An English-language film adaptation of Japanese video game “Root Letter,” starring Danny Ramirez, is in production in the U.S. through Akatsuki Entertainment USA. Besides Ramirez (“Top Gun: Maverick,” “Assassination Nation”), the film stars Keana Marie (“Huge in France,” “Life in Pieces”) and Lydia Hearst (“The Haunting of Sharon Tate,” “Z Nation”).
With a screenplay by David Ebeltoft (2016 Tribeca Film Festival’s “Here Alone”), the film is intended as a gritty re-imagining of the game’s core story of a protagonist in search of a former pen pal who disappears under curious circumstances.
The underlying Kadokawa-published game has two main gameplay sequences. First, the player interrogates people who knew the missing girl. Then the player relives the missing years and makes use of clues gathered earlier.
The game was first published in 2016 and has been made available on platforms including PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Microsoft Windows, Android and iOS. It sold more than 400,000 copies in Japan and overseas, and is also available on Steam and Nintendo Switch.
The film adaptation began shooting Monday in Shreveport, Louisiana. It is being directed by Sonja O’Hara (“Doomsday”), who is making her feature directorial debut. Akatsuki Entertainment USA president Annmarie Sairrino Bailey is producer, alongside the company’s Tokyo-based Moeko Suzuki and Los Angeles-based Kat McPhee.
Akatsuki Entertainment is the U.S.-based arm of Japanese mobile gaming company Akatsuki Inc., which was formed in 2010 and focuses on the production of games for mobile phones and tablets, with a niche in social games. It has offices in Tokyo and Taiwan, 200 employees, and enjoyed operating profits of JPY4.75 billion ($42.4 million) in 2016-2017. Akatsuki has launched a Live Experience search and reservation platform for experience-based entertainment such as special events in Japan.
“David Ebeltoft’s version of ‘Root Letter’ absolutely ticked both boxes of an intriguing story and characters that will resonate with audiences,” Bailey said. “It inspires the complex and heartbreaking world he has re-imagined based on the original story.”
Ramirez recently wrapped shooting on director Katharine O’Brien’s “Lost Transmissions,” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival this year; Richard Bates Jr.’s “Tone-Deaf”; David Raboy’s “The Giant”; and director Peter Bishai’s “Rapid Eye Movement.”
Ramirez is represented by CAA, Anonymous Content, and Hansen, Jacobsen, Teller, Hoberman, Newman, Warrant, Richman, Rush & Kaller. Marie is represented by Innovative Artists and Alan Siegel Entertainment. Hearst is represented by Buchwald, Management Production Entertainment, Narrative PR and Ginsburg Daniels Kallis. O’Hara is represented by WME, Industry Entertainment, Pulse Films, Serge PR, and Fox Rothschild.