way down darkEXCLUSIVE: Studio 8 has just optioned the sci-fi novel Way Down Dark, which has already been released in the UK and is getting ready to go to publishers in the U.S. Way Down Dark, from author James Smythe, is the first book in a planned trilogy about people stuck on a spaceship called Australia who are looking for an inhabitable planet. The large ship is a maze of gangs, violence and a struggle to survive.

The YA story is told from the viewpoint of a 17-year-old average girl named Chan who tries to find a way to escape this dark world and save people. It is said to be in the vein of Alien or The Hunger Games, introducing another strong female protagonist, but perhaps an older female.

The sequel to the novel, which is being published by Hodder & Stoughton, will be released in the UK in April 2016. The U.S. rights are being handled by Jason Bartholomew at H&S.

The studio, financed by Chinese company Fosun Group, just about two weeks ago wrapped production on its first film: Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. Studio 8 also has a deal with Sony Pictures which will help feed the studio’s slate.

The book was brought into Studio 8 by Chris Goldberg and then championed by Rishi Rajani.  Goldberg is overseeing the project for Studio 8.

Other projects known to be in development from Studio 8 include the high-concept thriller The Brain Hack from writer-director Joe White, White Boy Rick, a spec script inspired by the story of a local and federal law enforcement informant Richard Wershe, Jr. and an untitled Robert Eggers epic medieval fantasy, a film adaptation of The Last Duel: A True Story Of Crime, Scandal, And Trial By Combat In Medieval France, by Eric Jager as well as an untitled crime thriller.

Smythe is a prolific novelist and winner of several awards, including the Wales Fiction Book of the Year 2013 and he was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2014. Two of his other books have also been optioned: The Explorer with Filmwave (producer Paul Trijbits) and No Harm Shall Come To A Good Man with Slim Film TV.

Smythe is represented by Jonathan Kinnersley and Katie Haines at The Agency (London) Ltd. in conjunction with Rogers Coleridge & White.