(Josh Hamilton and Ayesha Dharker. Courtesy of ShadowCatcher Ent.)

Outsourced , the plucky, well-reviewed little indie shot in India and produced by Seattle filmmakers, is


The Office Goes to Bangalore

NBC validates our opinion from SIFF.


(Josh Hamilton and Ayesha Dharker. Courtesy of ShadowCatcher Ent.)

Outsourced, the plucky, well-reviewed little indie shot in India and produced by Seattle filmmakers, is poised to become a TV series. Unnoticed by other Seattle papers, the deal was recently sealed in L.A. and was reported this week in the Hollywood trade paper Variety. As we said of charming leading lady Ayesha Dharker in our coverage of SIFF (where Outsourced won the top audience prize), promote that woman to The Office already! Well, a similar yet better scenario may unfold: NBC has commissioned a pilot script from Outsourced’s writers, George Wing and John Jeffcoat, and they’re partnered with a high-profile Hollywood TV ace who directed the pilot for, yes, The Office. If NBC likes the script, the pilot will be shot this winter; and if NBC likes the pilot, the half-hour sitcom—beginning with 13 episodes—would debut next fall. TV works that fast.

As Wing told me today of his and Jeffcoat’s whirlwind August tour of the major TV studios: “‘The Office goes global’ was the basic pitch. We got three of them [studios] bidding on it.” That’s not all he had to say.

“They paid more than they usually pay,” Wing continues. What that means in dollar figures shall remain secret, but the real money is in the sitcom—if it happens. Getting a TV series made would be a tremendous coup for ShadowCatcher Entertainment, the local company headed by David Skinner and Tom Gorai, which had to self-distribute the movie (as of this writing, still playing at the Bellevue Galleria and Majestic Bay). The film is now in its third week of limited release, playing in Seattle, New York, L.A., Austin, and a few other markets deemed friendly to a movie with internationalist themes.

Wing and Jeffcoat (who directed) read the weekly box office reports. “It’s really eye-opening,” says Wing. “We’re filling theaters. We’re just a little film, we don’t get to stay long [in theaters],” because a flood of other fall indies is clamoring for screen space. At the same time, Jeffcoat is now accompanying the film up to the Vancouver International Film Festival—another immigrant-friendly market where Outsourced later ought to play well. (Per Variety, the film made $32,000 in its first week, which sounds puny; but in only eight theaters, its per-screen average ranks it 12th in the nation, ahead of indies like Chalk, Ira & Abby, and Great World of Sound.)

And the publicity can only help the TV show, if it's a go. The ShadowCatcher crew are partnered with director Ken Kwapis, whose extensive television background includes The Office (pilot and several episodes), Malcolm in the Middle, Freaks and Geeks, and The Larry Sanders Show, among other credits. He’s also recently helmed movies like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, License to Wed (uh-oh, that Robin Williams stinker), and the current adaptation of the humorous dating-advice book He’s Just Not That Into You (with Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Connelly, Scarlett Johansson, Ben Affleck, and Drew Barrymore—who, incidentally, starred in Wing’s biggest feature screenwriting success, 50 First Dates).

By contrast, in television terms, “I’m a neophyte,” says Wing, who grew up without a TV set to watch and internalize standard 22-minute sitcom structure. He and Jeffcoat are now mapping out 13 episodes to grow like branches from their pilot-in-process. “You have to plan out the entire season,” he explains. And add characters: “We put more Westerners in the story universe,” meaning Yanks, Aussies, and other expats outsourced to India. At the same time, with a writers’ strike expected in Hollywood, he and Jeffcoat need to finish their pilot by November first.

After that, “The entire cycle takes a year. Once it happens, it happens. Then you gotta move to L.A. and be rich and miserable.” If Outsourced makes it past the script stage, that is. Wing remembers being a pessimist during their August pitch-athon, thinking to himself that the networks would ask, “So this is a show with mostly brown faces?” But that turned out not to be a problem. Another pleasant surprise, he’s discovered, is how this new medium differs from film: “In TV…we’re all executive producers, and we have a shocking amount of control.” The writers actually have power. Thus, “we can hire and fire directors, which would be a novelty.”

And that power would extend to casting in Los Angeles, which has a sizable community of South Asian acting talent. But for one key role, Wing would look to London, where Ayesha Dharker currently resides. “I think she would do it,” he says. Meaning our SIFF prophecy might come true.

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