C4, Hulu, IMG and Westward Productions partner on a journey to Mars

Channel 4 and HULU have given a straight-to-series order to The First, a drama set in the near future about the first human mission to Mars. The series is created and written by Oscar, Emmy, Golden Globe, and BAFTA Award-nominated Beau Willimon (House of Cards, Ides of March), who also serves as executive producer alongside his producing partner Jordan Tappis.

The First explores the challenges of taking the first steps toward interplanetary colonization. “It’s a story about the human spirit,” said Willimon. “About our indomitable need to reach for unknown horizons. About people working toward the greatest pioneering achievement in human history. And about the cost of that vision, the danger and sacrifice – emotional, psychological, and physical – that’s required to achieve it. How ordinary, imperfect people band together and overcome a myriad of obstacles to grasp the extraordinary.”

The show will have a diverse ensemble cast, focusing not only on the astronauts, but also on their families and loved ones, as well as the ground team on Earth. “The prize is Mars, but the story is about the humans trying to get there,” added Willimon.

Westward – an independent film and television studio founded by Willimon and Tappis – will own and produce The First. The series will be co-financed by Hulu, Channel 4 and IMG and will premiere on Channel 4 in the UK and Hulu in the US. IMG will handle sales in all territories. 

“We are thrilled with this team,” says Tappis. “Hulu and Channel 4 have demonstrated a commitment to bold, high-quality story telling. Their creative insight, wealth of experience and entrepreneurial spirit make them ideal partners for this series. IMG’s success in bringing premier content to the rest of world ensures this story will have a strong global audience.”

“The first interplanetary colonisation will be the greatest pioneering feat in history – the pinnacle of human achievement spearheaded by true visionaries – and will herald a new chapter in the evolution of our species.” says Simon Maxwell, Head of International Drama at Channel 4. “Beau Willimon is the perfect storyteller to bring this epic story to life. We are proud to be backing the bold, creative talent working on The First and to be partnering with Beau and Jordan at Westward, alongside Hulu and IMG, on this ambitious and thrilling project.”

The 8-part series will go into production later this year and is slated to premiere on Hulu and Channel 4 in 2018.

Executive producers are Beau Willimon and Jordan Tappis for Westward. The series was commissioned for Channel 4 by Simon Maxwell, Head of International Drama, and Beth Willis, Head of Drama. For Hulu the series was commissioned by Craig Erwich and Beatrice Springborn, Head of Originals.

Notes for Editors

Channel 4 is a publicly-owned, commercially-funded, not-for-profit public service broadcaster and has a remit to be innovative, experimental and distinctive. Its public ownership and not-for-profit status ensure all profit generated by its commercial activity is directly reinvested back into the delivery of its public service remit. As a publisher-broadcaster, Channel 4 is also required to commission UK content from the independent production sector and currently works with 300 creative companies across the UK every year. In addition to the main Channel 4 service, its portfolio includes: E4, More4, Film4, 4Music, 4seven, Channel4.com and digital service All 4.

Hulu is a leading premium streaming service that offers instant access to live and on demand channels, original series and films, and a premium library TV and movies to millions of subscribers in the U.S. Since its launch in 2008, Hulu has consistently been at the forefront of entertainment and technology. Hulu is the only streaming service that offers both ad-supported and commercial-free current season shows from the largest U.S. broadcast networks; libraries of hit TV series and films; and acclaimed original series including The Handmaid’s Tale, The Mindy Project, The Path, 11.22.63, the Golden Globe® nominated comedy series Casual, as well as the upcoming Future Man and The Looming Tower. In 2017, Hulu added live news, entertainment and sports from 21st Century Fox, The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal, CBS Corporation, Turner Networks, A&E Networks and Scripps Networks Interactive to its offering – making it the only TV service that brings together live, on-demand, originals, and library content all in one place, across living room and mobile devices.

Perry Seaman, Hulu PR

Westward Productions is an independent film and television studio and production company founded by Beau Willimon and Jordan Tappis. Westward’s mission is to make high-quality creator-owned, creator-produced content. The company currently has several films and TV series in development. Recent credits include “The Walk Around the World”, a one-hour special for National Geographic Channel about Karl Bushby, an ex-British Paratrooper who is more than halfway through a lifelong quest to walk around the globe; “A Master Builder”, the latest film collaboration between Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn, based on the Henrik Ibsen play and directed by Jonathan Demme; “Curt”, a documentary short about an autistic surfer who has become a legend among the California surfing community. Willimon, Tappis and Westward are represented by CAA.

Rachel Aberly

WME IMG is a global leader in entertainment, sports and fashion operating in more than 30 countries. Named one of Fortune’s 25 Most Important Private Companies, WME | IMG specializes in talent representation and management; brand strategy, activation and licensing; media production, sales and distribution; and event management. WME | IMG has led the market in global co-productions recently selling “The Night Manager” and “Dirk Gently” in over 190 territories; handling territorial sales for “Top of the Lake: China Girl, “The Young Pope,” and the upcoming Sky / Amazon series “Britannia;” and is the international sales partner for a slate of seven upcoming BBC dramas based on works from acclaimed author Agatha Christie. 

Marie Sheehy, IMG Corporate Communications

May 4, 2017 5:49am ET by Channel 4  

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