EXCLUSIVE: Ryan Wash, an openly gay black debater from Kansas who won the 2013 Cross Examination Association and National Debate Tournament championships, will be the subject of a feature film that has been set up with powerhouse backers. Daniel Barnz has been set to direct and co-write the script with Wash and Ned Zeman, in a co-production between Plan B, Annapurna, MACRO and We’re Not Brothers, which Barnz runs with Ben Barnz. Annapurna will distribute the coming of age tale and co-finance with MACRO. Wash will be an executive producer. Barnz most recently directed Cake and Won’t Back Down.
The story plays out almost like a re-telling of The Wizard of Oz. Only here, Dorothy is a gay black male debater from inner-city Kansas who emerges from personal turmoil that includes the death of his mother, to set out on a life-long search to re-find home in the electrifying world of competitive debating. It is a world that simultaneously inspires and betrays him, until he embraces his own identity and revolutionizes the debate establishment. The ambition is an inspirational coming-of-age RuPaul-inflected debate-opera protest film with a sports-movie drive. Wash continues to impact the competitive arena, recently coaching the 2017 CEDA and NDT champions. The Barnzes and Zeman teamed with Plan B’s Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Sarah Esberg to garner Wash’s rights, and they recently pitched it around town. Annapurna (where Plan B set its first look deal) and Charles D. King’s MACRO won it.
Plan B is teamed with Annapurna on the Adam McKay-directed biopic Cheney that has Christian Bale playing the polarizing former U.S. Vice President, and an adaptation of James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk, which Oscar-winning Moonlight helmer Barry Jenkins is directing. MACRO, set up to tell engaging stories for African American and multicultural audiences, is coming off the Denzel Washington-directed Fences, with the Dee Rees-directed Mudbound releasing this fall after the Toronto film Festival. Wash is represented by Paradigm on behalf of the Gernert Agency. Barnz is repped by WME and attorney James Feldman. Zeman is WME.