Netflix has completed another high-profile acquisition, ordering 10 episodes of a new scripted series to be directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas) and penned by Babylon 5 creator and screenwrter J. Michael Straczynski.
Set to premiere in 2014, Sense8 is being billed as “a gripping global tale of minds linked and souls hunted,” which frankly isn’t much to go on. Marc Rosen’s Georgeville entertainment will produce the show, with an assist from Straczynski’s own company, Studio JMS.
As is the case with David Fincher’s commitment to Netflix’s House of Cards, the Wachowskis will be venturing into television for the first time with Sense8. And while this appears to be another serious gamble for the streaming service, this does not seem to concern CEO Reed Hastings at all—the proposed budget for Netflix originals is half-a-billion dollars annually (insert Keanu-esque “whoa” here).
While the cited $500 million presumably includes the requisite marketing budget, Creative Artists Agency TV packaging and literary agent Peter Micelli recently told a panel at UCLA that “House of Cards started at $4.5 million and Fincher took it way above that.” So that puts Sense8 firmly in Game of Thrones territory, if not Rome.
Money isn’t always a guarantee of quality—looking at you, Supertrain—but the marquee value that comes with signing the likes of the Wachowskis and Fincher is inestimable, even if they’re all notorious overspenders. And while Netflix is playing it close to the vest on the ratings front, by at least one measure, it appears that House of Cards has quite a following. A survey by Selectable media found that about one-third of Netflix’s viewers had watched at least one episode of Fincher’s Beltway drama, which translates to an aggregate audience of around 9 million people.
“We're excited to work with Netflix and Georgeville Television on this project,” said Andy and Lana Wachowski, by way of announcing the deal. “We’ve wanted to work with Joe Straczynski for years, chiefly due to the fact his name is harder to pronounce than ours, but also because we share a love of genre and all things nerdy.”
The duo added that the germ of the Sense8 idea came to them years ago during a “late-night conversation about the ways technology simultaneously unites and divides us.”