EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has optioned Red Queen, a novel by 22-yearold author Victoria Aveyard. Benderspink and Pouya Shazbazian are producing, and Christopher Cosmos producing in some capacity. The first in a trilogy, Red Queen is set in a fantasy world where society is divided by the color of blood. It features a 17 year old girl who, to save her family, must assume the role of a long-lost princess while secretly aiding a revolution; her actions put into motion a deadly and violent dance, pitting prince against prince and her against her own heart. It is pitched as Divergent meets Game Of Thrones.

Aveyard graduated from USC’s undergraduate screenwriting program last year and had a general meeting with Benderspink at the USC pitchfest. They suggested she writer her idea as a book. Benderspink has worked closely with New York-based New Leaf Literary & Media and its head of film and TV, Pouya Shahbazian, over the past few years. When Aveyard completed her first manuscript, Benderspink gave a first look to Shahbazian and the team at New Leaf, who signed her and ended up obtaining her a major pre-empt at HarperCollins. Suzie Townsend of New Leaf brokered the deal with Harper, which was mid-six figures. Aveyard is repped for publishing by Townsend & New Leaf, co-managed by Shahbazian and Benderspink for film and TV, and additionally repped by attorney Steve Younger of Myman Greenspan.