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Indies at Comic-Con: Eisner's A Contract with God

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood July 24, 2010 at 4:00AM

At Comic-Con's Eisner Awards Friday night, writer-producer Darren Dean announced that he is adapting Will Eisner's graphic novel A Contract with God into an omnibus movie to be directed by four rising indie directors: San Francisco's Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy), New Yorkers Tze Chun (Children of Invention) and Alex Rivera (Sleep Dealer) and bi-coastal Sean Baker (Prince of Broadway, which he co-wrote with Dean).
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Thompson on Hollywood

At Comic-Con's Eisner Awards Friday night, writer-producer Darren Dean announced that he is adapting Will Eisner's graphic novel A Contract with God into an omnibus movie to be directed by four rising indie directors: San Francisco's Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy), New Yorkers Tze Chun (Children of Invention) and Alex Rivera (Sleep Dealer) and bi-coastal Sean Baker (Prince of Broadway, which he co-wrote with Dean).

Thompson on Hollywood

Eisner divided the socially-conscious novel about the immigrant experience into four related segments of different lengths: "A Contract with God: (Rivera), "The Street Singer" (Chun), "The Super" (Jenkins) and "Cookalien" (Baker). Nat Sanders, Jenkins' editor on Melancholy, will edit the project. Dean will weave some characters through the four stories. Baker was the first director Dean thought of for the last, most chaotic sequence. Then he went to the others. "I trust the filmmakers' vision of what Will would do," Dean told me during an interview with the filmmakers in San Diego.

The four directors are just starting to talk about how they would coordinate on Dean's script based on Eisner's autobiographical memoir of growing up Jewish in a Bronx tenement. Said Rivera, "It's one story told from four perspectives. The images in the book stand in stark contrast with what you see here in Comic-Con. Eisner's book is unique and powerful."

"It's funny, tragic, sexy and disturbing," said Chun. "It's about themes of immigrant life, of what it's like to be a Jew in the 30s, making your way in the world." Jenkins was delighted to be tackling something out of his comfort zone, he said: "It's all unified, written in the same voice. Each chapter is part of larger story."

All four filmmakers are seeking material that gratifies them as much as their break-out features; trying to get this risky project going excites them. The Eisner estate approved of the film, which is currently seeking financing. Executive producers are comic book veteran Bob Schreck and ex-Starz programming chief Michael Ruggiero. Tommy Oliver will co-produce and Mark Rabinowitz will associate produce.

This article is related to: Festivals, Genres, Stuck In Love, Comic-Con, Independents, Screenwriters


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.