EXCLUSIVE: Walden Media has preemptively acquired screen rights to ESPN producer Lisa Fenn’s inspirational memoir Carry On, along with the life rights of Dartanyon Crockett and Leroy Sutton and their unbelievable bond as high school wrestlers. Nate Parker will write the script, in his first big job since he unveiled at Sundance his slave revolt tale The Birth of A Nation, and saw the film he wrote, directed, produced and starred in sell in a precedent setting $17.5 million deal before it won the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize. The book will be released by HarperCollins in August, and APEX Entertainment’s Mark Ciardi and Identity Films’ Anthony Mastromauro will produce, with APEX’s Campbell McInnes exec producing and overseeing. Walden Media will produce, as well as develop and finance the picture.

carry on book Fenn is an Emmy-winning features producer for ESPN, who in 2009 returned to her Cleveland hometown to chase a story on two disabled wrestlers who attended an impoverished public high school there. Dartanyon Crockett, who despite being legally blind was the team’s best wrestler, would each and every day physically carry to practice and meets Leroy Sutton, a 170-plus-pound bundle of muscle who lost both his legs in a train accident when he was 11. Fenn formed a bond with the two young men that became so profound that she dedicated the next six years of her life to ensuring their success and well being. Sutton graduated from college, and Crockett won the Bronze Medal in the 2012 ParaOlympic Games. The report was one of the most watched segments on ESPN.com.

Check out ESPN’s update of the original story here:

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lisa fenn“Lisa Fenn, Dartanyon Crockett and Leroy Sutton are true inspirations and we are excited to have brought on the talented Nate Parker to write their moving story of family, faith and the power of the human spirit and share it with the world,” said Walden Media CEO Frank Smith. “Nate is an emerging force, and as part of the changing face of Walden Media, we will continue to seek out new voices and talents in the family space.” Walden is ramping up new projects and is producing the upcoming Steven Spielberg-directed Roald Dahl adaptation The BFG for July 1 release and the Lasse Hallstrom-directed A Dog’s Purpose coming January 27, 2017 through DreamWorks.

Ciardi has produced sports-themed inspirational films that include McFarland USA and Million Dollar Arm, and Mastromauro’s credits include Louder Than Words and As Cool As I Am. Walden Media development and production veep Naia Cucukov, who with Smith is ramping up development of original projects in the new Walden media, will oversee for the company.

Parker is repped by CAA, Anonymous Content, and attorney David Matlof. Fenn is repped by CAA, manager Chris George and Writers House.