Combine director David Katzenberg with writer Seth Grahame-Smith and the bizarre hybrid creation is KatzSmith Productions, a company grabbing attention in Hollywood for imaginative mash-up ideas and a love of all things genre. The pair recently landed the kind of high-profile deal at Warner Bros. that is increasingly rare among cost-conscious studios. Grahame-Smith, 35, is the author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (which Tim Burton is producing as a feature film). He also co-wrote the screenplay for Burton and Johnny Depp‘s vampire soap opera Dark Shadows (out next May). Katzenberg (son of DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg), 28, is a reality producer who has shifted toward directing with MTV’s The Hard Times of RJ Berger and Awkward. ”We like to take ordinary stories, the kind that have already been told, and turn them on their ears,” says Katzenberg. Here’s a look at what they have in the works:
Beetlejuice sequel: an update on ”the ghost with the most” that’s still in the concept phase.
DK We’re not remaking Beetlejuice. People have been very angry about that.
SGS When Warner Bros. came to us about it, we said the only way we’d do it is if we got Tim [Burton’s] blessing and involvement, and we got that, and the star of the movie has to be Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice, and it’s a true continuation 26 years later. Not just throwing him in a cameo going, ”Hey, it’s me. I endorse this movie.” We’re not there yet [with Keaton] because we don’t have a film to present to him.
Murders and Acquisitions: an original script by Jonathan Stokes, tapping into rage at the greedy 1 percent.
SGS It’s a Boiler Room-type movie, mixed with an assassin movie. It’s about a corporate raider who raids one company too many, and the ousted CEO hires assassins to kill him. With Occupy Wall Street, it seems very timely right now.
From Mia With Love: a coming-of-age comedy the pair co-wrote with two other writers, about awkward teen boys who purchase a Russian mail-order bride. (Katzenberg hopes to direct it for Fox.)
SGS It’s Weird Science for the modern age.
DK Everyone is pushing the rated-R comedy, but we thought we would take a stab at the John Hughes-y PG-13. A little more heart than fart.
Unholy Night: Based on an unpublished novel by Grahame-Smith (formerly titled We Three Kings), it focuses on the wandering wise men and gives an action-adventure twist to the classic Nativity story.
SGS That is a huge swords-and-sandals epic, and very dark, and very expensive. We’re going to have to partner with another big producer to get it off the ground, but that’s something we hope to get going. That one could be a prime candidate to film sometime next year.
Night of the Living: A project they’re producing with Burton, it’s a stop-motion-animation story about monsters who endure an invasion of (shudder) normal people.
SGS It’s all the tropes of horror movies, but turned on their head from the monster’s point of view.
Alive in Necropolis: Based on a supernatural crime novel by Doug Dorst, it’s set in the real-life city of Colma, Calif., which has 1,600 living citizens and 1.5 million bodies buried in surrounding cemeteries.
SGS The book is about a murder mystery, told through the eyes of a young detective who may or may not be going crazy and may or may not be seeing ghosts that are helping him. It’s a very rainy-streets, brooding, straightforward supernatural thriller.