South African producer Helena Spring has been awarded the highly sought after film rights to Zoo City, the Sci-Fi “cyberpunk’ thriller penned by South African author Lauren Beukes, who won the 2011 Arthur C Clarke award for best Science Fiction novel.
Spring competed against major US and UK producers to win the rights. “I’m delighted to have secured the film and television rights for Zoo City,’ she says, “it is a ground breaking, magical novel begging for a life on the big screen. Lauren’s storytelling is masterful – edgy and futuristic, unique yet universal. It is high in entertainment value yet emotionally charged, a dream project for any producer.’
Julian Friedmann of Blake Friedmann (the Literary Agency that represents Beukes) adds: “Helena outbid all the others in a spirited auction for film rights to this extraordinary book: she had an extremely proactive, writer-friendly approach to working with Lauren and offered an imaginative and creative proposal that was irresistible.’
The best-selling Zoo City has received multiple awards and critical acclaim since it was first published in South Africa by Jacana Media and internationally by Angry Robot.
Zoo City is an urban fantasy set in a futuristic, gritty and hard-core Johannesburg where the eponymous ghetto has been colonised by society’s outcasts – like criminals, drug-dealers and psychopaths, and their animal companions. Like the other residents of the Zoo City slum, Zinzi, the anti-heroine, is “animalled’, but she is also a shrewd, street-smart girl with the gift (or burden) of finding lost things. Zinzi wears her power animal, a sloth, on her back. When she is hired to find a missing teenybopper star, she hopes that it will be her ticket out of Hell’s waiting room.
Beukes positively acknowledges the choice of Spring as producer. “Every novelist dreams of a movie deal – but you actually want more than that. You want to find a producer of great vision and integrity and experience who fundamentally gets the book and understands how to transform it into an entirely different creature based on the same genetic material. I’m thrilled that it’s being produced in South Africa – for an international audience.’
Spring’s career in the entertainment industry spans nearly three decades during which time she has produced over 20 motion pictures – including the first ever South African film to receive recognition at the Academy Awards®; Darrell Roodt’s Yesterday, which earned a Best Foreign Picture nomination in 2004.
Spring, who has worked with some of the foremost filmmakers in the world – such as Paul Greengrass who helmed the box office smash hits The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, and Academy Award® winner, Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), will soon be putting the project out to a select party of directors, while Beukes has first look as screenwriter to adapt her novel for the screen. “Lauren is perfectly placed to do this, the characters are alive inside her,’ says Spring.