“Big hard books are my jam,” jokes Palmer, whose first produced credit came from adapting Stephen King’s “It” for Cary Fukunaga (director Andy Muschietti stuck to his Amblin-like take), and whose debut feature, “Naked Singularity,” represents a stunning best-parts version of public defender Sergio de la Pava’s nearly 900-page novel.
“I love trying to adapt them, in part because there’s so much good material in there. You just have to put your mining cap on and find it,” says Palmer, who didn’t go to film school — he was an environmental science major — but began writing scripts in his early 20s.
When it came time to direct “Neo-Noir,” a super-stylized genre short, “I recruited one of the best DPs coming out of NYU at the time, Andrij Parekh, and it went to Sundance,” he says. “At the time, Fox Searchlight had a program where they gave me some money to shoot a second short film, ‘Shock and Awe.’”
Palmer connected with other encouraging filmmakers on the festival circuit, including Fukunaga. Impressed with his writing, producer Gail Mutrux became an early believer, backing him on “Number 13,” based on the project once intended as Hitchcock’s first film. Ironically, it wasn’t meant to be Palmer’s either. He also spent four years developing environmental horror movie “Black Lung,” but the greenlight never came.
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Then Mutrux suggested “Naked Singularity,” to which her husband, Tony Ganz, had the rights. It’s a massive book, but Palmer loved the author’s outraged, absurdist tone. “He realizes the system is so stacked against him and the people he represents that you have to have a sense of humor. I wanted to get that voice.”
Looking back, Palmer believes he benefited from taking the long way. “After working as a screenwriter for 10 years, I was able to wrangle all my supporters and cash in all my chips.” That meant enlisting Parekh as DP; reaching out to old friend Kevin Walsh at Ridley Scott’s company; and landing his first-choice leading man, John Boyega, as the hard-boiled antihero. Patience should come in handy as he waits for the nearly completed film’s 2020 debut.
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