In their first project since exiting “The West Wing,” Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme will join forces at New Line on “The Farnsworth Invention,” a drama about how Philo Farnsworth invented TV technology and was robbed of the glory by broadcast pioneer David Sarnoff.
Project was sold as a spec package. After entering into exclusive negotiations early this week, New Line agreed to pay $2.5 million against 2% of gross for Sorkin to write and produce, with Schlamme receiving just north of $1 million to direct the film and produce.
Script is set in the late 1920s, when the 22-year-old genius from Utah became the first to capture a moving image in a box. That led to a skirmish with rival scientist Vladimir Zworykin, who years earlier had filed a patent for the technology even though he hadn’t made it work until Farnsworth’s invention.
Since Zworykin was under the employ of radio giant RCA and Sarnoff, the young mogul who ran the broadcasting giant engaged in a take-no-prisoners battle for control of the invention that would change the world.
New Line president Toby Emmerich made the buy and will oversee the project. “The way (Sorkin) portrayed Philo and Sarnoff on the page, I’d say (they were) two of the best characters I’d read in a movie script over the last 10 years. They are adversaries, but it is subtle and sophisticated. It is a compelling drama that will have the feel of ‘Seabiscuit’ in that it covers one of those periods in the country where everything changed.”
Sorkin and Schlamme met while working on the Sorkin-created series “Sports Night,” and then became exec producers on “The West Wing.”