EXCLUSIVE: Award-winning filmmaker Lydia Dean Pilcher (Radium Girls, A Call to Spy) has signed with Echo Lake Entertainment for management—also announcing today that she has acquired the rights to Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism, a bestselling memoir from Dawn Prince-Hughes that she plans to adapt into a feature, as both director and producer.
In the true story, published by Random House in 2004, Dawn Prince is on the brink of survival as a homeless gay teenager from the wilderness of Montana, searching for connection on the streets of 1980s Seattle. When she escapes to the zoo for the oxygen of nature, she unexpectedly makes a primal connection with the Silverback gorilla, Congo.
Dawn gets a job at the zoo and begins a journey of self-discovery as she learns from Congo how to love, how to see herself in the gorillas, and ultimately in other human people. This connection begins a lifelong quest as a deep creative thinker, a discovery at age 36 of being on a spectrum of autism, and an academic path to become a PhD in primatology and now an author of seven books.
Pilcher adapted the screenplay for her third feature and will produce with Emmy-nominated and Peabody Award-winning producer Audrey Rosenberg (Katrina Babies, I Am Not Your Negro).
“When I read Dawn’s memoir, I entered my own mind through her exquisite visual language,” said Pilcher. “As I began to understand that every brain is like a fingerprint, it sparked a consciousness of my own differences in ways of seeing and thinking, and how far we have to go to understand and respect this difference in each other.”
“I love Lydia’s vision and I’m proud to call her a friend after more than a year of exploration together in creating the screenplay,” added Prince-Hughes. “The biggest thrill is her commitment to the gorillas and the environment…I pray that together we help both.”
Pilcher is an Academy Award-nominated producer of more than 40 features from such notable directors as Gina Prince-Bythewood, Barry Levinson, Wes Anderson, Ritesh Batra, George C. Wolfe and Mira Nair, who has also been recognized over the course of her career with two News & Documentary Emmy Awards, among other accolades. She’s produced such titles as The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Queen of Katwe and The Darjeeling Limited, and in 2018 made a move into directing with two true stories about heroic women: IFC Films’ A Call to Spy, in which three female international spies work for Churchill’s Special Operations Executive in the French Resistance of WWII; and Netflix’s Radium Girls, co-written and directed with Ginny Mohler, about the 1928 radium factory watch dial painters who stood up to corporate powers when they suffered radium poisoning.
Pilcher is currently in the DGA Episodic TV Directors Program and has also been heavily active over the years as part of initiatives through the PGA, launching Cultureshift, its Women’s Impact Network and its green production guide PGA Green, and co-creating the MS. Factor’s Toolkit, aimed at debunking the myths that perpetuate gender bias.
In addition to Songs of the Gorilla Nation, Prince-Hughes is the author of Gorillas Among Us: A Primate Ethnographer’s Book of Days, Expecting Teryk: An Exceptional Path to Parenthood, The Archetype of the Ape-man: The Phenomenological Archaeology of a Relic Hominid Ancestor, Adam, Passing As Human/Freak Nation: How I Discovered That No One Is Normal and Circus of Souls: How I Discovered We Are All Freaks Passing as Normal. The anthropologist, primatologist and ethologist received her M.A. and PhD in interdisciplinary anthropology from the Universität Herisau in Switzerland and in 2000, was appointed an adjunct professor at Western Washington University. She is the executive chair of ApeNet Inc., has served as the executive director of the Institute for Cognitive Archaeological Research and is associated with the Jane Goodall Institute.
Echo Lake Entertainment is a management, production and finance company founded in 1998 by CEO Doug Mankoff that has produced and/or financed more than 40 films, earning an Academy Award and eight nominations. The company currently produces Hulu’s Emmy-nominated comedy series The Great, starring Elle Fanning, which in January was renewed for a third season. Its next feature, Francis and the Godfather, from director Barry Levinson, will go before cameras this year. It also has film and TV projects in development with companies including Amazon, BBC Studios, MRC and AMC, with former MGM chief Mike Marcus leading its management division, representing a global roster of established and emerging actors, writers, IP creators and directors.
Pilcher continues to be represented by attorney Victoria S. Cook at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz.
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