Friday night at the 22nd annual Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, word came that Eisner's landmark graphic novel, A Contract with God, is coming to the big screen. The film adaptation of Eisner's tale of growing up in New York City will feature four directors, with each tackling a different chapter of the book. Attached to the film are Alex Rivera (Sleep Dealer) for the title chapter, Tze Chun (Children of Invention) for “A Street Singer,” Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy) for “The Super” and Sean Baker (Prince of Broadway, Warren the Ape) for “Cookalien.” Producer and writer Darren Dean is currently finishing the screenplay and indicated that the chapters will likely be linked together by animated sequences.
L.A. Weekly met with Dean along with co-executive producers Michael Ruggiero and Bob Schreck and associate producer Mark Rabinowitz at Comic-Con, where they were wearing buttons that read “God…Soon.”
Dean, who says that he became “enamored” with Eisner's work in college, has been working closely with the late comic pioneer's estate and the project appears to have a personal connection to the producers as well, all are fans of Eisner's work.
“He's the grandfather. He gave us the language of the graphic novel,” says Schreck, an award-winning comic book editor. “Up until then, it was all collections of other people's short stories. He sat down and set forth to create a narrative with words and pictures that had never been done before. He's kind of like Eisenstein for film, he kind of put all the building blocks in front of us and everyone else has been trying to catch up.”
The producers kept in mind the themes throughout A Contract with God of immigrant and first-generation American experiences when selecting the directors.
“When I brought the directors, I told the estate, the directors are telling modern immigrant stories,” he says, citing Chun's Children of Invention as an example. “They're all modern immigration or culturally relevant stories. We wanted to take these guys out of their own element, because they're doing ethnically specific stories or doing stories from their own background and we wanted to put them into a new culture.”
There is no cast set for the film yet, though the producers say that they have their own “wish lists.” Additionally, directors for the animation sequences have not been attached. A Contract with God is still in its early phases, but the group intends to begin principle photography in 2011.