EXCLUSIVE: CBS Films and Sony Pictures are teaming to acquire It Takes A Village, a comedy pitch that Keenen Ivory Wayans will write and direct about a 30-something white single career-obsessed woman who decides on a whim to adopt a child from a South Pacific island. But she comes home with the tribe’s chief and seven elders until she proves she’s mommy material.
Todd Garner will produce with Wayans and Rick Alvarez. It took two studios to make the deal for It Takes A Village. The pact that UTA brokered for Wayans is mid 6-figures upfront, but contains aggressive progress to production stipulations: after Wayans turns in the script, the studios either make it or the reps take it elsewhere. Wayans, who last directed the 2006 comedy Little Man, hopes to make this his next film. CBS Films chief Amy Baer, who spent most of her career at Columbia, put the pact together with Sony’s Columbia co-president of production Doug Belgrad, who worked closely with Wayans on White Chicks.
The family theme makes the film a departure for Wayans. From his raucous sketch show creation In Living Color to his subsequent feature comedies, family-friendly meant lining the cast with his siblings. Here, Wayans sparked to an idea by Garner (The Zookeeper), who recently became a father and was struck by the litany of mandatory child-rearing accessories–from car seats to baby-wipe-warmers–and fantasized about a stripped-down version of parenting. That led to what Wayans saw as a timely pitch, given the proliferation of single women who’ve recently adopted babies from third-world countries.
“A woman who works for a company that mines natural resources like diamonds and copper heads to a South Pacific island to meet with the tribe in control and when she gets there, she comes across a child with no parents, who won’t leave her side,” Wayans told me. “When she asks who will be the baby’s mother, she’s told the village will take care of the baby until it chooses one. When the baby climbs into her lap and puts its head on her chest, she has an epiphany moment and decides she wants to be its mother.”
Adoption requires the blessing of the chief who, with seven elders, takes up residence in the woman’s snooty gated community — where they become most popular guests among their insular neighbors. Wayans said the concept caught him at the right time, and not just because the project he planned to make — White Chicks 2 — fell apart at Columbia.
“I’ve got five kids, been married, divorced, traveled, and if I’d tried this 10 years ago, I wouldn’t have the same perspective,” said Wayans, who has become a more devoted father than when he was chasing career success. “I’ve got a better view of what’s important, how you can get caught up in career and lost sight of what’s important. The dance of this movie is, you think these people are simple, but there’s wisdom in their simplicity and the way they deconstruct things to their simplest form. The child they’ve come to raise isn’t the baby, but rather the woman, as she prepares for the journey of being a parent.”