EXCLUSIVE: Big Beach, the company that brought us Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and Lulu Wang’s Independent Spirit Award-winning The Farewell, has set an adaptation of the memoir Running A Thousand Miles For Freedom by William and Ellen Craft. The feature will be titled 1000 Miles and Hanelle M. Culpepper is set to direct with Selwyn Seyfu Hinds penning the script.
1000 Miles is the true story of the aforementioned William and Ellen Craft, an enslaved couple that go on a daring thousand-mile escape to freedom from Georgia to Boston by hiding in plain sight with Ellen disguised as a white male slave owner and her husband, William, passing as her slave. The story follows their journey as they fight the terror of discovery, the dangerous men on their tail and the complications the ruse brings to their relationship.
“It’s simply astounding to think about a black woman experiencing what it’s like to be a white man in the middle of the 1800s. The Crafts’ escape is a gripping, emotional journey that explores identity through the lens of race and gender, and is so relevant to modern times,” said Culpepper. “Wrapping that story into an action thriller was very appealing to me, and I’m excited and honored that Big Beach and the Zuckers chose me to bring the Crafts’ story to light.”
“We are thrilled to be working with Selwyn and Hanelle to bring the Crafts’ extraordinary story to screen. Ellen and William Craft are heroic characters in our nation’s history whose narrative has not received the widespread recognition it deserves,” said Big Beach producers Peter Saraf and Daniele Melia. “Big Beach is humbled to provide the space to explore the Crafts’ inspiring journey and the challenging racial and gender dynamics they navigated. Through the support of the descendants of the Craft family, we are determined to tell the most authentic version of their story.”
Saraf and Melia are set to produce for Big Beach alongside Jerry and Janet Zucker who will produce for Zucker Productions. Katie Zucker will executive produce and Peggy Preacely, a descendant of the Craft family, will serve as a consultant and associate producer.
Culpepper directed the first three episodes of Star Trek: Picard, which marked the first time a female director launched a new Star Trek. She was a participant in NBC Universal’s Directing Initiative and has worked on shows such as Parenthood, Counterpart, Mayans M.C., Grimm, American Crime, The Flash, Gotham, S.W.A.T. and Star Trek: Discovery. She was also nominated for an Image Award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for her work on Criminal Minds and The Edge of Winter. Culpepper is one of eight ReFrame Rise directors who were selected to participate in a two-year sponsorship program for experienced female directors poised to helm high-level features, TV pilots, and their own shows.
Hinds’ pitch for an adaptation of Esi Edugyan’s novel Washington Black was picked up by Hulu and have Sterling K. Brown and Anthony Hemingway attached to star with Hinds stepping into the role of showrunner. He also served as a writer/producer on Jordan Peele’s revival of The Twilight Zone at CBS All Access. He is also writing the adaptation of the graphic novel Prince of Cats at Legendary Entertainment which will be directed by Spike Lee. He also co-created the Vertigo comic-book series, Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child and served as Consulting Producer of Original Programming and Executive Producer of News and Docs at BET Networks
Culpepper is repped by Verve and Adesuwa McCalla at Metamorphic Entertainment. Hinds is repped by Lindsay Williams at Gotham Group and Gordon Bobb at Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein & Lezcano. Jerry and Janet Zucker are repped by Adam Kanter and Martin Spencer at Paradigm and Lawrence Kopeikin at Morris Yorn.