EXCLUSIVE: Bryce and Jackie Zabel’s Stellar Productions is teaming with fledgling LA production and management firm Alta Global Media on TV series Captured, based on the landmark 1961 alien abduction case of Betty and Barney Hill.
The project will chart the story of the interracial couple from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, who said they were captured by a UFO on the night of September 19, 1961. The story of the black postal clerk and white social worker who claimed to have met extraterrestrials became a media sensation, and culminated in a 1975 made-for-TV film starring James Earl Jones and Estelle Parsons.
The project was previously set up by Zabel (Atlantis: The Lost Empire) with Gotham Group as a film but now has new life with Steven Adams (A Huey P. Newton Story) and Theo Dumont’s Alta, which launched earlier this year with clients including Pedro Alonso (Money Heist), Gary Dourdan (CSI), Tamara Tunie (Almost Family) and Kierston Wareing (Fish Tank). It marks the first development announced for Alta, whose principals both came from Buffalo 8, where Adams was a partner and Dumont was head of marketing.
The series is being written by writer-producers Bryce and Jackie Zabel, who won a WGA award in 2007 for Hallmark series Pandemic, and will be based on the 2007 non-fiction book Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience: The True Story of the World’s First Documented Alien Abduction by nuclear physicist Stanton Friedman and Betty Hill’s niece Kathleen Marden. That book, under option by Stellar Productions, has been updated for a 2021 re-release by New Page Books.
Former Academy TV CEO and CNN journalist Bryce Zabel has worked on a string of UFO and sci-fi projects, including Syfy’s Official Denial.
“I was fascinated by the Zabels’ take on this extraordinary story as it represents the convergence of the Civil Rights and Cold War eras and the first reported alien abduction,” said Adams. “These elements not only lend themselves to a fascinating look at America, but also offer a startling counterpoint with Barney’s observation that while America judged and oppressed him on the basis of his skin color, aliens saw him as only human.”
“Just this year, the Department of Defense de-classified a trio of Navy videos showing encounters with unidentified aircraft with impossible flight characteristics,” added Bryce Zabel, who previously created NBC/Sony alien invasion series Dark Skies. “There is now a hunger to have a legitimate national discussion about the history of this UFO phenomenon, and the Hill case is considered the best true story of its kind.”
“Our meetings with Steve Adams convinced all of us that the right expression of this powerful content is a TV series where the larger canvas allows us to see Barney and Betty not only as abduction victims, but also as heroes in the Civil Rights movement,” added Stellar CEO Jackie Zabel. “The audience has never been more receptive to hearing the story of both their marriage and their passion for equality, and the larger TV canvas will allow us to finally do justice to the complete picture, including a re-staging of the pivotal March on Washington.”
The deal was brokered by Hillary Bibicoff of Holmes Weinberg on behalf of Stellar and Steven Adams for Alta Global Media.
Stellar is also in development with Endurance Media on WWII project The Last Battle.