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Tonya Lewis Lee & Production Partner Prepping 5 More Feature Films, All Novel Adaptations

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by Tambay A. Obenson
August 1, 2013 10:38 AM
10 Comments
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Tonya Lewis Lee
Tonya Lewis Lee

While her husband (Spike Lee) hustles to raise $1.25 million to produce his next indie feature film, Tonya Lewis Lee is already on to the next one - or I should say, on to the next five!

Via her production company, Tonik Productions (with partner Nikki Silver), Tonya Lewis Lee already has The Watsons Go to Birmingham, starring Anika Noni RoseDavid Alan GrierSkai Jackson and Wood Harris, made and scheduled to debut both in theaters and on the Hallmark Channel this fall. 

And, announced today, Tonik Productions has optioned film rights to the YA Gallagher Girls book series, with the goal being to produce a big-screen franchise based on the novels.

Written by Sarah Leigh Fogleman under the pen name Ally Carter, Gallagher Girls centers on the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women in Roseville, Va., which fronts as an institution for geniuses, but is actually a training facility for the CIA.

"It’s important for us to have things that are about diversity and empowerment -- and it’s kick-ass and fun," said Tonya Lewis Lee in a press statement. “Nikki and I like to have provocative, interesting conversations that push us to grow and evolve. I think in our work our desire is to make people think, to make people feel and to push the envelop a little bit. Even in something like Gallagher Girls that might seem so initially mainstream, I think the themes of girl empowerment and global inclusion are what really draw us to the work.”

Currently, a writer is being sought to adapt the novels.

And secondly, Tonik Productions is also prepping an adaptation of another YA novel - this one by Lois Lowry, titled The Giver

The project is apparently all-set for production, with shooting scheduled to begin next month, with Phillip Noyce directing and Jeff Bridges starring.

Walden Media and The Weinstein Co. are partnering to produce.

Says Silver of the book: “It’s the mother of all dystopian fiction. It’s the story of a boy in a futuristic utopian society, who is given the job of holding all the memories of the past. He starts to understand what the world has given up in order to attain this sameness and how emotions are really what make us human beings.”

But that's not all!

Tonik’s slate also includes an adaptation of yet another YA novel - this one by Walter Dean Myer, titled Monster, which is about a 16-year-old African American boy jailed for murder, which Radha Blank (go Radha!) is adapting and which they hope to film next spring. 

And then there's an adaptation of Tonya Lewis Lee’s own satirical novel Gotham Diaries, which she co-authored with Crystal McCrary Anthony; and there's also an adaptation of Mary V. Dearborn’s Mistress of Modernism: The Life of Peggy Guggenheim, a biography of the celebrated art collector, which Tonya Lewis Lee is adapting with Dan Friedman.

So, as you can see, busy, busy, busy... she's certainly getting things done! Clearly, it's all about novels (mostly YA novels). Sorry, writers of original screenplays...

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10 Comments

  • Kelea | August 10, 2013 1:28 AMReply

    Walter Dean Meyers was my favorite author as a preteen/teen. Anytime that I could read his books and have a chance to share his work I jumped on it. As was said before, with Monster WDM used a unique technique and he used it quite wisely. Even back then I wished it had been realized as an actual film. For some reason, I've always been able to identify with WDM's work. It allows you to appreciate the perspective of the young black male.

  • Strawberry Mama (Wanda) | August 6, 2013 10:42 PMReply

    It's so awesome to be able to flip/flop like you do and make it fun and exciting for such audiences to vomit (so to speak) a positive character base from novels. I for one, would love to be a part of a production. Most feature-films now are about real life stories..Give you props for making waves here in America gurl..lol... Stay up!

  • Geneva Girl | August 2, 2013 10:59 PMReply

    Very smart moves! I wish more film makers would produce movies based on novels. They have a built in audience especially books that are on summer reading lists. The kids have read them and often the parents too. Good for her!

  • geoff thorne | August 2, 2013 2:12 AMReply

    I'd be happy to adapt my novel, Better Angels, for them.

  • yvette ganier | August 1, 2013 10:47 PMReply

    well alright now!

  • JDanielle | August 1, 2013 7:22 PMReply

    That's crazy, I was just passing through my room the other day when I saw the book "Monster" on my desk and thought to myself...I should write "Monster" as a screenplay. However, "Monster" is sort of already written as a screenplay with camera direction and everything. I always thought the author (Walter Dean Myers) took a unique approach in writing a book that way.

  • Shak | August 1, 2013 7:11 PMReply

    I love this! And I'm especially happy to see a Walter Dean Meyers adaptation in the works. I've read his books when I was a teenager and I always wished they were made films. The variety of subject matter and voices being brought forth on screen makes me feel very hopeful.

  • Kelea | August 10, 2013 1:20 AM

    Me too! When monster was released I was so excited and hoped they would soon make it a movie.

  • Donella | August 1, 2013 4:12 PMReply

    Smart moves. It's hard to go wrong with a built-in audience and a solid storyline.

  • CareyCarey | August 1, 2013 1:27 PMReply

    Spike got game, doesn't he!?

    How else did he get a woman like that? It can't be the shoes, can it? It can't be his six pack or his baratone voice, can it. Surely he'll never make the cover of Rolling Stone's sexiest man of the year, will he? I don't know, but if she ever kicks him to the curb I'm throwing my hat in the ring. Yes sir, I know I could be reaching ('cause I ain't got no money, no kickstarter campaign to get money and I drive a beater) but I'd sure like to put a bug in her ear. I mean, aside from her professional accomplishments, look at that face. Damn, excuse me Spike but I'd kiss her in the morning, at lunch, in the evening, on her neck and...

    Anyway, these are the types of posts I love reading. I mean, I don't know if it's just me, but I get so tired and depressed reading about Shonda Rhime's scandalous affairs that this new news is a welcomed breath of fresh air.

    But, as usual, since there's no controversy to speak of nor a successful black male directors (i.e. Lee Daniels, Spike Lee, Tyler Perry, Antoine Fuqua) to kick dirt on, the usual brethren will stay clear of this post.

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