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Inside Jay Z's exclusive TV / Film deal with the Weinstein Company

The Tidal owner signed a 2 year deal that signals a serious move into the TV / Film industry

30th Sep 2016

Credit: Riffyou

Jay Z has signed a two year ‘first look deal’ with the Weinstein Company to create new movies and television shows.

A ‘first look deal’ is a film industry term denoting an agreement between a writer and a production company of a not-yet-written script. The company pays a development fee to the writer or producer in return for the right to have the first look at the new material before others in the industry get to see it, and at that time make an offer to buy or distribute that product.

Is it a good deal?

This deal makes sense because Jay Z has been involved in quite a few movies over the past 10 years, and with increasing frequency. Some of his latest projects have included Jamie Foxx’s “Annie”, Chris Rock’s “Top Five” and Leonardo Di Caprio’s “The Great Gatsby”. Such activities are never done without a wider plan in the music industry. The deal was put together by Mr David Glasser.

The Tidal owner has his fingers in many pies. His multi-media company ‘Roc Nation’, which he founded in 2008 and offers a full service entertainment product line ranging from music, to fashion and sports. The company owns an impressive roster of talent including J Cole, Big Sean, Rihanna and Kanye West.

In a statement, Jay Z sounded optimistic with the developments. He said that he was “excited to tell stories from real life prophets, whom through their struggles have changed the world for the better, and others whose stories are filled with fantasy and delight”.

From Jay Z’s perspective, the entertainment mogul is in a special position in the industry in that through the assets he owns he has more power to influence cultural taste than most both as an artist and as a businessman. The dangerous combination of his rank as one of the greatest MCs to have ever been in the game, $700 million dollar Roc Nation, relationship with Barack and Michelle Obama and majority ownership of streaming service Tidal, gives him many avenues through which he can influence public perception – which is crucial when creating a new film or television series. Interestingly, the move is part of a wider trend of hip hop artists moving into filmography, with Childish Gambino producing his own show ‘Atlanta’ this year and the likes of Drake and Frank Ocean both releasing short films independently from their music.

What is the Weinstein Company?

That said, every deal has at least two sides, and on the other side of this particular deal is the Weinstein Company. This is an American film studio founded in 2005 by Bob and Harvey Weinstein, who had previously founded and sold the Disney – owned ‘Miramax films’. The studio is behind some of the most commercially successful films over the past decade. Some names from their catalogue includes Scary Movie 4, The Butler, Inglorious Basterds, The King’s Speech and Django Unchained.

A new project that the company has recently announced involves a Hollywood legend, Elvis Presley. The production studio would like to explore the life of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll with a biopic that is being produced in collaboration with the Presley Estate. Elvis’ widowed wife Priscilla Presley is involved as an executive producer for the biopic, working alongside Harvey Weinstein and Jerry Schilling.

The series will have between 8 and 10 parts and it will be based on David Marsh’ 1982 biography of Elvis. It will be shot at Graceland and the producers of the film will have full access to Elvis’ personal archives which includes items as private to him as his clothes and even his personal diaries.

The project is only possible because Priscilla Presley is a “big fan” of Harvey Weinstein’s films. She was “thrilled to have the opportunity to work with him”, and this is crucial because without being granted the rights to use his personal material, it would be almost impossible to have created an accurate, nuanced portrayal of the 1960’s heart throb.

Elvis remains one of the most celebrated musicians of all time, up there with the likes of Prince and Michael Jackson. People’s interest in his story goes beyond his musical prowess and into his influence on a rebellious generation. The move displays the kind of ambition that the Weinstein Company has. They are yet to secure a network for the event series, but are understood to be shopping for interested networks in the next few weeks.

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