EXCLUSIVE: MindRiot Entertainment, the transatlantic indie behind Danielle Deadwyler’s Parallel and the upcoming OceanGate pic Salvaged has locked the rights to adapt former pro skater Josh Swindell’s memoir into a feature film.
The memoir, which features a forward by Jay Mohr, has yet to be published. MindRiot’s Jonathan Keasey, who has been tapped to write the screenplay, described the book as “gut-wrenching.”
Swindell was one of the most celebrated pro skaters of his generation and had been regarded as the future of the sport by grandees such as Christian Hosoi, Tony Hawk, and Steve Caballero. He also crossed over into motocross and is still sponsored by Vans. In October 1995, however, Swindell was convicted of second-degree murder in the killing of Keith Ogden, a gay man whom he beat to death outside a bar in Azusa, California. He was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison and was released in 2012 after spending almost 20 years behind bars. The case has been the center of controversy over the years, with George W. Trammell, the judge who presided over the case, later being charged and pleading guilty to federal corruption charges.
Swindell said he hand-picked Keasey to adapt his story after turning down interest from multiple producers around the town.
“I’m humbled by Swindell, Jay Mohr, and all of Swindell’s supporters, and personally, I can’t wait to ride full circle thirty-plus years later and watch the once outlawed sport of street skating shine in the City of Lights while writing this pro street skater’s epic saga,” said Keasey.
Actor, singer, and musician Ryan Link, best known for his work on Broadway in Rent, Hair, and the national tour of Once, will co-produce. Steven Banks Jr., Head of Sports Content & DEI at MindRiot, will also produce.
“What makes Swindell’s story so cinematic is how two Black men, a Mexican immigrant, and Swindell, banded together like brothers on a prison yard where different races mixing can get you killed,” Banks told Deadline.
“My community has suffered systemic racism for centuries, and how these gentlemen broke racial barriers to regain their freedom is a story that the world must see.”
Banks added: “The memoir had me in tears.”
Criminal professor and author Chad Noreuil is attached as a consultant. Keasey is also a licensed pro-bono attorney.
“It’s as if all these beacons in music, art, film, and criminal justice cosmically fell into MindRiot’s lap at the perfect time,” Keasey and Banks told Deadline.
“Sometimes we scratch our heads as if we were destined to become childhood friends to tell such socially redeeming stories 30 years later.”
The adaption currently has the working title, Four The Yard. The pic is part of MindRiot’s upcoming slate of projects, including Salvaged, co-produced by E. Brian Dobbins (The Blackening, Black-ish), and a project in development based around Seattle’s underground rap scene. MindRiot also opened an Irish office last year, headed by Justin MacGregor, who is head of film at Trinity College, Dublin. MindRiot’s staff also includes COO Randa Minkarah. She is the former head of Business Development at North America’s Fisher Communications, where she led sales teams for ABC, Fox, and Univision.