It’s important for a TV show pilot to make a strong impression, which accounts for why film directors are often hired to take the helm. Martin Scorsese took charge on the first episode of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire (he eventually earned an Emmy for his efforts), while Walking Dead TV show creator Frank Darabont called the shots on the pilot for his zombie-apocalypse saga – back when he was running things.
Starz has likewise gone and set filmmaker Neil Marshall to helm the pilot for its Treasure Island prequel show, Black Sails. The high-seas adventure series has also secured Michael Bay and his Platinum Dune partners as executive producers.
Marshall has carved out a niche for himself as a master of low-budget horror and period-thriller fare, thanks to films like Dog Soldiers, The Descent, Doomsday, and Centurion. That experience served Marshall well during his TV directorial debut with the acclaimed “Blackwater” episode on Game of Thrones. There, he managed to stage easily the best battle sequence ever put to television, after just two weeks of preparation – not to mention, a month of night shoots and chilling Belfast weather to handle.
No doubt, that accounts for why Marshall’s been hired on for Black Sails. The series follows the adventures of Captain Flint and young Long John Silver twenty years before Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic swashbuckling story. The show is expected to offer a tangible representation of a debauched old world populated with pirates, mermaids, prostitutes, and other assorted lowlife (similar to the Medieval fantasy setting in Game of Thrones).
Deadline is confirming that Black Sails has started pre-production down in Cape Town, South Africa, and says the show is being eyed as a replacement for Starz’ Spartacus, once the third and final season (subtitled War of the Damned) airs. The former may trade in the highly-stylized violence of Spartacus for more Bay-style, high-octane thrills, but could boast an equal amount of risque, edgy, content, so as to keep up the (unofficial) contest with HBO and Showtime in that area.
Starz has found success in producing such grisly series as Spartacus, as well as the political drama Boss and period crime series Magic City. However, not all of the channel’s forays into entertainment geared strictly towards an adult-audience have paid off, as evidenced by the short-lived Crash and Camelot TV series. The latter’s failure to pull in the viewing masses serves as a cautionary tale for the folk behind Black Sails – which, like Camelot, aims to be an “edgy” period adventure series.
On the other hand, Black Sails is traversing the largely-unexplored backstory for Treasure Island – whereas Camelot was up against it from the get-go, having to convince viewers that its spin on the Arthurian legend could stand apart from the countless previous re-tellings. Bay’s involvement with Black Sails offers further assurance that the show should do all right – because Bay (love him or loathe him) has far more hits than flops under his belt.