As its Kickstarter campaign prepares to wrap, the proposed "Free Enterprise" television series has caught the eye of several networks, according to writer-producer Mark A. Altman.
The series will reimagine the 1999 cult film "Free Enterprise," which celebrated geek culture and starred "Will & Grace" actor Eric McCormack, "Star Trek's" William Shatner and Rafer Weigel. Robert Meyer Burnett ("Agent Cody Banks") directed the film based on a script he co-wrote with Altman ("Castle").
Concluding Aug. 20, the Kickstarter effort is far from its $225,000 goal, but Altman still sees hope.
"What has happened, which we did not anticipate, is the incredible level of interest we've got now from networks and studios who have approached us that heard about the Kickstarter," Altman recently told 1701News. "We started out by trying to avoid a traditional development process through Kickstarter, and now what Kickstarter has led us to is pushing us back into that same development process that we were trying to avoid.
"But it's good because the people that have approached us understand what the project is and they're not trying to make it something that it isn’t. … We don't want to see it done wrong. I would rather not do it at all than do it wrong."
Altman hopes to begin filming before the end of the year. Ideally, he is looking for a cable model of 10 episodes for the first season, perhaps expanding to 13 or 16 episodes with future seasons.
The series would premiere in late 2015.
"I'm very optimistic that we'll end up at least shooting a pilot, if not being able to do the series, which would be fantastic," Altman said.
Set in Los Angeles, the 30-minute episodes will place a contemporary twist on the film and will feature an all-new cast and celebrity appearances. And although none of the original characters will be carried over from the film, actors from it may reappear in new roles.
"It's about these characters who find each other and are immersed in geek culture while trying to make it in Hollywood," he explained. "I really felt there was an opportunity to explore these characters and this world.
"The geek world has gone through a seismic shift since we released 'Free Enterprise.' We want to comment on that."
Altman and Burnett will spearhead the series, supported by Emmy Award-winning comedy director David Rodgers, whose work includes "Seinfeld," "The Office" and "The Mindy Project." Rodgers will direct the pilot.
Also aboard are writers Steve Kriozere ("NCIS," "Castle") and David E. Williams (editor-in-chief, GEEK Magazine), and Mark Gottwald, who served as an executive producer on "Free Enterprise."
The fact "Free Enterprise" continues to find an enthusiastic audience today is energizing for Altman, who sees the film as a forerunner to the genre's explosive surge in popularity, lead in part by such successes as "The Lord of the Rings," "Lost," "Game of Thrones," "The Avengers" and "The Big Bang Theory."
But he acknowledges that success didn't strike immediately for the film.
“It was never a huge hit," he said. "That only came later when it sort of became a cult favorite and beloved film as it came out on DVD, and then on HBO and Showtime. That was very gratifying. It was definitely a delayed reaction.
"I was always very happy with 'Free Enterprise.' ... I was a guy who grew up on the original 'Star Trek.' … To have a chance to make my first produced film with the man that I grew up on as a kid, and to have such a great experience with Bill (Shatner), was a dream come true."
As a result, despite the possible television series, Altman is still seeking a feature-film sequel.
"Particularly with the 50th anniversary coming up, it seems like a natural time to pursue a sequel to 'Free Enterprise,'" he said.
"Free Enterprise" creators Mark A. Altman, left, and Robert Meyer Burnett.