Amazon has hired producers JD Payne and Patrick McKay to helm their Lord of the Rings prequel TV series.
Payne and McKay wrote the first draft of Star Trek Beyond (which was later replaced by the shooting script written by Roberto Orci and Simon Pegg) and have also written several unproduced screenplays, including one based on the Micronauts franchise and others under the titles Boilerplate (based on a graphic novel) and Goliath. They are part of the writer's room for the upcoming Godzilla vs. Kong.
And that's it. Amazon has hired two guys who've never actually gotten anything in front of a camera before to helm their biggest and highest-profile TV project to date (and already the most expensive TV show in history).
This is interesting but bizarre news. It seems to me that half of Hollywood (not to mention the rest of the world's film and TV industry) should be queuing up to get involved in this project, and the fact they aren't is concerning. There have been multiple reports from Hollywood sources that the project is seen as a bit of a white elephant which could do damage to careers unless very carefully handled, and this seems to be keeping more experienced staff at bay.
Of course, Payne and McKay may deliver an excellent, great TV show when it airs in 2021, but the fact that Amazon had to go with people who've never actually gotten something on screen before is odd. In contrast, Game of Thrones' David Benioff had several novels and multiple screenplays produced before he landed that job, and Peter Jackson had multiple feature films produced in a career spanning more than a decade before landing The Lord of the Rings, and both of them raised eyebrows for the scale of those projects due to a perceived lack of experience. Peter Jackson will at least be tangentially involved in this new project in an advisory capacity.
It'll be interesting to see how this unfolds going forward. With Amazon on a tight time limit to get the show in production before the end of 2019, news on casting, shooting locations and more should emerge in the next few months.