EXCLUSIVE: Kathleen Kaufman’s dark fantasy novel The Lairdbalor has been optioned by Echo Lake Entertainment with Aussie Nicholas Verso (Boys in the Trees) has been attached to direct. The novel from Turner Publishing follows the journey of a boy who desperately tries to escape a nightmare shadow world with strange creatures, fears, and his own personal—and very real—nightmare, the Lairdbalor. The book crosses over genres of folklore, horror, fantasy, and magical realism and examines the early origins of anxiety and fear for children growing up in a world in which they don’t conform. The producers are currently circling writers to adapt for the big screen.

Echo Lake’s Dave Brown is producing with John Powers Middleton and Alex Foster from The Middleton Media Group. Helena Vilaplana is the exec producer.

“We are passionate about bringing this haunting vision of psychological development to the screen” said Brown. “Kaufman’s prose transports readers to their darkest imaginations where nightmares feel real and fear becomes a sort of nourishment in the exploration of the psyche. The Lairdbalor offers powerful themes in a cinematic way, and this enables this exciting team to bring those themes to life.”

The book, which is said to have the emotional dept of Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, and The Neverending Story, marks Kaufman’s second novel, and The Lairdbalor’s film rights were optioned on the heels of Turner’s announcement that they will be publishing Kaufman’s third book, Hag, on Oct. 2, 2018. The third one is a novel that follows a line of Scottish witches based upon Kaufman’s on personal family history.

“Echo Lake and Turner have both been amazing partners along this journey,” said author Kaufman. “I am overjoyed with this development and cannot wait to see my little monster alive and breathing on screen. The Lairdbalor is more than a story about a child lost in nightmares, it is a story about anxiety, fear, and the
pressures put on children as they confront a dark and scary world around them. The Lairdbalor is a child’s fear, a child’s monster, an intangible shadow that hunts for no purpose other than to hunt. We all have a Lairdbalor of our own and we all have our own journey through nightmares that we must take to confront that monster. I believe that Echo Lake understands how to represent these themes and the importance of tackling them in today’s world.”

Turner Publishing Company is an award-winning independent publisher based in Nashville. Kaufman is a writing and composition adjunct professor at Santa Monica College.

Since its founding in 1998, Echo Lake Productions has produced and/or financed more than 30 films. The company’s films have earned numerous awards including eight Academy Award nominations and one Academy Award win. Echo Lake is interested in high end specialty films, especially those aimed at a mature audience.

The company has a non-exclusive deal with FilmNation International with regard to international distribution.
Echo Lake also manages the Blue Lake Media Fund, which invests in the company’s projects and looks to finance
films in the $10 and $30 million budget range. Echo Lake’s television division has set up scripted television
projects in the US and abroad.

The Middleton Media Group is the development, production and finance company from Powers Middleton and Foster founded in 2016 and has been ramping up a new slate of projects. Those include the cold war spy thriller A Most Dangerous Man with Studio 8; Seth Gordon’s inspirational drama Life in Rewind and the biopic on the visionary and computer pioneer Grace Hopperamong others.

Powers Middleton’s credits include Manchester by the Sea, The Disaster Artist, The LEGO Movie, The LEGO Batman Movie, The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Spike Lee’s Oldboy, Run All Night, 2015’s Poltergeist, and The Boy, Sleepless and A&E’s Bates Motel.

Verso’s short film work includes Hugo, Flight and 2014 AACTA Awards Best Short Film winner The Last Time I Saw Richard. His television work includes the Emmy award-winning Nowhere Boys, Grace Beside me and Snake Tales. Verso is currently in the 2017 Churchill Fellowship and attached to direct the high concept horror film The Ice Cream Man and will write and direct the psychological thriller Sleep to Dream.

Verso, who is repped by Echo Lake Entertainment, Paradigm, and Marios Rush at Marks Law Group, debuted Boys in the Trees at the 73d Venice International Film Festival, screened at Toronto, Busan, and Sitges, and won Best Narrative Feature at the Austin Film Festival.