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Neufeld buys ‘Uplift Series’

Brin's 'Startide' novel, others eyed as franchise

Producer Mace Neufeld has paid a $100,000 against $800,000 option price for David Brin’s award-winning science fiction novel “Startide Rising,” as well as three sequels that collectively make up “The Uplift Series.”

Neufeld, who has an exclusive production deal with Paramount Pictures, struck the deal from his Par-funded discretionary fund.

“Startide,” which was originally published in 1983 and went on to win Hugo and Nebula awards for best novel, is the tale of the first starship crewed by humans and sentient dolphins, who discover an ancient relic in deep space. When hostile space-faring alien races learn the relic may hold the key to the origins of intelligent life, an intergalactic hunt ensues.

Franchise cornerstone

While the deal included the three other titles (“Brightness Reef,” “Infinity’s Shore” and “Heaven’s Reach”), Neufeld is eyeing “Startide” as the cornerstone of a high-tech, futuristic adventure franchise.

“I’ve always loved these books,” Neufeld told Daily Variety, but they always looked impossible to do technologically. “Now with the right filmmaker, and with the leaps and bounds digital effects have made, we can develop this into a franchise like ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Planet of the Apes.’ ”

Kel Symons, director of development at Neufeld Prods., brought the project into the company. No writer has been set.

Author’s bonuses

As part of the deal, Brin will receive exec-producing credit and will serve as a consultant on the projects. With the bonuses contained in his deal (including a $250,000 production bonus for the first film), the scribe would make $1.1 million if “Startide” gets made. He also will receive production bonuses for each sequel and a piece of the merchandising.

Brin was represented on the deal by attorney Mark Kalmansohn and by manager Vince Gerardis of Created By — New York lit agent Ralph Vicinanza’s newly established management banner that specializes in science fiction writers.

Neufeld also is developing a fourth installment of the Jack Ryan series, “Sum of All Fears,” which Akiva Goldsman is adapting.

And with another franchise in mind, Neufeld has purchased the rights to Michael Connelly’s books “Black Echo,” “Black Ice,” “The Concrete Blonde” and “The Last Coyote,” which all feature the character Harry “Hieronymous” Bosch. A Paramount/Columbia co-production, “Black Echo,” which is being scripted by Ted Tally, looks to be the first out of the gates.

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