Jennifer Kent’s dance card is filling up after The Nightingale: Amazon Studios is angling to distribute her next film worldwide and the filmmaker is set to write and direct an episode of a horror anthology for Netflix and the pilot for a US sci-fi series.
Kent aims to start shooting Alice + Freda Forever, a feature based on the true story of two teenagers who fell in love in conservative 1890s Memphis, in mid-2020.
Producers Greg Berlanti, Sidney Kimmel, Sarah Schechter and John Penotti are finalising a deal for Amazon to finance and distribute the film, according to Deadline.
The writer-director has been attached to the project since Sidney Kimmel Entertainment bought the rights to Alexis Coe’s novel in 2015.
Coe drew on research from more than 100 love letters, maps, artifacts, historical documents, newspaper articles and courtroom proceedings to tell the story of Alice Mitchell and Freda Ward. When their love letters were discovered the community was scandalized and the young lovers were forbidden to contact each other again, with tragic consequences.
“I really felt for those girls and the pain of their experiences,” Kent tells IF. “Their story is heartbreaking in so many ways.”
She has begun the search for the two leads who are 15 and 17 at the start of the film, which spans two years. The location is likely to be in upstate New York as it would be impossible to recreate Memphis of that era.
Berlanti is a powerhouse producer whose credits include such LGBTQ-positive shows as Supergirl, Arrow, Riverdale and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Last year he directed gay coming-of-age tale Love, Simon.
Kent is among a host of directors who will work on the Netflix-commissioned anthology Guillermo del Toro Presents 10 After Midnight, curated by del Toro, who is writing and directing several episodes. On that project, which Netflix touts as a “collection of sinister stories, each more horrifying than the next,” del Toro is teaming up with his Shape of Water producer J. Miles Dale.
The pilot is Tiptree, the story of US author Alice Bradley Sheldon, who had a very successful career in the 1960s and 1970s writing sci-fi novels under the nom-de-plume James Tiptree Jr. Her identity was not revealed until 1977.
Imperative Entertainment, whose credits include Clint Eastwood’s The Mule, Nisha Ganatra’s Late Night and Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World, will produce the pilot with Automatic Entertainment. Kent says: “This is a story about gender and a visionary woman which is so relevant now.”
The filmmaker is gratified to see The Nightingale is having a sustained run in US cinemas, now in its sixth weekend, and thanks the distributor IFC Films and exhibitors for their support.