Rectify was one of the most interesting and darkest dramas to launch at this year’s MIPCOM, helped by the appearance of creator Ray McKinnon.
The series is US cable network Sundance Channel’s first wholly owned scripted production; it is produced by the team behind critically acclaimed meth drama Breaking Bad and distributed by ITV Studios Global Entertainment, the international arm of the British commercial broadcaster.
Rectify follows Daniel Holden upon his release from prison after serving nineteen years on Death Row in Georgia. Holden was convicted on of the brutal rape and murder of a sixteen year old girl but DNA evidence casts doubt on the prosecution’s case and he is released. However, there is still doubt surrounding his innocence as he returns to his family and the town where the murder occurred.
The series follows Daniel Holden’s first week after this release.
“Man, what must that first day be like after 20 years being entombed? I thought it would be so trippy for a person, so beautiful and strange,” McKinnon told TBI. “As a person who uses his imagination, I wanted to find out what happens to that guy.”
McKinnon is a fascinating character himself; an actor who has appeared in numerous independent feature films and Hollywood blockbusters including Sandra Bullock-fronted The Blind Side, he has also written a number of projects including The Accountant, which won him an Academy Award for best Live Action Short Film in 2001. McKinnon has the colour of a creative mind; he is reminiscent of Jeff Bridges’ The Dude in The Big Lebowski sitting at a typewriter.
The original seed for Rectify came after McKinnon was inspired by a case in Illinois where a number of prisoners were released on the back of DNA evidence and the governor of the State commuted all death sentences until it could get it right.
“Do we accept there’s collateral damage or stop doing it?,” he asks. “There’s not much worse than killing an innocent man.”
After being inspired by the increasing quality of cable dramas, McKinnon started writing the idea of a young man, an intellectual but odd man, granted his freedom, but still dealing with the ramifications. The audience is, at least initially, unaware of whether Holden is guilty or innocent.
“I was watching The Sopranos and thought this is storytelling that is elevated. For someone who’s been in indie films forever and who has seen that business fall off it got me thinking about storytelling as serialized [television],” he says. “This was something that couldn’t be resolved in 1 hour and 45 minutes. I decided to see if I could write it under the cover of darkness. I felt like I was onto something.”
Then, one day, McKinnon received a phone call from producer Mark Johnson, who he’d worked with in the past and whose stock was hot following the success of Breaking Bad, which he produced through his Gran Via Productions firm. “This guy Mark Johnson calls me out of the blue.”
Johnson says: “We’d worked on films together before and Ray is clearly a thinker. I’m not even sure what possessed me to call.”
McKinnon adds: “I heard his eyes glaze over when I told him about [Rectify].”
Johnson came on board after reading the script.
McKinnon shares a number of similarities with Johnson’s other scribe, Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan; both are incredibly polite and passionate but seemingly creatively tortured. “Most us when we get to this position, can’t believe that we’re here. I’m just a small town guy, how did I get into this club?,” he says.
Johnson then approached AMC Networks, owner of channels including AMC and the Sundance Channel. “We had such success with Breaking Bad and no one tried to turn it into something that it wasn’t so meant that AMC/Sundance was the perfect place to take it. AMC had too much on its plate and its sister company Sundance said that they’d take it,” Johnson says.
The broadcaster will air the six part series in early 2013 and McKinnon has left the door open for more. “It’s a six part story with a possibility of more than than that. It’s open. It follows the first seven days of his freedom,” he adds.
ITV Studios Global Entertainment started shopping the series to international broadcasters earlier this month in Cannes and was pleased with its reception. “Given the ever-increasing international demand for first class drama, Rectify is sure to appeal to broadcasters across the world. The series makes a fantastic addition to our portfolio,” adds managing director Maria Kyriacou.
The show: Rectify
The producer: Gran Via Productions, Sundance Channel Productions
The distributor: ITV Studios Global Entertainment
Concept: Six part miniseries from the producers of Breaking Bad
Airing: Sundance Channel (US)