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Update On The E. Lynn Harris Adaptation That Tracey Edmonds & Ted Witcher Were Attached To

by Tambay A. Obenson
August 22, 2013 2:02 PM
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E. Lynn Harris
E. Lynn Harris

It was 2 years ago when Tracey Edmonds of Edmonds Entertainment and Proteus Spann of Proteus E2 Productions announced that they had structured a multi-picture deal to develop the extensive library of novels by New York Times best-selling author E. Lynn Harris into feature films.

The first production in this overall creative development deal was to be E. Lynn Harris’s blockbuster first novel, Invisible Life, which was to be jointly produced by Edmonds Entertainment and Proteus E2 Productions with Shelia Ducksworth, Glendon Palmer and Javon Johnson as co-producers. 

Screenwriter Ted Witcher (Love Jones) had been brought on to adapt the novel for the motion picture screen.

At the time, the deal was said to have already been in motion shortly before Harris died of a heart attack in 2009.

Skip ahead 2 years later, to an exclusive story at The Hollywood Reporter, with an update on the progress of the above announcement.

Here's a summary of where things stand: 

Proteus Spann
Proteus Spann

E. Lynn Harris’s mother, Etta Harris, sued Proteus Spann claiming that he didn't have legal rights to her son's books, adding that Spann forged E. Lynn Harris' signature. The suit halted progress on the project, despite the large amount of money Spann says he'd already spent on developing it. 

In addition, he had to spend even more money on legal fees in defending himself.

To make matters worse, his backers pulled out of the project, thanks to the legal battle with Etta Harris.

Also, Tracey Edmonds and her production company team apparently pulled out as well, and are no longer involved in the project.

All of this happened over the last 2 years, since the initial announcement, which we published here in mid-2011. 

And after all that turmoil, it looks like Spann was in the right all along, because, a Los Angeles judge ruled in his favor late last month, stating that Spann does indeed legally own exclusive theatrical, film and television rights to Harris' complete library of novels.

And despite losing plenty, Spann is ready to get Invisible Life, the movie, back on track. 

He also plans a Broadway musical version of the novel, as was initially announced. 

And he is already developing a film adaptation of Harris’ second best-selling novel, Not A Day Goes By

I’m looking for the best opportunity that comes my way to bring these books to life,” Spann tells THR, who add that, Spann, who first met Harris when he was a casting director in New York City, says that despite all that's happened and all he's lost, he feels he owes it to his late friend, Harris, to keep pushing forward with what they originally planned.

So now the journey begins all over again, with his previous backers pulling out. 

Good luck to you sir!

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  • pern | August 28, 2013 12:45 AMReply

    Carey, your lack of a progressive attitude is just the reason the black community is so divided. These stories Harris wrote about were and are the lives of many Americans and are stories that need to be told. For you to suggest that there isnt a market or audience for these types of films leads me to believe you truly out of touch with pop culture and furthermore your fingers away from ypur keyboard...

  • CareyCarey | August 28, 2013 1:25 AM

    Pern, is that what you call it... a "lack of a progressive attitude"? Well, I'd be more inclined to phrase it as "not being swayed by the progressing gay propaganda machine".

    Granted, there are many stories about the lives of people from all walks of life that some would desire to tell the world. However, that certainly does not mean everyone wants to or should listen to them. Having said that, remember, I did not say there was not an audience for stories written by E Lynn Harris, I merely said I had doubts whether or not a film adaptation of his works would be profitable.

    Now, I would end by saying "see you at the movies" but in this case, that's not going to happen because I can't think of any rewards I'd receive from watching Jack & Jack run up the hill to fetch lord knows what. What about you?

    btw, maybe I am "out of touch" so tell me, WTH does pop culture have to do with the gay lifestyle?

  • Debbie | August 27, 2013 12:01 AMReply

    Sex and the City not in the city CARREY. But you made a good point about peeps doing things in private. Great DVD sales. VOD sales. Movies on the WEB. In private on your phone while you hide in the closet lol. Yancey and Ava are great characters. And I loved reading about Basil. Wow who should play these wonderful characters? His books aren't for everyone but you don't become a ten time NYT best seller being supported by one type of people. Give the man a chance. We doubt Tyler Perry also. It's a whole new world.

  • CareyCarey | August 27, 2013 1:14 AM

    Nope Debbie, only a fool doubts Tyler Perry. And listen, the only thang in my closet is clothes and my shotgun, I like p***y, okay.

    Now, to imply that every book that's a NYT best seller is an automatic movie box office winner, is not looking at the big Picture. Mind you, there are several "black" authors with a "wider" audience than E. Lynn, who have been multiple NYT best sellers, but....

    You know the rest of the story, don't you? But listen, I am simply saying Proteus Spann may be letting his emotions fuel his decisions. This appears to be a money pit of no return. That reminds me, how's Rodney Evans' gay film "The Happy Sad" doing? I am only asking because although S&A has highlighted that film several times, the comment section has been whisper quiet. Must be a bunch of homophobes around here.

  • Amanda | August 26, 2013 6:52 PMReply

    You are homophobe Carey, Carey, you also don't speak for ALL BLACK PEOPLE. Okay great, you don't want to see a black gay movie. However, E Lynn Harris was very successful his books ALWAYS were on the NY Times bestseller list. Harris has an audience which includes heterosexual black women.

  • CareyCarey | August 26, 2013 10:55 PM

    Okay... lets see... HOMOPHOBE... is that a bad thang?

    Anyway, as I said, I have not problem with those in the gay community, however, I simply said I question the market for film adaptations of E. Lynn Harris's books. Now listen, lets not fool ourselves, we will do things at home that we will not do in public. So yes, I agree, E Lynn Harris did have a following which included heterosexual black women. But now, are those same women going to the movies to see his films - ALONE. I mean, this ain't "Sex In The City". Heck, if you've read his books you surely know the subject matter. Women will not live vicariously through the stars in this... ahh... slip & slid hideaway hotel.

  • CareyCarey | August 24, 2013 12:18 PMReply

    Well well well, if not me than who, right? I mean, I am not afraid to take a stand against popular opinions. so here I go, this project (imo) is still standing on shaky ground.

    I am reminded of an executive order issued by President Abraham Lincoln, The Emancipation Proclamation. In part, it proclaimed the freedom of slaves in the ten states that were still in rebellion. How does this relate to E Lynn Harris, Edmonds Entertainment and Proteus Spann?

    Well, the first obvious answer is we're talking about black folks. But let me bring a few more interesting facts on the table before I go too deep. The Proclamation was not a law passed by Congress. nor did not itself outlaw slavery, and did not make the ex-slaves citizens. And, really, can a law change how a person feels about another human being?

    Well, in this day and age the gay rights movement is a mighty powerful machine. Some pretty powerful people are standing up, "coming out" and demanding their rights to love who they please. Politicians, sports figures, and TV personalities alike, they've all joined hands to share a message of hope and voicing the words "we're alright now". But not so fast.

    As with those slow wheels of progress since the signing of that "proclamation", which saw a bloody civil war tear a nation apart, so goes the mindset of millions who do not speak kindly of gays. Granted, just like many laws that are designed to protect the rights of others, they do not change the inner feelings of those who object to said rights.

    Now we have a gentleman on the cusp of adapting the novels of E Lynn Harris for the motion picture screen.

    It's a new day, folks are more open and willing to discuss gay issues without expecting an immediate wrath of scorn and ridicule, however, point being, who is going to support E Lynn Harris's books at the theater? I am suggesting that's a very slippery slope. Who's the audience, gays, women, straights or who? If the audience for Dee Rees' award winning film Pariah is any indication of who might support Lynn's work with their dollars, not just their mouth, the Edmonds Entertainment Group's decision to pull away from this project might have been based on more than what this article has implied.

    That said, as a reader of African American literature, I was encouraged to read E Lynn Harris's novels. However, although I have a daughter-in-law who is a lesbian, who is legally married to a woman, who I stand behind 100 percent, E Lynn Harris was not for me.

    Now, I could be wrong but I believe my voice is the voice of millions of black folks who abide by the law, treat others as they'd like to be treated, support their family and friends who may be gay, but are not going to take their dates or wife to see a movie with "gay" themes.

  • nadia | August 24, 2013 8:28 AMReply

    This actually might be a really good time for this to restart. Studios are apparently much more open to black content these days. Especially if based on popular novels that already have builtin audiences. Good luck Proteus.

  • Proteus | August 23, 2013 4:49 AMReply

    Thank you, Tambay. Shadow & Act congregation :)

  • Masha Dowell | August 22, 2013 9:01 PMReply

    I read E. Lynn Harris books all through high school. I would love to see all his stories come to life on the big screen. It seems like filmmaker Rodney Evans would be great to get involved with this project. Not sure why I'm mentioning his name --- just came to my mind. Thanks for sharing this!!!!

  • Monique A Williams | August 22, 2013 3:36 PMReply

    This update is RIGHT ON TIME!! I was just thinking about it this morning. E. Lynn Harris's books really got me thinking as a teen and I appreciated how much heart and depth he gave his characters. He is sorely missed. Hopefully, Spann's film captures that.

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