EXCLUSIVE: Oscar nominated producer David Permut and Jamie Cohen of Australian-based Clockwork Films have acquired the narrative motion picture and television rights to award winning journalist and author David Kushner’s book, The Players Ball: The Secret History of the Internet’s Secret Rise.
The book tells the true story of the birth of the internet and two men’s ensuing battle over who controlled the rights to the multi-million dollar domain name: “sex.com.”
This epic, decade long war took them from the boardrooms of Silicon Valley to a gun fight on the bordellos of Mexico – and to the edges of their sanity. Along the way involving the likes of an eclectic cast of porn stars and programmers, billionaires and brainiacs, goons and gangsters.
In one corner is the hapless in-love, visionary tech entrepreneur Gary Kremen, who in 1994 used a $2,500 loan to create the first online dating service, Match.com, in hopes of driving love and connection over the internet. Seeing the value of domain names, he quickly bought several including “sex.com,” betting the combination of love and sex would help propel the internet into the mainstream.
On the other side is his evil genius nemesis, Stephen Michael Cohen, a stout, balding, gun-ho criminal, con man and sex addict from Los Angeles. He impersonated judges and lawyers and leaves a trails of bad checks, and scammed investors after promising to build a Fantasy Island of sex in Las Vegas. Among his many cons, was procuring the sex.com domain under false pretenses, of which he started to make millions from by using it to advertise porn.
“This story is so much more than just a rollicking ride through the wild west of the beginnings of the internet, online dating and porn. It speaks to the beginning of a billion dollar digital marketplace. Virtual property such as NFT’s and bitcoin are today facing the same issues of corruption, fraud that the battle for sex.com started.” says Permut
Jamie Cohen added, “This story isn’t just a nostalgic glimpse into birth of the internet and online dating, its a crucial piece of American History. For me the most compelling part of the story is the obsessive battle between the two to outwit each other and win at all costs. It’s a war that nearly destroys them both. I look forward to working with Naomi Harvey, VP of Clockwork along with David Kushner, and Permut Presentations.
Permut is currently EP on Taylor Sheridan’s new series Bass Reeves starring David Oyelowo, and Rustin directed by George C. Wolfe at Netflix. His next film is Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ The Invite for FilmNation, in addition to the upcoming Being Heumann for Apple which is to be written and directed by Oscar winner Siân Heder, and the sequel to his film hit film Face/Off at Paramount. Permut received a Best Picture nomination for Hacksaw Ridge in 2017.
Director of Development at Permut Presentations, Alex Astrachan serves as co-producer on the project.
Founded in Australia in 2007, Clockwork Films quickly became one of the country’s fastest growing companies, as featured in the BRW’s Fast 100, and has since grown into an award winning global multi-media production company with offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Los Angeles, Auckland, London, and Cape Town.
Kushner served as EP on the Independent Spirit winning movie Zola, also based on the true story depicted in his Rolling Stone article. He has also written several other high profile stories for Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Wired The New York Times Magazine among others.
Several others of his works have also been translated to film and television, including Silk Road based on his article Dead End on Silk Road. The Church of Living Dangerously is being adapted by Charles Randolph for Christian Bale. Amma Assante Kushner’s Levittown for Wiip. And one of his most recent books Alligator Candy is currently a hugely popular serial podcast.
The team on THE PLAYERS BALL are currently exploring the project with a number of prominent filmmakers and writers with the goal of developing the book as a series or feature film.
Permut Presentations and Clockwork Films are both represented by John Tishbi at Pearlman & Tishbi, LLP.
Kushner is represented by Eric Robinson at The Gotham Group and Adam Vitible at Hirsch, Wallerstein.
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