Netflix Wins ‘First Ascent;’ Avid Mountain Climber Jake Scott To Direct Colin Bannon’s Black List Genre Spec

Leigh Wallett

EXCLUSIVE: In a last fevered auction before the holidays, Netflix prevailed and paid high six figures for First Ascent, a genre script by Colin Bannon with a female lead set in the world of mountain climbing. The project injects a genre element to a dangerous sport and was likened to The Shining meets Free Solo. Jake Scott is attached to direct a script that will be featured on The Black List, the annual tally of best screenplays that will be revealed later today.

Jake Scott
Jake Scott Shutterstock

Scott Free’s Ridley Scott, Kevin Walsh and Michael Pruss are producing alongside Sukee Chew at Hopscotch Pictures. The deal closed Friday night, when, sources said, there were eight bids on the table — some with acting or director attachments — between studios, financiers and streamers. Netflix put a big offer on the table with a ticking clock, and the writer’s reps — Verve, attorney Leslie Abell and Chew, who is Bannon’s manager — closed the deal right before the offer expired. More offers were expected had the auction lingered and played out today.

Two years after a free solo accident nearly kills Hillary Hall, she enlists the help of her old climbing partners to document her comeback — the first ascent of a 4000 foot “virgin” rock wall in China. During the harrowing summit, Hillary struggles with her inner demons and supernatural forces, as it slowly becomes clear that this mountain does not want to be conquered.

Scott Free, which had its home studio Fox/Disney and Netflix as its territories, got a foothold in that it is producing Holdout, another genre script by Bannon that Netflix bought earlier this year and so Chew and Bannon had a solid relationship with Scott Free’s Pruss. The other strong suit had to do with Jake Scott, who directed videos by such bands as U2, Soundgarden, Oasis, The Smashing Pumpkins, George Michael and most recently directed the critically acclaimed feature American Woman, which starred Sienna Miller.

Scott is an avid climber who has scaled some of the biggest mountains in the world. At 14, he was taught climbing by his uncle, the late film director Tony Scott. He felt he was perfectly suited to helm this film and wanted it badly. Scott is repped by WME.

This is the third genre script written by Bannon. The Interventionist made the 2018 Black List and both Holdout and First Ascent made the Hit List, which was announced last Friday. It also becomes the latest of several script auctions where there were a double digit number of bids, this despite the absence of the major agencies repping writers in these auctions, because of the ongoing dispute with WGA. Lit agency Verve signed the guild’s code of conduct agreement, and continues to rep writers. The agency has made numerous spec script film deals this year.


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