EXCLUSIVE: Diversion Media, a publishing business that has worked with the authors behind the books that became Pitch Perfect, Ford V. Ferrari and The Mauritanian, is aggressively expanding its audio operation as it looks to build more IP that it can develop for film and TV.
This comes as it launches Nazi thriller podcast series Good Assassins: Hunting the Butcher, in partnership iHeartMedia, and is teaming up with the likes of Priyanka Chopra, Jonah Hill and Chernobyl producer Sister for more series.
Good Assassins: Hunting the Butcher is a twelve-part series from author and journalist Stephan Talty. Part true-crime series, part spy thriller, it is based on his book The Good Assassin, which tells the untold story of the secret mission to hunt down a savage, escaped Nazi, Herbert Cukurs – who was responsible for the deaths of over 30,000 Latvian-Jews.
Led by a brilliant Mossad agent, the hunt for the infamous “Butcher of Latvia” was a secretive espionage operation that forever altered the fates of all ex-Nazis.
Talty wrote and hosted the podcast and it featured never-before-heard interviews, new archive tapes and a cast that featured Andrew Polk (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) and Steve Routman (The Trial of the Chicago 7).
“There’s something about the immediacy of a podcast that I love. It brings history into the present moment; it feels like it’s happening now,” Talty said. “For Hunting the Butcher, I spoke to people – Mossad agents, the children of Holocaust survivors – and talked about how this story affected their lives. You can hear the emotion in their voices, the pain and the excitement. That’s not something you get with books in the same way. But you still have all the benefit of all the research you did. It’s a way to make a story fresh without losing the depth of a good book.”
The company is now looking at adaptations across film and TV in both the scripted and non-fiction space. Oren Rosenbaum, Partner & Head of Emerging Platforms at UTA, told Deadline, “Now more than ever, television shows are being adapted from highly successful source material across the audio and literary space. Diversion has created an incredible project with Good Assassins: Hunting the Butcher and I’m excited to see the market’s response.”
Scott Waxman, CEO and Founder of Diversion Media, tells Deadline that Good Assassins: Hunting the Butcher is an example of how it works with its authors to extend their IP and expand their stories.
“We have always developed books that have fit well with Hollywood. Pitch Perfect, Ford V. Ferrari and The Mauritanian, are just a few of the examples from our authors that have been adapted into successful films. We love stories, and we love working with authors,” Waxman tells Deadline. “We saw audio as an untapped frontier for book writers to expand their IP as there are often questions left unanswered in the process of writing and reporting a book.”
He highlighted that Talty used interviews that he conducted for his 2019 book as well as uncovered new tape in archives in Latvia, where the main villain is from, and spoke to new interview subjects to answer lingering questions. “Diversion mines its own backlist for authors and stories that will have a new life in audio,” he added.
“Authors are used to writing for the page and we work with them to understand writing for audio, sometimes allowing them to break down the 4th wall. They’re able to add layers of emotion and personality. Things like frustration, sarcasm, humor, or ambivalence that you sometimes can’t express in print,” he said.
Waxman said that it is now preparing new projects in history, true crime, sports, adventure, current events and pop culture.
The company is working with Priyanka Chopra and her production company Purple Pebble Productions on a women’s history project, with Jonah Hill and NBA star Anthony Davis and agent Rich Paul, via his company Klutch Sports, on a sports project as well as an investigative piece with Chernobyl producer Sister, founded by Stacey Snider, Elisabeth Murdoch and Jane Featherstone.