Fledgling production company Keshet Films has launched development of “Devil’s Punchbowl,” the story of a deputy who vanished in the California desert in 1998, Variety has learned exclusively.
In its first acquisition, Keshet Films obtained film rights to Claire Martin’s article, “The Deputy Who Disappeared,” published in 2015 in Los Angeles magazine. The deputy, Jon Aujay, was never seen again after going for a run in the Devil’s Punchbowl area and his body was never found. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department decided that he most likely killed himself, while some friends and former colleagues believe he either ran away to a new life or was murdered — possibly by meth dealers.
The project will explore the mystery of the case and the theme of the identity we leave after we are gone. Producers are Mandy Tagger-Brockey and Adi Ezroni, the veteran independent producers who formed Keshet Films production division as part of Keshet International. The scripting team of Eli Kooris & Joshua Shaffer, who brought in the story, have begun work on the screenplay.
“We think that stories about identity transcend genres,” Ezroni told Variety. “Once we got the pitch, we almost felt like we can’t not do this film.”
Tagger-Brockery and Ezroni met with several directors to hear their takes during the Sundance Film Festival.
The duo founded Spring Pictures in 2009 and produced “A Late Quartet,” starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, and Catherine Keener; “The English Teacher,” starring Julianne Moore, Greg Kinnear, and Lily Collins; “Saturday Church,” written and directed by Damon Cardasis; and “Dean,” which stars writer-director Demetri Martin as well as Kevin Kline, Gillian Jacobs, and Mary Steenburgen. “Dean” won the Tribeca Film Festival’s Founders Award in 2016.
Keshet International produces “False Flag,” “Prisoners of War,” “The Brave,” and “The A Word.”