Show of the Week: The Shannara Chronicles

“This is brand-defining,” says Sonar Entertainment’s senior VP, television Jenna Glazier. The exec, who followed former BermanBraun colleague Gene Stein to Sonar last year, is referencing the firm’s upcoming epic The Shannara Chronicles, which is set for MTV in January of next year.

The serialised series marks new ground for both youth-skewed MTV, best known in recent years for Jersey Shore, and Sonar, which has repositioned as a high-end mini-studio in recent years having previously been known for telemovies while working under the RHI Entertainment brand.

Shannara runs to ten episodes, based on stories from American author Terry Brooks’ books, which first published in 1977.

It stars Ivana Baquero, Austin Butler and Poppy Drayton as three young elves fighting to stop demons taking over after an enchanted tree starts dying. Glazier says each episode delivers fantasy, action, romance and “interesting characters”.

The show shot in New Zealand, and Sonar has made the most of the sprawling green vistas if offers to create a tone familiar to fans of big, fantasy franchises of the past decade.

“No-one does fantasy better than New Zealand,” says Glazier. “It is a cottage industry here. We’re capitalising on a group of producers who’ve worked on The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings and, further back, Zena Warrior Princess.”

Shannara will be, Glazier adds, “about the quality and the epic scale, and the level of visual effects. It is a combination of sets that are movie size and scope, big talent and production credentials that are impeccable”.

Smallville creators Al Gough and Miles Millar are writing and executive producing the series, an important point for fans of the series, says Glazier. “These are producers that have experience in adapting a property beloved to fan boys,” she says.

Also attached is actor Jon Favreau, who was presented the project soon after Sonar acquired the rights in 2012. He is among the exec-producers, and has been “vital in getting the show off the ground”, says Glazier, who is now overseeing Sonar along with interim CEO Tom Lesinski after the exit of Stein on Friday.

South African director Jonathan Liebesman (Battle Los Angeles) is also directing the first two episodes, which are packaged together.

Shannara is “brand-defining for MTV”, says Glazier, “But also brand-defining for us. It shows buyers in the market the quality we can deliver and the level of talent we can attract.”

Sonar is undertaking a full-sensory onslaught in Cannes, where Shannara debuts internationally (though some screenings have already been held and some undisclosed deals already done). The company will brand its entire booth in the Riviera Hall with the show’s artwork, while an cinema screen auditorium has been hired so acquisitions executives can experience the show first hand.

The show: The Shannara Chronicles
The producers: Sonar Entertainment, MTV
The distributor: Sonar Entertainment
The channel: MTV (US)
The concept: Young elves fight off the forces of evil in fantasy epic novel adaptation