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Sister, Taffy Brodesser-Akner Partner on ‘The Get,’ Drama Set in Ultra-Orthodox Communities

Taffy Brodesser Akner
Ali Smith

Sister will partner with Taffy Brodesser-Akner on “The Get,” a feature film based on Matt Shaer’s GQ piece “The Orthodox Hit Squad.”

Brodesser-Akner, best known for her New York Times Magazine profiles of the likes of Val Kilmer to Bradley Cooper along with her best-seller “Fleishman Is in Trouble,” will write the screenplay.

“The Get” unfolds in New York and New Jersey’s ultra-orthodox communities. It follows one notorious rabbi, Mendel Epstein, who was sought for help in managing the worst divorce cases, where husbands exploited Jewish law to deny their wives freedom from miserable marriages. The help he provided included beatings, open graves and cattle prods to the testicles — and it worked, but it also showed how a noble goal can sometimes only be accomplished by the most unconscionable of methods.

Sister is a new entertainment company founded by Elisabeth Murdoch, along with Sister Global CEO and head of Sister LA, Stacey Snider and partner Jane Featherstone. Since launching last year, it has invested in AWA (Artists, Writers & Artisans) Studios, a new comic book and digital media publisher, as well as the podcast startup Campside Media. Carolyn Strauss and Kate Fenske are producing “The Get” for Sister alongside Shaer.

Shaer first got to know the Sister team via Campside Media, which he formed alongside long-form journalists Josh Dean (The Clearing), Vanessa Grigoriadis (Tabloid: The Making Of Ivanka Trump), and screenwriter/producer Adam Hoff.

“Out of all the stories I’ve written in the past decade, the GQ feature on Mendel Epstein was one of my favorites. That’s partly because of the world in which it’s set — a world most Americans are unfamiliar with — and partly because the themes are so fascinating and resonant,” Shaer said. “When it comes to a figure like Epstein, where should we draw the line between criminal and hero? And who, exactly, gets to make the distinction – the secular criminal justice system or the families that count themselves in Epstein’s debt? I’m thrilled Taffy is going to be the one wrestling with these questions. In addition to being a sharp, sensitive writer, Epstein’s background is a background she understands. She has a personal connection to the material, and the wit to bring it to life.”

“I’m only a little embarrassed to say that when I first read Matt’s story in 2014 in an actual paper issue of GQ, I was extremely jealous not just of what a great and definitive feature it is on Mendel Epstein and his gang of get-getters, but of how, like all petty journalists, I was sad I hadn’t gotten the story myself,” said Brodesser-Akner. “The subject matter is incredibly close to my heart. My family is ultra-Orthodox, and I’ve seen women close to me whose lives and plans have been derailed by the arcane and dangerous law that men possess the singular power to end a marriage, a state of affairs that tests some of their most abusive tendencies. But I couldn’t begrudge Matt the story—his is the rare one story on this subject that actually gets the world of it right, and treats the Jewish community with respect, despite its flaws.”

Brodesser-Akner is working on a second novel, “Long Island Compromise,” which is due out from Random House in 2021. She is adapting her first novel, “Fleishman Is in Trouble,” for ABC Studios/FX. Shaer is a writer at-large at the New York Times Magazine and an Emerson Collective Fellow at New America. He has reported for New York Magazine, Wired, Harper’s, the Atlantic and GQ.

Brodesser-Akner is represented by ICM Partners and McKuin Frankel Whitehead. Shaer is represented by CAA and Management.