Amazon is taking a huge risk with JD Payne and Patrick McKay being named as the official Lord of the Rings series show-runners. The duo will serve as the series’ executive producers and show-runners. Prior to the news, Payne and McKay’s IMDB pages were relatively empty, save for their unaccredited writing job on “Star Trek Beyond.” But Star Trek” producer J.J. Abrams was reportedly one of a number of high-profile producers who recommended Payne and McKay for the position.
This move may also just be the best thing that happened to the show.
Make no mistake Payne and McKay aren’t complete noobs. They’re only unknown to the public. They have also written the screenplay for “Untitled Star Trek Sequel,” as well as an earlier draft of the “Flash Gordon” feature film, and the upcoming “Jungle Cruise” film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. They have written plenty of unproduced screenplays and have been writing together since their high school debate club days in 1997. While fans may not know Payne and McKay yet, people in the industry do—and Amazon found their work strong enough to be put in charge of such a major property.
J.A. Bayona (“The Orphanage,” “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”) will serve as director for the series’ first two episodes. He’ll also be credited as an executive producer, alongside his producing partner Belén Atienza.
In addition to Payne, McKay, Bayona, and Atienza, here is the rest of the creative team behind Amazon’s “The Lord of the Rings”: executive producers Lindsey Weber (“10 Cloverfield Lane”), Bruce Richmond (“Game of Thrones”), Gene Kelly (“Boardwalk Empire”), and Amazon’s former head of genre programming Sharon Tal Yguado; writer and executive producer Gennifer Hutchison (“Breaking Bad”); writer and executive producer Jason Cahill (“The Sopranos”); writer and executive producer Justin Doble (“Stranger Things”); consulting producers Bryan Cogman (“Game of Thrones”) and Stephany Folsom (“Toy Story 4”); producer Ron Ames (“The Aviator”); writer and co-producer Helen Shang (“Hannibal”); and writing consultant Glenise Mullins.
According to Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke, the writers room is “working under lock and key: “They’re already generating really exciting material. They’re down in Santa Monica. You have to go through such clearance, and they have all their windows taped closed. And there’s a security guard that sits outside, and you have to have a fingerprint to get in there, because their whole board is up on a thing of the whole season.”
It is alo key to remember that Payne and McKay beat some pretty tough competition to get the job. They interviewed writers and creators to entertain different takes on the franchise. Payne and McKay won. “It’s such a vast world, there are so many different ways to go with that property,” Head of Amazon Studios Jennifer Salke (pictured) said. “We had an abundance of enthusiasm in the creator/writer community for the project. So there was a lot of time spent talking about different takes. The next phase is a big development process as they build out this world.”