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Crystal Lake: budget issues and inexperienced execs blamed for trouble with Friday the 13th TV series

A24’s Friday the 13th series Crystal Lake ran into a lot of trouble behind the scenes: unpaid writers, going over budget, etc.

Crystal Lake: budget issues and inexperienced execs blamed for trouble with Friday the 13th TV series

On Halloween of 2022, it was announced that original Friday the 13th screenwriter Victor Miller – fresh off winning the U.S. copyright to the 1980 film after a lawsuit that stretched on for years – was teaming up with his lawyer Marc Toberoff, franchise rights holder Rob Barsamian, production company A24, the Peacock streaming service, and showrunner Bryan Fuller (whose credits include Hannibal and Pushing Daisies) to develop a new Friday the 13th streaming series called Crystal Lake – and by April of 2024, things were looking pretty good for the show. Under the guidance of Fuller and his frequent collaborator Jim Danger Gray, the project was gearing up to go into production this summer (on July 22nd, to be exact), with filming to last for seven to eight months. Charlize Theron was being considered for the role of Pamela Voorhees, Vincenzo Natali (Cube) and Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry) were on board to direct episodes, Scream screenwriter Kevin Williamson was plotting an hour-long chase episode that would be “set entirely on a frozen Crystal Lake, with the summer camp’s cabins trapped under snow drifts.” Peacock had provided a budget of $85 million for the first season, which was set to consist of eight episodes, and a $300,000 deposit had been placed on soundstages in Canada… and then, as we’ve previously heard, everything fell apart. Fuller and Gray were removed from the project in early May, and it was said that A24 was going “a different way” with Crystal Lake. In a new article, the folks at The Wrap tried to get to the bottom of the problems, unearthing talk of unpaid writers, inexperienced executives, and questionable bookkeeping.

The Wrap spoke to more than a half-dozen insiders while putting together their report… and it’s worth noting that pretty much anything one insider would say, there was another insider saying the opposite.

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One source said that A24 didn’t feel confident in the vision Fuller and Gray had for the show and had to pull the plug. Another source said, “It felt like everybody on the Bryan/Jim side were trying very hard to make the show. A24 felt like they were doing everything they could to not make the show.” There’s confusion over whether or not Peacock was aware of the decision to fire Fuller and Gray, were directly involved with the decision, or if the order came from one of the top executives at Universal… but whatever the case, they were fired.

Crystal Lake is part of A24’s goal to expand into more commercial projects, as they were specifically looking for a globally recognized property that could move them into more mainstream territory. So the idea of expanding the Friday the 13th franchise is very appealing to them. According to The Wrap’s article, Fuller’s approach to the material was to make each season a deconstruction of the first four Friday the 13th films. “The series would incorporate lore from several sequels but remix that material in a way similar to Fuller’s Hannibal, which interpolated the Thomas Harris novels for three seasons.” A source close to A24 confirmed, “We had the mask, we had the sequels, we could do whatever we wanted. He had a good path forward, which I did really like.

As we’ve heard before, Fuller did assemble a team of writers in early 2023, before the writers strike, with members of that team including his “three lieutenants”, who have worked with him on previous shows like Hannibal, Pushing Daisies, and American Gods, as well as Tommy Pico, who is on the Reservation Dogs staff; Tananarive Due, who has written multiple novels over the last thirty years and executive produced Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror; and Steven Barnes, who is also an author and has also contributed scripts to shows like Stargate SG-1, The Outer Limits, and the ’80s version of The Twilight Zone. The problem came after the writers strike ended, when (according to The Wrap), “Despite being the first studio to sign the WGA’s Minimum Basic Agreement, A24 refused to convert the writers who had worked on that initial development phase into actual, paid writers, according to several sources. … A24 assured Fuller and Gray that there would be a paid writer’s room but later backtracked, according to several Crystal Lake sources.” Fuller couldn’t deliver polished drafts of the scripts because the writers of the initial drafts needed to do revisions but were prohibited by guild guidelines before they weren’t officially staff writers. Plus, “according to those with knowledge of the situation, four writers are owed roughly $100,000 each for already completed work.” A source close to A24 denies there were any guild violations, and sources couldn’t agree whether the project fell behind on scripts, slowing the project on the way to production, or if the project was actually ahead of schedule. It’s also a source close to A24 who says that it was Fuller who didn’t want an official writers room, not the company – and that A24 would have hired the writers if Crystal Lake weren’t already going over-budget. “Crystal Lake producers maintain they consistently requested additional weeks for the writers room and were told by A24 executives that Peacock had mandated they get no more than six weeks, when the WGA was mandating 12-week minimums.

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Each episode of Crystal Lake was set to have a budget of $9.6 million, but A24 reportedly wanted to cut that in half. Instead, the budget was rising. In a story that The Wrap heard from more than one source, “Inman Young, A24’s production head whose previous credits include projects like The Whale (budget: $3 million) and Waves (budget: $6 million), claimed the show wasn’t just slightly over budget, it was 100% over budget. Several members of the Crystal Lake production team refuted that assertion.” Instead, The Wrap found that the show was 4 to 6 million over budget for the entire season, and some insiders felt that could have been handled during production. Several sources seemed to blame the fact that Young doesn’t have TV experience on some of the issues behind the scenes… but A24 was also behind the HBO series The Sympathizer, which had a larger budget than Crystal Lake, and they didn’t seem to have problems on that one.

Despite running into problems on Crystal Lake, A24 is still committed to making the show, which is said to be very important to Peacock. A source close to A24, lawyer Marc Toberoff, and a source close to NBCUniversal all confirmed that Crystal Lake is still moving forward. It just needs to find a new showrunner – one A24 is confident going into production with. It remains to be seen if they will use the original Fuller scripts and outlines, or start over completely. Nick Antosca – a co-producer on Hannibal and an executive producer on Chucky – is said to be one of the contenders for the showrunner job, but it’s believed that Antosca (who wrote the screenplay for an unmade Friday the 13th reboot back in 2015) would scrap Fuller’s work and rebuild Crystal Lake from the ground up if he signed on.

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So, as of right now, it looks like Crystal Lake is still going to happen. We just don’t know when it’s going to happen, who’s going to be running the show if it does, or if the finished product will retain anything Fuller had in mind for it.

What do you think of the trouble behind the scenes on Crystal Lake? Share your thoughts on this one by leaving a comment below.

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