Hartley Merrill prize to Deery

Fricker in negotiations for leading role

CANNES — John Deery won the 12th annual Hartley Merrill Intl. Screenwriting prize for “Conspiracy of Silence.” Future Film Group has signed on to lead the financing and development of the pic, which Deery will direct.

The U.K.-based Deery’s “Silence” is the story of two men who search to uncover a deadly conspiracy hidden deep in the Catholic Church. Prize was presented May 11 by MPAA prexy Jack Valenti at the Nestle Pavilion in Cannes.

Founded by actress Dina Merrill and her husband, RKO Pictures’ CEO Ted Hartley, the Hartley Merrill prize recognizes screenwriters from around the world. This year’s competition featured finalists from 14 countries.

Future Films managing director Stephen Margolis (“Waking Ned Devine”) will exec produce “Silence,” with Brenda Fricker (“My Left Foot”) in negotiations for a leading role.

Second prize went to Serbia’s Mihalio Stanich for “Dreamers,” while Peru’s Lorenzo O’Brian Camillo took third place for “Teenangels.”

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