EXCLUSIVE: Transcendence outfit Straight Up Films has been joined by author Tony Robbins and screenwriter Angela Workman (The Zookeeper’s Wife) on feature project Man’s Search For Meaning about the experience of Holocaust survivor, psychiatrist and author Viktor Frankl.
Frankl’s grandson Alexander Vesely is also aboard for the film, which is being produced under Straight Up’s recently launched social impact banner Straight Up Impact.
Holocaust memoir Man’s Search For Meaning recounts Frankl’s life in Nazi death camps and lessons for spiritual survival. Frankl was captive in four camps including Auschwitz from 1942-45; his parents, brother and wife died during that period.
Born in Vienna in 1905, Frankl began counseling in the 1920s and corresponded with Sigmund Freud. After the war, he continued his work as a psychiatrist and neurologist in Vienna. With more than 16 million copies sold, Man’s Search for Meaning centers on the notion that people are motivated by finding meaning and purpose in their lives, rather than the pursuit of mere pleasure or happiness. In the book, Frankl posits that Nazi prisoners who were able to find meaning, even if only to help another person get through the day, were more likely to survive the camps.
Straight Up Impact founders Kate Cohen and Marisa Polvino, both producers on 2014 Johnny Depp sci-fi Transcendence, are producing the film in partnership with life coach and bestselling author Robbins and Frankl’s grandson Vesely. Pam Roy, who is a co-founder of Straight Up Impact, will serve as executive producer of the film, which is in development. Mike Walsh is also an EP.
Screenwriter Workman has scripted a string of studio-level development projects, including Roland Emmerich’s longtime passion project Maya Lord. Jessica Chastain starred in her 2017 Focus Features drama The Zookeeper’s Wife.
“We are honored that Viktor Frankl’s family has entrusted us to tell his incredible life story,” Cohen said. “Our mission is to share his teachings with the world in the hopes that more people find meaning in their lives.”
Robbins commented: “The ability to find meaning in the most difficult times, even in times of injustice or extreme stress is perhaps the most important skill we can develop in life. Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, provides the most compelling and triumphant account I have ever read of humanity’s ability to persevere through the unimaginable. I’ve long recommended to those in a rough place in life to read Frankl’s book. This film will allow the important life lessons contained in this timeless and significant work to reach and impact even more people.”
“When suffering is inevitable, the attitude we choose matters most,” said Vesely, a licensed logotherapist (the theory founded by his grandfather) and co-founder of the Viktor Frankl Institute of America. “Despite experiencing unspeakable horrors and loss, my grandfather continued to help others to find meaning in life, even when great adversity and tragedy are a part of it. I hope this film inspires anyone dealing with their own struggles.”
Straight Up Impact is aiming to produce a variety of media, including features, series, documentaries and short films, with budgets up to $20M.