EXCLUSIVE: As all eyes in Hollywood focus on sexual harassment and rooting out the thugs who practiced it for years, Good Universe just beat out three other bidders to land Disruptors, the timely pitch for a movie that focuses on Susan Fowler, the Uber engineer whose blog post about sexual harassment within the juggernaut Silicon Valley ride-hailing service exposed a toxic culture of sexism and sexual harassment that eventually led to the ouster of seemingly untouchable CEO Travis Kalanick.
Deadline revealed the pitch recently, and it includes her life rights and the screenwriting talents of Oscar-nominated Hidden Figures screenwriter Allison Schroeder. Former Disney exec Kristin Burr is producing what is being described as a potential Erin Brockovich meets The Social Network. VERVE, which reps Schroeder, Fowler and Burr, brokered the deal, the first for Good Universe since it was acquired by Lionsgate last month.
Fowler’s book on the subject also went out to publishers last week with multiple bidders; it is expected to be scooped up quickly. She just did her first exclusive interview with Maureen Dowd, which landed on the cover of this week’s New York Times Sunday Styles section.
Fowler’s story is subtler than the drama unfolding in real time about Harvey Weinstein, director James Toback and others, but there is connective tissue. It reflects the course correction that is taking place in corporate cultures, finally giving women redress from suffering the slights of men and being afraid to kill their careers by complaining.
Fowler detailed how, after joining Uber, she became part of a team. Her manager quickly sent her a string of messages about the open relationship he had with his girlfriend, and how he wasn’t having as much luck as she was in finding sexual partners. Fowler took this as a blatant attempt by her superior to get her to sleep with him. She took a screen shot of his come-on and reported him. Only to be told by HR that even though this was harassment, nothing would be done. The manager was highly regarded, it was his first offense; her choice was to forget about it, be reassigned or stay put, even though the manager, who knew he had been reported, might give her a poor performance review.
Reassigned, Fowler wrote she later found out that manager was openly propositioning female team members. She also discovered and wrote about a sexist corporate culture where women saw their performance evaluations retroactively downgraded when it suited male managers. The long-term result was that for her, even getting to work at an exciting company in a charming city like San Francisco wasn’t enough to keep her and other women from finding other jobs. Staying in that male-dominated culture was untenable.
Fowler’s blog post prompted an internal Uber investigation that saw over 20 employees fired, and finally cost Kalanick his CEO post.
Erin Westerman brought in the project for Good Universe and will oversee, and Dan Freedman negotiated on behalf of Good Universe. Said Westerman: “This project is an anthem for women, and an important reminder of the power of one female voice.”
Schroeder is also repped by Good Fear Film + Management and attorney Lev Ginsburg, and Burr by Jackoway Tyerman.