EXCLUSIVE: Kat Taylor & Tom Steyer’s TomKat MeDiA has unveiled its slate of social justice-themed projects for 2022. The multi-platform media company has secured rights to Duff Wilson’s eco-thriller Fateful Harvest and Aaron Bobrow-Strain’s award-winning work of narrative non-fiction, The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez, with plans to develop both as feature films.
Based on a Seattle Times investigative series reported by Wilson that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Fateful Harvest is the riveting account of an alarming environmental scandal. Published in 2001, the book tells the story of Patty Martin — the mayor of a small Washington town called Quincy — who discovers American industries are dumping toxic waste into farmers’ fields and home gardens by labeling it “fertilizer.” She becomes outraged at the contaminated soil, failed crops, dead horses, and fatal, rare diseases in her town, as well as the direct threat to her own children’s health. Yet, when she blows the whistle on a nationwide problem, Patty Martin is nearly run out of town. Fateful Harvest is a study of corruption and courage, of recklessness and reckoning. It is a story that speaks to the greatest fears — and ultimate hope — in us all.
Anne Pinheiro-Guimarães (Uncoupled in Rio) will pen the feature adaptation.
Published in 2019, The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez is the story of a young woman whose life spans both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border — a radiantly optimistic character in a relentlessly bleak, unlucky world. Aida’s resilience pushes her to survive her own attempted murder, family abuse, incarceration, deportation, separation from her son and the U.S. immigration system. The daughter of a rebel hero from the mountains of Chihuahua, she has a genius for survival — but returning to the United States is just the beginning of her quest.
New York Times bestselling author Héctor Tobar (Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free) will handle the screenplay adaptation for the film, to be titled Aida. MacArthur “Genius” fellows and Sundance winners Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera (The Infiltrators) will serve as its directors, with Taylor and Marcela Davison Avilés producing both films for TomKat MeDiA.
“As we advocate for more equitable reforms to help close America’s racial, economic and environmental disparities, the stories of TomKat MeDiA will each contribute to a common understanding by shedding comfortable myths in favor of more authentic narratives told and led by previously unheard voices and untapped talent,” said Taylor. “Together, with our partners, we will discover and cultivate new voices, talent and business partners who are equally committed to entertaining and transforming society for the common good.”
“We’re so delighted to support the work of these outstanding storytellers in the Hollywood community with uplifting projects that get to the heart of our resilience and capacity for hope, courage and love,” added Avilés, who joined TomKat as Managing Partner in 2020. “Their creativity reaches a global audience with beauty, verve and inspirational impact.”
After Pinheiro-Guimarães’s short film Desejo starring Narcos‘ Wagner Moura premiered at Sundance, she began writing and directing on such notable Brazilian series as As Canalhas, Desnude and Nós. She most recently directed on the critically acclaimed series Uncoupled in Rio, which was released worldwide via Amazon in December of last year, also co-writing and co-directing the upcoming Brazilian feature, Transe.
Ibarra and Rivera previously directed the feature doc The Infiltrators, which won the Audience and Innovator Awards in the NEXT section of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Ibarra also previously helmed the award-winning documentary Las Marthas, among other projects. Rivera’s first feature was Sleep Dealer, which won awards at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and the Berlin Film Festival.
Tobar is the author of five books published in fifteen languages including Deep Down Dark, which was adapted into the film The 33 starring Antonio Banderas. Tobar’s most recent novel is The Last Great Road Bum. He was a member of the Pulitzer-winning team reporting on the 1992 Los Angeles riots for the L.A. Times and has also written for The New Yorker, among other publications.
TomKat MeDiA was founded by Taylor and Steyer with a mandate to develop and produce content from historically marginalized storytellers across platforms including film, television, podcasts and the performing arts. Other upcoming projects from the company include a podcast series renewing the original journalism for Fateful Harvest, and Mudbone, a scripted episodic series in development with Alpita Patel and Peter and Benjamin Bratt’s Five Stick Films, and Erika Alexander and Ben Arnon at Color Farm Media. The company also recently participated in financing for The Big Payback, a documentary about the reparations bill for Black Americans passed in Evanston, IL., directed by Erika Alexander and Whitney Dow.
TomKat MeDiA is represented by Rick Berg and Rich Freeman at Code Management and attorneys Bill Skrzyniarz and Tanya Mallean. Wilson and Martin are repped by Echo Lake Entertainment; Pinheiro-Guimarães by Gersh, Black Rabbit Media, and attorney Shep Rosenman; Bobrow-Strain by Matt McGowan at the Frances Golden Literary Agency; Ibarra by attorney Andrew Hurwitz; Rivera by The Rookery, APA, and Andrew Hurwitz; and Tobar by WME.