Melissa Anastasi, Fiona Wright, Hilary Bell, and David Barker.

Playground Films has optioned Hilary Bell’s Sydney Theatre Company stage play Splinter and Fiona Wright’s novel Small Acts of Disappearance.

David Barker and Melissa Anastasi are currently adapting both works; Splinter into a feature film, and Small Acts of Disappearance into an eight-part TV dramedy.

Splinter centres around an abducted child, mysteriously returned to her parents nine months after her disappearance, unable, or unwilling, to speak. A modern-day gothic, it follows the unravelling of the parents’ relationship in the aftermath of their trauma.

Anastasi, whose short film Chlorine recently won an Australian Directors’ Guild Award will direct, with Barker to produce. The project is currently in script development in consultation with Bell.

“The first time I read Splinter I was immediately struck by the power of the text, which explores themes of obsession, grief, childhood and identity, with the underlying disquiet of a classic gothic mystery. It’s a wonderful opportunity to create an intimate and sophisticated southern gothic for the screen,” says Anastasi.

Wright’s Small Acts of Disappearance explores her battle with hunger addiction and an eating disorder, with the novel winning her the Nita B. Kibble Award and a Queensland Literary Award for nonfiction. It was also shortlisted for the Stella Prize and NSW Premier’s Douglas Stewart Award.

“Following discussions with Fiona over the past six months, we’re in agreement with how we will treat and depict the material, with respect to her illness and the sensitivities of the people portrayed in the book,” Barker tells IF.

“In this, Fiona has been incredible. She understands the role of dramatic arcs and character journeys in a series dramatisation of her life experiences. From this work, we have produced a series outline and our intention is to bring in further writers as development progresses.”

Playground Films’ most recent work was Barker’s directorial feature debut Pimped, which was released in select cinemas via Bonsai Films.

The psychological thriller, which Barker wrote with Lou Mentor and produced with Annie Kinnane, premiered London’s Frightfest and won Best Australian Feature at the 2019 Monster Fest. DOP Josh Favell was also presented the National ACS Golden Tripod for features under $2 million. It has sold to Virgin Australia, Foxtel and will make its FTA premiere on Seven in December.

Barker says: “Pimped was baptism by fire. And Playground is looking forward to
continuing to challenge the status quo, crafting high quality films and TV for
the local and International market, and we’re honoured that both Hilary and
Fiona have entrusted us with their stories.”

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