EXCLUSIVE: The VOICE Creative and Slew Pictures have acquired feature film development rights to Joan Bauer’s bestselling novel Hope Was Here, with the latter’s founder Bertha Bay-Sa Pan gearing up to adapt it for the big screen.
Hope Was Here tells the story of Hope, a 16-year-old waitress who is no stranger to hardships, heartaches, and betrayal. With her aunt Addie, comfort food chef extraordinaire, she’s moved too much, but always hones her waitressing skills, impressing hungry people everywhere. After losing their restaurant in Brooklyn, Hope and Addie leave the city they love to run a diner in rural Wisconsin, finding themselves in a town divided with real problems and corrupt politics.
Hope’s waitressing has taught her to read people and instinct tells her to trust GT Stoop, the owner of the Welcome Stairways Diner, who has just ended chemo treatment for cancer by announcing that he’s running for mayor. It’s a campaign between hope and fear as the teenagers in town have had enough and join the fight. Even without the right to vote at their young age, they have learned they have a voice and what they believe in matters. Hope meets dirty-tricks-politics and the pain of her past head-on in this story about honor, trust, and serving up your very best.
Since its publication in 2000, the novel has been translated in 11 countries including Taiwan, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain and Turkey, with the U.S. State Department striking a rare diplomatic partnership to co-sponsor the Russian-language edition in 2009. It is the recipient of the Newbery Honor, recognizing distinguished contributions to American literature for children, as well as a Christopher Award, and was named one of the best books for young adults by the American Library Association.
Pan will direct from a screenplay written by Bauer, with casting to begin this spring, ahead of a summer shoot. She will also produce the film alongside Derrick Tseng (Joe) and Jackol Kao (Green Door).
“I am thrilled to collaborate with this team of veteran creatives who share the vision of Hope Was Here — the journey of a 16-year-old who is no stranger to hardships and heartaches, yet through humor and heart (and hearty comfort food!), experience hope that arises amidst all the brokenness,” said Pan. “Young people everywhere should be encouraged to educate themselves by listening and learning despite differences and speaking up for what’s right. We hope this film will inspire them to do so.”
“‘When hope gets released in a place, anything is possible.’ That’s a quote from Hope Was Here. I’ve always believed it and it’s one of the reasons I love Hope Yancey, the 16-year-old protagonist of the story — this courageous girl who wears her name like a flag,” added Bauer. “It’s also why I’m so honored to be working with Bertha Pan and Derrick Tseng, to bring Hope Was Here to the screen. I loved their movie Face — the real hope in that story was present in the toughest, most heartbreaking moments.”
Hope Was Here marks Pan and Tseng’s fourth collaboration on the heels of the films Face, Fighting Fish and Almost Perfect. The first title, marking Pan’s feature directorial debut, was an intergenerational drama about a Chinese American teenager in New York City, which premiered in dramatic competition at the Sundance Film Festival 20 years ago, this week. Tseng co-produced the film written by Pan and Oscar nominee Oren Moverman (The Messenger).
Taiwanese-American writer, director and producer Pan is an Urbanworld Grand Jury winner and a Gotham Award nominee. She has also served as a director on Ava DuVernay’s series Queen Sugar, as well as music videos for SlimKid3, Chris Trapper and Princess Katie and Racer Steve.
Bauer is a New York Times bestselling author, screenwriter, songwriter, and speaker, who has won numerous awards for her fourteen novels for young readers—among them, the Newbery Honor Medal, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the American Library Association’s Schneider Family Book Award, three Christopher Awards, the Chicago Tribune Young Adult Literary Prize, and the Golden Kite Award of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Her most recent novel, Raising Lumie, was recently nominated for the Mark Twain Readers Award.
Tseng is an Independent Spirit Award nominee who has been working in independent film for over 25 years. His credits include Chasing Amy, The Business of Strangers, All the Real Girls, Lonesome Jim, Brian Banks, and, recently, the award-winning documentary Cunningham and The Evening Hour, the latter of which premiered in competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
Kao is the founder of The VOICE Creative and DaOne Games. He has been nominated for Taiwan’s Golden Bell Award, recognizing excellence in television, and recently produced the miniseries Green Door for Netflix, as well as the feature The Bride, which was a Best Narrative nominee at the Taipei Film Festival.
Pan is represented by Heroes & Villains and Abrams Garfinkel Margolis Bergson LLP; Bauer by Sterling Lord Literistic and Pryor Cashman LLP.
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