If there’s anything more thrilling to a journalist than seeing her byline atop an important story, maybe it’s sitting in a movie theater with friends and colleagues as her name appears high up among the credits of a major Hollywood production. My colleague Megan Creydt got to enjoy that experience at early screenings of Love & Death, a critically acclaimed drama series now streaming on Max (known until recently as HBO Max). The show, starring Elizabeth Olsen and Jesse Plemons, is based on a pair of 1984 Texas Monthly stories and a Texas Monthly Press book about a churchgoing woman whose carefully planned affair ended with her killing her lover’s wife with an ax.
This production represents the first fruit of an initiative we launched four years ago to get more of our magazine’s tales featured in movies, streaming series, and documentaries. That effort fits with our mission to deliver the best storytelling about Texas on every platform. Leading our Hollywood endeavors are Megan, a veteran editor who serves as our executive producer for film, TV, and podcasts, and Texas Monthly president Scott Brown, my counterpart on the business side of the magazine. We now have some fifty stories in various stages of nurturing as Hollywood adaptations, and those projects are diligently coordinated by Maddy Bilder, our senior producer for film and TV development.
Megan and Scott are credited as executive producers of the Love & Death series, whose creation has drawn on the talents of several other accomplished Texans. Leading man Plemons was born in Dallas and grew up in tiny Mart, just east of Waco. His breakthrough came in the TV series Friday Night Lights, set in West Texas. Love & Death director and executive producer Lesli Linka Glatter also was born in Dallas. She is best known for her work on Mad Men and Homeland, has been nominated for an Oscar, and serves as president of the Directors Guild of America. Yet another Dallas native, Ann Blanchard, is our biggest champion at Creative Artists Agency, which represents Texas Monthly in Hollywood. And we’re blessed to have a powerful advocate in Sarah Aubrey, a former intern at the magazine who’s from Austin. She serves as head of original content for Max, and along with her colleague Francesca Orsi she oversees a partnership that gives her company the first look at any Texas Monthly story it might want to develop into a streaming series.
Another celebrated Texan, Fort Worth–raised Taylor Sheridan, creator of the blockbuster Yellowstone franchise, is scheduled to begin filming in late summer a new series called Land Man, based on a Texas Monthly article and our 2019 podcast Boomtown, both written by senior editor Christian Wallace. Like its source material, Land Man will explore the unprecedented wealth creation, as well as the social and environmental disruption, underway in the gritty oil fields of West Texas, where Christian grew up and once worked on a rig. At Sheridan’s request, Christian is serving as a writer and consultant on the series, which will star Oscar winner Billy Bob Thornton.
Megan recently returned from a busy slate of meetings in Hollywood and reports “a strong interest in Texas stories,” including among A-list producers and stars such as Jennifer Aniston and George Clooney. “What I hear so often is how unique Texas Monthly stories are in their vividness and narrative depth. I love that I get to spend my time exploring the possibilities to put them on-screen.” Also remarkable, Megan says, is how many stories from our fifty-year archive are eliciting interest. One example is Love & Death. Another is the sordid tale first reported in 2009 by Michael Hall that inspired the three-part docuseries How to Create a Sex Scandal, set to debut May 23 on Max. Hall uncovered how multiple East Texans were sentenced to life in prison for salacious crimes that were completely fabricated.
In the coming months, we’ll share news on adaptations of other stories. In the meantime, I hope you’ll check out Love & Death, as well as Texas Monthly contributor Sean O’Neal’s amusing account, which appeared in our May issue and on our website, of having his Austin home taken over as a set for the production. And please don’t miss the podcast from our brand studio that takes you inside the making of Love & Death.
This article originally appeared in the June 2023 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Our Woman in Hollywood.” Subscribe today.