EXCLUSIVE: Miramax has acquired screen rights to the Erica Ferencik novel The River At Night. The project will be shaped by Kevin Williamson and Eli Roth, teaming for the first time after each had an illustrious genre past with the original Miramax. Williamson and Ben Fast will produce through their Outerbanks banner and Roth is producing with Roger Birnbaum. Roth is eyeing this as a potential directing project. Melanie Toast is in talks to write. She burst onto the scene with her first script Shut In, a contained thriller that is in serious play.
For Roth and Birnbaum, this marks the first project for The Arts District, their new production label that has been staked to a first-look deal by Miramax chief Bill Block. Michael Besman is the company’s head of development. Williamson and Fast already tethered Outerbanks to Miramax for movies.
Stifled by a soul-crushing job, devastated by the death of her beloved brother, and lonely after the end of a 15-year marriage, Wini is feeling vulnerable. So when her three best friends insist on a high-octane getaway for their annual girls’ trip, she signs on, despite her misgivings. What starts out as an invigorating hiking and rafting excursion in the remote Allagash Wilderness soon becomes an all-too-real nightmare; a freak accident leaves the women stranded, separating them from their raft and everything they need to survive. When night descends, a fire on the mountainside lures them to a ramshackle camp that appears to be their lifeline. But as Wini and her friends grasp the true intent of their supposed saviors, long buried secrets emerge and lifelong allegiances are put to the test. To survive, Wini must reach beyond the world she knows to harness an inner strength she never knew she possessed.
“Kevin and I had long been a mutual admiration society, and when he told me this was Girls Trip meets Deliverance, I said, I’m in,” Roth told Deadline. “I’ve always been drawn to these clash of culture movies like Cabin Fever and Hostel, where they go for an adventure and everything turns against them and we see what they’re made of. The book is fun and it’s a smart thriller. As for working with Kevin Williamson, I was 22 and had written Cabin Fever and someone told me they read this new guy Kevin Williamson’s script Scary Movie. I took it home, read it on a bus going back to Newton, Mass., and thought, ‘Okay, this is what a real script looks like, it was so good. On my first meeting with him years ago I brought the Dawson’s Creek calendar I’d put in my apartment and he noticed that the only appointments were reminders to tape that show. He said it was the funniest, saddest thing he had ever seen, my empty life in Los Angeles.”
Said Williamson: “It was just sad and I remember suggesting he get a life. But we’ve been friends for years and always talked about working together. I stumbled upon the book, saw the reviews and just ordered it and found it a terrific story of courage and survival. Turns out Eli likes rafting.”
Roth said that the new company he formed with Birnbaum came out of their work on the Death Wish remake, and they sparked to Block’s pitch that he is looking to turn Miramax back into a haven for edgy crossover genre movies that have a chance to break out in the mainstream.
Deal was done by Hotchkiss Daily & Associates on behalf of Erin Harris at Folio Literary Management. Toast is repped by UTA and Farah Films & Management.