Lean on Pete producer The Bureau is the latest high-profile film company to move into television. The UK/French outfit is building its debut TV slate and has optioned witch-trial novel The Familiars as one of its first projects.
The book, which was published by Bonnier Zaffre earlier this year, was written by Stacey Halls, a journalist who previously worked for The Sun. Her debut novel tells a fictionalized account of the Pendle witch trials, which took place in the 17th century in Lancashire.
The Bureau’s Tristan Goligher optioned the rights to the book from Emily Hayward-Whitlock at The Artist Partnership on behalf of Juliet Mushens at Caskie Mushens.
Goligher told Deadline, “We’re currently building a slate of TV projects of which The Familiars will be one. The focus is on high end, distinctive, and accessible material. A key part of that strategy is creating TV opportunities for film talent with whom we have strong relationships.”
He added that it is now meeting with writers to adapt The Familiars.
The Familiars has been a hit since its release and has featured on the Sunday Times bestseller list. The historical novel was also the subject of an auction between nine publishers in 2017.
It tells the story of Fleetwood Shuttleworth, a 17-year old pregnant noblewoman, who finds herself caught up in the witch trials when her midwife, Alice Gray, is accused of witchcraft.
Shuttleworth is pregnant for the fourth time. But as the mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no living child, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a letter she isn’t supposed to read from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing blow that she will not survive another pregnancy. Then she crosses paths by chance with Gray, a young midwife. Alice promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby, and to prove the physician wrong. As Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the north-west, Fleetwood risks everything by trying to help her. But is there more to Alice than meets the eye? Soon the two women’s lives will become inextricably bound together as the trial at Lancaster approaches, and Fleetwood’s stomach continues to grow. Time is running out, and both their lives are at stake.
The Bureau, which also produced Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years, is currently producing a feature adaptation of Max Porter’s Lanny with The Favourite star Rachel Weisz on board to star and produce in association with BBC Films.
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