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September 2, 2015

The 'Terra Nova' Pilot Already Costs $10 Million, and It Hasn't Even Been Shot Yet

by Catherine Lawson, posted Oct 14th 2010 9:15AM
'Terra Nova' logoIs the pilot episode of Fox's new sci-fi drama 'Terra Nova' set to be the most expensive ever?

Just a few months ago all looked rosy in the 'Terra Nova' garden. It had all the ingredients for a sure-fire ratings winner for the post-'Lost' generation: Dying planets! Parallel worlds! Dinosaurs! Time-traveling! Stephen Spielberg!

Having nabbed 'Fringe' director Alex Graves to direct the pilot, filming was set to begin this fall. But now, reports are coming in that all is not well, and that cost overruns have meant that even before a single frame's been shot, the pilot has already cost almost $10 million.

Sources have described the production as a "debacle," and according to 'The Wrap', as prices and creative disagreements keep mounting on the Australia-based series, the cost could keep spiralling upwards to as much as $20 million. That's the cost of a feature film, not a one-hour TV episode.

To put it into perspective: The pilot episode of 'Lost' was, at the time, the most expensive ever made. It's estimated to have cost between $10 and $14 million, but was essentially a twofer as it covered the first two episodes of the series. It remains one of the most critically acclaimed pilots (no pun intended) of all time.

More recently, the ultra-lavish Martin Scorsese-helmed pilot for HBO's 'Boardwalk Empire' is reported to have cost around $18 million. Although, as it was allegedly thought to he heading towards $50 million at one point, HBO execs could be forgiven for thinking that the finished product was, relatively speaking, a bargain.

However, there's a crucial difference between 'Boardwalk Empire' and 'Terra Nova': HBO doesn't have to worry about ratings, but Fox does. And 'Terra Nova' won't hit TV screens (and thus start paying its way) until at least spring 2011. The network's current plan is to debut a preview episode in May and then launch the series proper in the fall. That's a long time to wait for the investment to pay off.

'Terra Nova' has been beset by problems all summer, and we heard last month that executive producer Peter Chernin had quit due to "creative differences" and would not be replaced. Thus Brannon Braga was left as the sole writing executive producer.

According to 'The Wrap,' that may be where some of the budgetary problems have stemmed from. A source close to the production claims that several high level screenwriters with a background in feature films have been hired to do substantial rewrites. And they are allegedly being paid around $200,000 a week: A rate more aligned with movies than episodic TV.

The casting process has been problematic too. After failing to sign up household names like Kevin Bacon and Kyle Chandler, producers turned to less well-known (and less expensive) European actors. Jason O'Mara ('Life on Mars') and Shelley Conn ('Mistresses') will play the husband and wife seeking a better life for their family. The biggest name so far: Stephen Lang ('Avatar') has been hired to play the baddie.

Will 'Terra Nova' turn out to be a costly disaster? Or will it, as Fox's Kevin Reilly described it, be "one of the most visually stimulating and dramatically grand series to air on network television"? Only time will tell. Stay tuned for more updates.

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High expectations, sup?

October 14 2010 at 5:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lawrence Phoenix

Aw hell, Rupert Murdoch owns Fox and spends $10 million a week trying to get rightwing goofballs elected all the time..

October 14 2010 at 4:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sole writing executive producer, Brannon Braga,
the guy who brought you;
Star Trek: Voyager,
Star Trek: Enterprise,
Threshold, and FlashForward.
How optimistic are you now?

October 14 2010 at 12:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"no pun intended".

Don't worry. That wasn't a pun.

October 14 2010 at 10:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to purpleslog's comment

Yeah I would have to agree with you Purple. I read the sentence 3 or 4 times trying to figure out what the hell she was on about.

October 01 2011 at 1:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I really want this to work out. I love the premise.

October 14 2010 at 10:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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