An Independent Film Maker Takes a Stab at the TV Game

Associated Press

John Sayles, the staunchly independent film maker, would not seem the most likely person to jump into the network series grind.

“It’s part of my program,” he said. “I’ve told myself I’d do anything once.”

“Shannon’s Deal” isn’t on NBC’s fall schedule, but the two-hour pilot airs Sunday. Besides Sayles, it boasts such behind-the-camera talent as “Jewel of the Nile” director Lewis Teague, who also directed Sayles’ early feature effort, “Alligator,” a cult-favorite horror film; “Fame” producer Stan Rogow, and composer Wynton Marsalis, who wrote the score.

Sayles, who has avoided big movie studios throughout a film career that includes “The Return of the Secaucus Seven,” “Brother From Another Planet” and most recently “Eight Men Out,” got involved with the NBC project after Rogow asked if he would be interested in writing a TV movie that could become a series.


“I said I would if it was something I would be interested in and maybe write one or two episodes and tell whoever was taking it over, so long. Kind of establish the character and see if they could run with it,” Sayles said.

Sayles was no stranger to television, having written the TV movies “Perfect Match” and “Unnatural Causes.” “I actually had a pretty good experience on both of them,” he said.

He came up with several series premises, and NBC Entertainment President Brandon Tartikoff picked “Shannon’s Deal.”

In “Shannon’s Deal,” set in Philadelphia, Jamey Sheridan plays Jack Shannon, a former corporate lawyer whose gambling addiction cost him his family and career. As the movie opens, he’s trying to start over as a general-practice, anything-that-comes-in-the-door attorney.


Sayles made him a former poker sharp so he could use the skills of bluffing and holding in his dealings with prosecutors, other attorneys and witnesses. He also liked the idea of having him confronted daily with the life he gave up.