Futuristic series will depict mass exodus from U.S.

Mon Sep 29, 2008 1:34am EDT
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By Nellie Andreeva

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - What if the current financial crisis in the U.S. becomes so severe that Americans start to flee the country? Welcome to "Americatown," a Chinatown-like enclave of U.S. immigrants in cities around the world.

HBO is developing the futuristic drama series, which hails from writer Bradford Winters and producers Tom Fontana, Barry Levinson, Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy.

Set 25 to 40 years in the future, when the precipitous decline of the U.S. leads to a mass exodus of its citizens, "Americatown" centers on a cluster of newly arrived American immigrants in a big foreign city.

"By presenting Americans as immigrants in the near future, as both underdog and hero in the drama of global dislocation, we substitute a mirror for the rancor that informs much of the partisan debates on immigration," Winters said.

The deal at HBO caps a decade-long development process for Winters, who at different points shepherded the project as a series, movie, miniseries and a book. His original idea, which he shared with Fontana, was to take a "Traffic"-style look at immigration in present-day New York from different points of view. About a year ago, Winters came up with the futuristic idea that would become "Americatown."

In his research for "Americatown," Winters had explored possible nightmare scenarios that could bring the U.S. to a collapse decades down the road. Among these hypotheticals: the price of oil skyrocketing and natural disasters reaching catastrophic proportions. Then suddenly oil hovered near $150 a barrel this summer, floods hit the Midwest and the South, and Wall Street crashed under the weight of the mortgage crisis.

How does Winters feel seeing a number of the dire circumstances in his fictional tale become reality?

"What is happening right now is such a terrible disaster for so many people and, in some ways, I think it makes it less hard to argue that the events in 'Americatown' are impossible," he said.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter