventional filmmakers. Their most recent endeavor, Warner Bros.' magical mystery tour "Cloud Atlas," a collaboration with German filmmaker Tom Tykwer, was too far-out for American audiences and bombed at the domestic box office this past fall, with a meager $27 million take. Its international haul fared better, with close to $100 million in foreign box office sales. (The film was made for $101 million in independent funds, and then acquired by Warner for about $20 million; the siblings invested their own money in it.) In Germany the film led all nominations for the Lola awards with nine.

This hasn't kept Warner Bros. from working with the duo again, for upcoming sci-fi entry "Jupiter Rising," starring Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis.

Netflix leaves each show's creators completely alone after agreeing on deliverables and budget; they will do the same with the Wachowskis, who can let their protean imaginations run rampant. (TOH's interview with the "Cloud Atlas" filmmakers is here.)

This article is related to: News, Netflix, Wachowskis, Television, TV News


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.