Aussie director Nicholas Verso and producer Tania Chambers optioned the film and television rights to Holden Sheppard’s YA novel Invisible Boys this week. Invisible Boys has already won the 2018 City of Fremantle Hungerford Award, the 2019 Kathleen Mitchell Award and the 2019 Western Australian Premier’s Award for an Emerging Writer, and was shortlisted for a 2020 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and the Readings Prize.
Holden Sheppard described the experience as a dream come true: ‘We actually had a range of parties interested in taking on this story, which was a very fortunate position to be in. I’ve had these characters living in my head for years now, so seeing them come to life on the screen is going to be totally rad.’
Holden’s agent, Haylee Nash of The Nash Agency, brokered the deal. She said, ‘I am thrilled that we’ve signed a film and TV option with such a talented and experienced director as Nicholas Verso, and one who so clearly shares Holden’s vision. Invisible Boys is such an important novel, and this gives us the opportunity to bring Holden’s incredible story to a new audience.’
Holden agrees: ‘Nick and I clicked really well. Nick is also a gay man, and we spent time over the phone and on Skype discovering that we both have very similar ideas about the kinds of gay stories we would desperately love to see more of in the world.’
Nicholas Verso’s work includes the BAFTA and Emmy award-winning series Nowhere Boys for Matchbox Pictures, ABC and NBCUniversal, and the feature film Boys in the Trees, which premiered at the seventy-third Venice International Film Festival before screening at festivals worldwide and selling to Netflix and Stan. He also won an Australian Directors’ Guild Award last year for his work directing Grace Beside Me for the ABC and NITV.
Tania Chambers OAM is the producer and managing director of Feisty Dame Productions and was previously the Chief Executive of Screen NSW and Screenwest. Tania has produced the feature films Kill Me Three Times, which screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, Busan International Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival and Melbourne International Film Festival, and A Few Less Men, as well as the TV series Itch, which recently sold to the BBC.
Invisible Boys follows three young men growing up gay in the town – Geraldton – where the author himself grew up. It has been favourably compared to Puberty Blues, Normal People and the works of Tim Winton, and was described by the Hungerford judges as a work of tremendous energy and authenticity.
Holden said he was convinced that winning the Hungerford Award played a huge role in the success of Invisible Boys: ‘The Hungerford’s effect on a book is like plugging an electric guitar into an amp: you play the same notes, but it’s louder and gets heard by more people. Having a debut novel that is already an award-winner upon release makes industry people and readers sit up and take notice, so it’s been a boon and I am very grateful for what winning this award has done for my career.’
Invisible Boys is available in all good bookstores and online. Stay tuned for more information about the book’s progress towards Australian screens.