EXCLUSIVE: Let The Record Show, written by Sarah Schulman, has been called the most comprehensive political history of American AIDS activism and ACT Up.
The book, which was published last month, is now set to be adapted as a narrative TV series by Lean on Pete and Looking director Andrew Haigh, Time and Boys State producer Concordia Studio, and Halston and Carol producer Killer Films.
Haigh is set as showrunner, and will write and direct the pilot episode. He is coming off The North Water, a drama series starring Colin Farrell and Jack O’Connell for the BBC and AMC.
Executive producers include Jonathan King for Concordia Studio, Christine Vachon for Killer Films, as well as David Hinojosa and Schulman. Yasmin Hormozi and Patrick Callan will oversee development for Concordia.
In just six years, Act Up New York, a broad and unlikely coalition of activists from all races, genders, sexualities and backgrounds, changed the world. Armed with rancor, desperation, intelligence and creativity, it took on the AIDS crisis with an indefatigable, ingenious and multifaceted attack on the corporations, institutions, governments, and individuals who stood in the way of AIDS treatment for all. They stormed the FDA and NIH in Washington, DC, and started needle-exchange programs in New York; they took over Grand Central Terminal and fought to change the legal definition of AIDS to include women; they transformed the American insurance industry, weaponized art and advertising to push their agenda; and battled—and beat—the New York Times, the Catholic Church and the pharmaceutical industry. Their activism, in its complex and intersectional power, transformed the lives of people with AIDS and the bigoted society that had abandoned them.
Based on more than 200 interviews with Act Up members and rich with lessons for today’s activists, Let the Record Show is an exploration of the coalition’s inner workings, conflicts, achievements and ultimate fracture. Schulman explores the how and the why, examining how a group of desperate outcasts changed America forever, and in the process created a livable future for generations of people across the world.
“Sarah’s book is a deeply moving account of how we can make change happen, a passionate testament to those men and women who came together during the darkest of times to fight for a better world,” Haigh said. “Projects like this come along so rarely, and I could not be happier to be working alongside Sarah Shulman, Concordia Studio and Killer Films.”
Said Schulman: “After covering AIDS since the early 1980s I am thrilled to have the opportunity to bring the story of Act Up to new generations, working with this experienced, committed team. Christine who has produced many groundbreaking, now classic queer and AIDS works was in Act Up, so she knows how it looks and feels. Jonathan was involved in bringing When They See Us to television, and co-produced Spotlight, expanding primetime subject matter with sophistication and truth. Andrew and I share the lens of looking at large, complex landscapes through relationships and feeling. This is a dream come true.”
“The story of Act Up New York features an extraordinarily diverse and passionate group of characters who confront a literal life or death challenge and rewrite the rules of activism in the process. No single project could tell all of their stories, but Sarah’s brilliant book gets as close as possible. We are honored to work with her, Andrew and our friends at Killer to bring their lives to the screen,” said King.
“Killer has been looking for a story that gets to the emotional heart of the AIDS crisis in NYC and Sarah Schulman’s brilliant and inspiring book does exactly that. We are thrilled to be working with Sarah and Concordia,” added Vachon.
Haigh is repped by CAA, Anonymous Content and The Agency in London.