Scott Z. Burns is currently watching the movie he wrote – 2011’s Contagion – come to life. There’s a great Slate interview with him here where he talks about the research into pandemic response he did in 2009/10 and how we would be wise to follow what that film taught us right now. Anyway, Burns has a new project in development. Surely it’s something Contagion-esque but even more relevant to real life, right?
Well, no. Not at all, actually. Burns is reportedly developing arguably the opposite of Contagion – an eight-episode musical anthology series for American network AMC. Titled National Anthem, the show is described as a tragically funny musical dramedy about a middle class midwestern family tumbling down the ladder of American society who periodically burst into song as they struggle to catch themselves.
The series will be executive produced by Mark Johnson, who won an Oscar for producing Rain Man and a pair of Emmys for Breaking Bad. The series is the first greenlit under his multi-year overall deal with AMC Studios, through which he will continue to develop new series for the company.
“National Anthem is a family drama with deep resonant things to say about the fragility of our country, our world and our planet. Plus, it’s a musical! In Scott’s genius hands, this results in a hugely original, intense, funny and moving piece of writing”, said Sarah Barnett, president of AMC Networks’ Entertainment Group and AMC Studios.
“We’re so happy to work with Scott as he brings this unique story to life and absolutely delighted to continue our creative partnership with Mark, who we have been so lucky to work with on some of the most critically acclaimed series over the last decade”.
Oscar winner T Bone Burnett (Crazy Heart) is attached as the series’ music producer, with words and music by Craig Finn of the rock band The Hold Steady. Burnett has plenty of experience as a musician, and his TV credits include True Detective and another musical series, Nashville.
Although Burns has been in the news due to Contagion‘s prophetic and prescient narrative, he’s been a longtime successful writer. He’s frequently collaborated with Contagion director Steven Soderbergh – penning films such as The Informant!, Side Effects and The Laundromat – and has also written The Bourne Ultimatum, and recently made his directorial debut with The Report.
National Anthem sounds unique, to say the least. We’ll likely have to wait a while to hear more about it, but it certainly sounds like Burns isn’t happy merely letting those Contagion royalties roll in.