The creator of 'Hunters' caught the attention of Amazon and Jordan Peele with an 80-page series bible and enough ideas for 5 seasons
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- David Weil, the creator of Amazon's new series "Hunters," talked to Business Insider about how he got the series made without another TV show on his resume.
- Weil wrote a spec script for the pilot and an 80-page series bible that detailed his ideas five years ago. After one network passed on the series, Amazon picked it up.
- "Get Out" director Jordan Peele, who executive produced the series, was already on board at that point after having read Weil's script.
- Weil also discussed how writing the series was cathartic for him and shared his cinematic inspirations for the show.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Amazon Prime Video's new drama series "Hunters," which follows a group of Nazi killers in the 1970s US, has some big names attached to it.Al Pacino, fresh off an Oscar nomination for Netflix's "The Irishman," stars as Meyer, the boss of the group. "Get Out" and "Us" director Jordan Peele executive produced the series.Advertisement
But the show's creator isn't a household name - at least, not yet.
Creator and coshowrunner David Weil talked to Business Insider about his creative process and the inspirations behind "Hunters," his first TV show, which ended up catching the attention of Peele and then Amazon Studios boss, Jennifer Salke.Weil wrote an 80-page series "bible" five years ago that detailed the characters' backstories and the entire first season. He said he has ideas for at least five seasons of the show, which he described as a challenging but cathartic experience since it was inspired by his own grandmother, who was a Holocaust survivor.
Weil also discussed the cinematic inspirations behind the series, the best piece of advice Peele gave him, and tips for aspiring creators trying to break through in Hollywood.
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Travis Clark: What was your initial pitch for "Hunters" and how did that change, if at all, from that to what we see on screen?
David Weil: It wasn't a pitch. Part of that was because it's such a specific show and high-wire act of different tones with really important and intense subject matter. I wrote a spec script [a script without a deal already in place with the hopes of finding a buyer] and an 80-page bible that explained in detail what the series was and where it would go, who all the characters are, the tone, the visual language ... really anything that would be asked about the show, I wanted to have an answer for, or any fear that a buyer would have I wanted to be able to address. I think for a show like this that was really important.It was a journey and a long process. I wrote it five years ago and then tried selling it four-and-half or three-and-a-half years ago. It sold to one network, but after the head of that network left and the new one came in, they didn't really understand the show and was afraid of the show [Weil declined to say what the network was]. But the great fortune was that Jennifer Salke came in to run Amazon Studios [in 2018] and my agent sent the script to her, and Jen bought it. She saw something really special in this piece, so Jordan [Peele] and I were so thrilled to call Amazon home. They've supported the vision. It was a long ride with ups and downs, but ultimately a wonderful result.Advertisement
Clark: This is your first TV show, so can you expand more on that creative process, particularly with the series bible?
Weil: The bible took a number of months. It included my letter of personal intent: why this story, why now, why I'm the person to tell it. And it really touched on all of the characters and their backstories. It spoke to the tone and themes of the show, and how violence would be employed in the show, and why the 1970s were important. It laid out very detailed beats of what the first season would be and then ideas in a more general way for future seasons.One of the things that people look for when buying a show is whether it can continue and is a business asset with legs that has a vision towards the future.Advertisement
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Clark: You've talked in other interviews about how your own grandmother inspired the series, so I was wondering what outside of your own personal history inspired it. There are a lot of references to comic books in the series and the violence has been compared to Quentin Tarantino's stuff, so was there anything culturally that inspired you?Weil: As a Jewish kid growing up on Long Island, I wanted to see a Jewish superhero represented on screen. Even "Inglourious Basterds" [directed by Tarantino] and "Schindler's List" are stories about non-Jewish protagonists saving Jewish characters. I wanted to tell a story about Jewish characters getting justice and vengeance for other Jewish characters. So there was a creative desire to create a Jewish character on screen that is a Jewish person with might and power and is a bada-- in every sense of the word.Advertisement
In terms of cultural or cinematic inspirations, "The Boys from Brazil" [a 1978 movie about a plot to carry on the Third Reich] was a much bigger inspiration than Tarantino. I like to think of the show as living between two different poles. On one end is "Inglourious Basterds" and on the other is "Munich." The show certainly has pulpy moments but it has quieter moments of Judaism and the Holocaust. That balance was important to me.Clark: Do you have any more tips for aspiring creators trying to break through in Hollywood?Weil: The best thing to do is to just write as much as possible. This is the first thing that I've written and produced, that has my name on it, in 10-plus years. But what has been wonderful in those 10 years is that I just kept writing and now I have a stockpile of material. Now that "Hunters" is on, I can show that I have a pilot here and a screenplay there. I have a wealth of material, which is important for buyers and agents to see. There's this horrible mantra in Hollywood that "everyone has one good script in them." But the mark of an employable writer or someone that an agent wants to represent is that they can continue to deliver. Advertisement
I'd also suggest that people write in different genres and flex different muscles. Show that you're not pigeonholed as one kind of creator or writer.
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Weil: I have at least five seasons worth of ideas of where I see the series going and I certainly know the ending of the series. I'd love to work on a season two and I'm hopeful Amazon thinks so, too.
Clark: Going back to Jordan Peele, how exactly did he get involved and what the most memorable piece of advice he gave you?Weil: I was a huge fan of "Key and Peele." It was brilliant and the satire was next level. We shared the same agent and I told my agent that I was dying to meet him. So we got to meet and he had just written "Get Out," so I got to read it. I told him "this is genius, this is incredible." So we talked a lot about horror movies and genre fare, and just geeked out about the films we love.Advertisement
I sent "Hunters" to him and told him he'd really dig it. He's a champion for underrepresented stories. So he came on and just from day one of this journey he's been such a champion. He's pushed me to be bold and brave and just have confidence. He told me that people fearing the show was a good thing, so I leaned into that fear and that boldness.
Clark: What do you mean by that?Weil: People are afraid to make content about incredibly sensitive or difficult subject matter. I think the boldest storytellers are the ones who take that chance and risk. Stories about the Holocaust are some of the most important stories to tell, but I think a lot of buyers caution against it because it's not safe or easy. It's challenging to get it right. But the challenge will get a better result and make for a better show. In some of the harder moments, it was good to keep that in mind.Advertisement
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Every night I would go to bed thinking about them and that responsibility, and every morning I'd wake up thinking about it. So every scene, certainly in the flashbacks [set during the Holocaust], was designed with such specificity. I'd labor with the director over whether we needed one frame more or one frame less. I wanted to suggest violence in the past instead of showing it all the time, while in the '70s setting, it's much more gratuitous and stylistic. The degree of detail was challenging but important for the show.
Clark: The original title was "The Hunt" and then it changed to "Hunters," so I was curious if that had anything to do with the Blumhouse movie [which hits theaters on March 13] or if anything else went into that creative decision.Weil: I think it's twofold. I don't think anybody wanted confusion in the marketplace. But "Hunters" feels so right. "The Hunt" is like an event, but "Hunters" is more personal. It's about the characters and their journeys, and my own grandmother's story. So I'm glad we made the change because it's a powerful new title.Advertisement
Clark: Did you have Al Pacino in mind when writing "Hunters" [for the role of Meyer] or did you just write it and were lucky enough to get Pacino?
Weil: [laughs] I just wrote it. I never met my own grandfather, who was also a Holocaust survivor. In many ways, me writing and creating this character was me meeting my grandfather for the first time, which was a cathartic and special process. It was wonderful to get Al, but for Jonah, I did often think about Logan in the role. I've been a fan of his for so long and there are so few actors who can play these roles so well. Logan is a talented master of an actor.