Shannon Molloy (R) and his husband Rob Battisti.
Kurt Royan and Dan Lake’s Orange Entertainment Co. has bought the screen rights to Shannon Molloy’s autobiographical book Fourteen, which chronicles one year of his life as a gay teenager in regional Queensland.
It’s the first acquisition for the production company which launched last year as an offshoot of The Post Lounge post-production house.
Published in March by Simon & Schuster Australia, Fourteen: My Year of Darkness, and the Light that Followed is described as a harrowing but ultimately hopeful account of his search for identity and acceptance, aged 14, while attending an all-boys Catholic school.
“It was a year in which I started to discover who I was, and deeply hated what was revealed,” Molloy says. “It was a year in which I had my first crush and first devastating heartbreak.
“It was a year of torment, bullying and betrayal – not just at the hands of my peers, but by adults who were meant to protect me. And it was a year that almost ended tragically.”
Lake, Orange Entertainment’s head of content, who introduced the book to CEO Royan, says queer content has undergone a cultural renaissance and LGBTIQ+ stories are no longer considered niche content.
The format of the screen adaptation is yet to be determined. “Our plan is to hold a room with a group of queer talent and Shannon to interrogate the story and expand some of the characters and their arcs,” Lake tells IF.
“During that process we’ll also work through how we believe the book will best translate to screen. The format will be informed by market and the strongest path to our target audiences while best honouring the heart of Shannon’s memoir.”
Royan said: “Shannon’s story is 100 per cent representative of our company and the productions we want to be making. Our key focus is to find new stories and amplify underrepresented voices, to bring strong narratives to the screen.”
Lake first approached Molloy, a journalist who has worked for major media outlets covering business, entertainment, celebrity and human interest for more than a decade, a month after the book launched.
“There was some other interest but it was clear immediately that Kurt and Dan understood what I wanted to do with the story,” Shannon said.
“That’s to give a raw and honest account of what young people have gone through and continue to go through in Australia but to bring hope, to show what love and kindness can do to people going through a tough time.”
Molloy and the producers are looking forward to casting his teenage self, his mother Donna and the other pivotal characters in the story.
“I’m at the age where I don’t know any cool, popular people under the age of 40. Are there any cool teenage Hemsworths?” he quipped.
Lake added: “What excites me about Fourteen is we’re developing not just a queer project. The world inhabited by 14-year-olds is so intoxicating and tangible and it’s one everyone can relate to, regardless of where they went to school or where they grew up.
“So many people who don’t identify as queer have connected with Shannon’s story because of the universal themes of fitting in and just trying to make it out of ‘teenage-hood’ alive.”
Orange Entertainment Co. officially launched last November with the remit to develop and produce feature films and episodic and online content, both narrative and factual, with a particular focus on stories from creators who don’t all look, talk and think the same.
The firm co-produced the ABC’s lockdown comedy Retrograde with Unless Pictures and the upcoming Network 10 docuseries A Dingo’s Got My Baby: The Lindy Chamberlain Story with Easy Tiger and Empress Road.
The company is also developing Snapchat series Apollo with Unless Pictures, created by Anna Barnes and Meg O’Connell.
It was a recent recipient of Screen Queensland’s Enterprise grant, which it will use to grow the company in Brisbane as well as form an advisory board to guide its momentum, aptly titled ‘The Orchard.’