Screenwriter Shaun Grant has been working non-stop since the release of Snowtown, his first film, in 2011.
Grant divides his time between LA and Melbourne these days after wrapping up work on projects as diverse as Deadline Gallipoli, Jasper Jones and Berlin Syndrome at home in Australia.
Now working out of an office in West Hollywood, the scribe is working on several projects, including a long-gestating adaptation of Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang for producer Liz Watts and Snowtown director Justin Kurzel.
“It’s a beautifully written book,” says Grant. “He’s an iconic character in our country, so of course when Liz approached me I had some trepidation. But the things that scare me are usually the ones I’m drawn to. And Justin and I have been looking to work together since Snowtown.”
Like Animal Kingdom before it, Snowtown put a rocket under the careers of almost everybody involved, with Kurzel, Grant, star Daniel Henshall and DP Adam Arkapaw all finding work abroad after the film’s international premiere at Cannes.
“That was the great joy of Snowtown,” says Grant, who was a schoolteacher in rural Victoria when he wrote the screenplay. “We’re hopeful of getting a lot of that gang back together for True History.”
Though its box office was negligible in the States, the film was noticed by the industry, Grant says.
“Particularly by filmmakers, I think. I was only in a meeting yesterday on the Warners lot, and people were just gushing about the film and the impact that it had on them.”
Grant is also working on an original screenplay called A Man With No Enemies, a political thriller set in America and one of two projects the scribe is developing for See-Saw.
The collaboration with the Lion producers began because “Emile and Iain had an issue they wanted to tackle, and they asked how I’d tell it,” says Grant.
The film, whose development has been backed by Screen Australia, revolves around a public relations officer who joins a top meat production corporation only to discover it has a sinister side.
He’s also written a script for Francis Lawrence (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) and Studio 8, the production company launched by ex-Warners chief Jeff Robinov.
Based on Eric Jager’s 2005 book The Last Duel: A True Story of Crime, Scandal, and Trial by Combat in Medieval France, the script is “a historical epic that I’m very proud of,” says Grant.
“That’s a departure for me I guess. From small towns in suburban Adelaide to medieval Paris. Like Snowtown, it’s a non-fiction text that I’ve turned into a story. As opposed to Berlin and Jasper, which were novels.”
Grant got the gig after Lawrence was impressed by another of his scripts, a Fox crime drama now “in development hell”.
An old hand at TV in Australia, with credits on Killing Time, Janet King and SLiDe, Grant is also in discussions about television projects for the burgeoning American market.