Sister is teaming with New York Times bestselling author and journalist Taffy Brodesser-Akner to develop and produce the feature film The Get, based on Matt Shaer’s GQ article “The Orthodox Hit Squad.” Brodesser-Akner will write the feature.
Carolyn Strauss and Kate Fenske are producing for Sister alongside Shaer.
The Get follows how communities take care of each other in the name of what’s right, and how “right” can be a moving target. In New York and New Jersey’s ultra-orthodox communities, one notorious rabbi, Mendel Epstein, was sought for help in managing the worst divorce cases, where husbands exploited Jewish law to deny their wives freedom from miserable marriages. This help included beatings, open graves and cattle prods to the testicles, and it worked, but it also showed how a noble goal can sometimes only be accomplished by the most unconscionable of methods. The Get asks whether those means are bad when the ends are so absolutely good.
Shaer first got to know the Sister team via Campside Media, the podcast studio he and fellow long-form journalists Josh Dean (The Clearing), Vanessa Grigoriadis (Tabloid: The Making of Ivanka Trump) and screenwriter-producer Adam Hoff formed this year in partnership with Sister to develop premium narrative nonfiction storytelling.
“Out of all the stories I’ve written in the past decade, the GQ feature on Mendel Epstein was one of my favorites. That’s partly because of the world in which it’s set – a world most Americans are unfamiliar with – and partly because the themes are so fascinating and resonant,” Shaer said. “When it comes to a figure like Epstein, where should we draw the line between criminal and hero? And who, exactly, gets to make the distinction – the secular criminal justice system or the families that count themselves in Epstein’s debt? I’m thrilled Taffy is going to be the one wrestling with these questions. In addition to being a sharp, sensitive writer, Epstein’s background is a background she understands. She has a personal connection to the material, and the wit to bring it to life. And I feel incredibly lucky to have Sister in our corner – hard to imagine a better team, or a more committed group of storytellers, than Carolyn, Kate and Stacey.”
“I’m only a little embarrassed to say that when I first read Matt’s story in 2014 in an actual paper issue of GQ, I was extremely jealous not just of what a great and definitive feature it is on Mendel Epstein and his gang of get-getters, but of how, like all petty journalists, I was sad I hadn’t gotten the story myself,” said Brodesser-Akner. “The subject matter is incredibly close to my heart. My family is ultra-Orthodox, and I’ve seen women close to me whose lives and plans have been derailed by the arcane and dangerous law that men possess the singular power to end a marriage, a state of affairs that tests some of their most abusive tendencies. But I couldn’t begrudge Matt the story—his is the rare one story on this subject that actually gets the world of it right, and treats the Jewish community with respect, despite its flaws. I never dreamed that all these years later, a killer team of executives and producers like Stacey Snider, Kate Fenske and Carolyn Strauss (who is the common denominator in my favorite shows of the last 15 years) would give me the opportunity to advance Matt’s story—a religious mafia saga at its heart—to the screen.”
“Matt and Taffy share similar qualities that make them both standout journalists and compelling storytellers. They bring scrupulous attention to the details of their stories and empathy to the characters whose lives they chronicle. With Carolyn and Kate at their side to produce, these filmmakers will bring truth and humanity to this compelling and unpredictable story,” said Stacey Snider, Sister co-founder and Global CEO.
Deadline first told you last year at this time that Brodesser-Akner’s debut Random House novel Fleishman Is in Trouble sold to ABC Signature Studios after a 10-way bidding war that included such parties as HBO and CAA’s wiip, with an eye to be set up at FX as a limited series. Brodesser-Akner is writing and executive producing that series with EPs Sarah Timberman, Susannah Grant and Carl Beverly. Brodesser-Akner’s next novel due out next year is Long Island Compromise. As a journalist, she is a staff writer at New York Times Magazine and she’s also written for publications including GQ and ESPN the Magazine. Her profiles of celebrities have won her the New York Press Club Award and Mirror Award.
Shaer is a writer at-large at the New York Times Magazine, an Emerson Collective Fellow at New America and has reported for Wired, Harper’s, the Atlantic and GQ which published the “Prodfather” story that first inspired the film.
Brodesser-Akner is repped by ICM Partners and McKuin Frankel Whitehead. Shaer is repped by CAA and Manage-ment.