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'The Breaks' Movie Coming to VH1, Inspired by Journalist Dan Charnas' Best-Selling Book 'The Big Payback'

Continuing its success in the scripted arena, VH1 announces The Breaks (Working Title) as its next original movie project. Inspired by journalist Dan Charnas’ book “The Big Payback,” a narrative history of the hip-hop business, The Breaks (WT) will make its television debut written, directed and executive produced by Seith Mann (The Wire, The Walking Dead, Homeland). VH1 plans to start principal photography in Spring 2015 with a premiere date set for Fall 2015. The Breaks (WT) has the potential to become a series after its movie premiere.

The Breaks (WT) will chronicle the journey of Nikki, David and Deevee, three friends united by their love of hip-hop, as they work to make their big mark in the music industry. The film will travel viewers back to the summer of 1990 in New York City where the music industry’s artists and hustlers intersect in the dance clubs and the street corners of the still crime-ridden city. Nikki Jones is a brilliant recent grad who abandoned a scholarship to law school to pursue her dream of becoming a record exec. Her boyfriend, David Aaron, is the scrappy son of a legendary music producer who is unwilling to rest on his father’s laurels and notorious reputation. DeeVee is an aspiring producer on the hunt to find the next big rapper on the come-up.

Nikki fast talks her way into an internship at the premier hip-hop company, Fouray Entertainment and catches the eye of the label's infamous founder, while David struggles at the city's top R&B radio station whose celebrity DJ refuses to program real hip-hop. Meanwhile, DeeVee returns to his roots in the Fort Greene projects to scout for talent and runs into Ahm, a drug dealer with a lyrical gift whose talent could bring them all to the next level. But they will soon discover lives can be broken as fast as legends can be born.

The Breaks has the hallmark of a successful VH1 film: a strong, authentic storyline that celebrates a musical moment," said Susan Levison, Executive Vice President, Original Programming and Production, VH1. “The story covers a seminal time when some thought Hip-Hop was a passing fad – The Breaks will show how it became an enduring force. We can’t wait to share it with our viewers.”

The Breaks (WT) is the third movie in VH1’s successful push into scripted programming, following the 2013 record-breaking premiere of “CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story” and success of last year’s “Drumline: A New Beat,” which drew in 2.4 million total viewers and averaged a 1.4 in the key Adult 18-49 demo during its premiere.

Dan Charnas documented the rise of hip-hop as a young writer for the first rap magazine, The Source; and served behind the scenes for many years as a record executive during the genre’s ascent into the mainstream. Those experiences would in later years inform his work as the author of the renowned book The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop (New American Library/Penguin), the epic, 40-year narrative of the executives, entrepreneurs, hustlers and handlers who turned rap music into the world’s predominant pop culture. Culled from over 300 interviews with top industry figures and artists, and nearly a decade of research, The Big Payback has been called “the most comprehensive journalistic account of hip-hop ever written” (The Boston Phoenix). Labeled “Pulitzer-worthy” by Spin and “epic” by The Village Voice, the 660-page book received four stars from Rolling Stone, a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and accolades from publications like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly and The Atlantic.

Seith Mann has directed over thirty episodes of television including THE WIRE, BROTHERHOOD, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, CALIFORNICATION, THE WALKING DEAD, HELL ON WHEELS, ELEMENTARY and HOMELAND. Seith is a graduate of Morehouse College and the Grad Film Program at New York University. He is an award winning screenwriter and an alumnus of the prestigious ABC/DGA Directing Training Fellowship Program. His thesis film, five deep breaths, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, screened in competition at Cannes and won top honors at New York University’s First Run Film Festival, IFP/New York and the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2003. He has been nominated for a DGA Award, five NAACP Image Awards and won a NAACP Image Award for Directing for FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. Mann is represented by CAA, Circle of Confusion and Del, Shaw, Moonves, Tanaka.

Seith Mann is the writer, director and executive producer for The Breaks (WT). Dan Charnas will also serve as executive producer and co-wrote the story for the script. VH1 executive producers are Susan Levison, Bill Flanagan and Maggie Malina.


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