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Amazon Studios Buys ‘Selah and the Spades,’ Will Develop Original Series (EXCLUSIVE)

Amazon Studios has acquired worldwide rights to “Selah and the Spades,” a gripping look at a prep school drug dealer, Variety has learned.

The film marks the feature debut of writer and director Tayarisha Poe and had its world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival where it was a favorite with critics. Amazon has big plans for the project and is in the process of developing an original series based on the teen drama. Poe will write, direct and produce the original series, along with Lauren McBride who also produced the film.

“I’m thrilled that ‘Selah and The Spades’ has found a home with Amazon Studios, and doubly excited to see the world of The Haldwell School expand and develop in the serial format,” said Poe in a statement. “I’d always hoped to work with a company that realized the multi-format potential of this fictional world, and truly we have found the ideal partners with Amazon.”

“Selah and the Spades” is set in the prestigious Haldwell Boarding School. Here, Selah is in charge of one of the most powerful student factions, the Spades, the group responsible for selling much of the drugs and alcohol on campus. She’s also a star student on campus, and with graduation approaching, she is also interested in finding someone to replace her atop the Spades.

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In a positive review out of Sundance, Variety‘s Amy Nicholson wrote, “Writer-director Tayarisha Poe’s cold and stylish debut, commands attention.”

Amazon was an active buyer at the festival, picking up rights to “Honey Boy,” a drama with Shia LaBeouf, as well as the political thriller “The Report” and “Late Night,” Mindy Kaling’s look at life in the writer’s room of a comedy show.

“Selah and the Spades” stars Lovie Simone, who drew raves for her work as Selah, along with Celeste O’Connor, Jharrel Jerome, Gina Torres, Jesse Williams, Henry Hunter Hall and Evan Roe. The film was also produced by Secret Engine’s Lucas Joaquin and Drew Houpt and Argent Pictures’ Jill Ahrens. Executive producers include Argent partners Ryan Ahrens, Ben Renzo, Drew Brees, Tony Parker, Michael Finley, Derrick Brooks, Terence Nance, Jenifer Westphal, Cinereach, Julie Parker Benello, Wavelength Productions, Nancy Stephens Rosenthal, Chaz Ebert and Alex Scharfman. Stephanie DeVaan, David Chan, Kenneth and Elizabeth Whitney and Gottfried and Janet Tittiger are serving as co-executive producers.

It  recently screened at BAMcinemaFest.

“’Selah and The Spades’ is a fun and addictive story that immediately draws you in,” Matt Newman, co-head of movies at Amazon Studios said. “I’m so excited to bring filmmaker Tayarisha Poe into the Amazon Studios family — she has such a unique and beautiful style of storytelling that young audiences everywhere will fall in love with, just as we have.”

Poe is represented by ICM Partners, Grandview, and Frankfurt Kurnit. ICM Partners negotiated the deal on behalf of the filmmakers.

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