EXCLUSIVE: Universal International Studios (UIS) and Australian indie Matchbox Pictures are developing a TV adaptation of Adrian McKinty novel The Island.
Published last year, The Island follows Heather Baxter, who marries Tom and moves from a small country town to Seattle. A working vacation overseas seems like the perfect way to bring the new family together, but once they’re deep in the Australian outback, the jet-lagged and exhausted kids are so over their new mom. When they discover a remote Dutch island, off-limits to outside visitors, the family talks their way onto the ferry, taking a chance on an adventure far from the reach of iPhones and Instagram. But as soon as they set foot on the island, which is run by a tightly knit clan of locals, everything feels wrong.
The book was a bestseller and comes from the Irish author of 2020’s The Chain and the Sean Duffy novels set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. McKinty, Shane Salerno and The Story Factory are EPs.
“The Island is the story of an underestimated person who maybe doesn’t get a lot of respect but who rises to the occasion and shows everyone what ordinary people are capable of in extremis,” said McKinty. “Really tough and shocking things happen in the book, but what shines through for me are Heather’s smarts, strength and tenacity – she’s a tribute to the strong women who raised and continue to inspire me.”
Kelsey Balance, UIS’ SVP of Scripted Programming, praised McKinty for “writing compelling and complex character journeys.”
“The Island has the right combination of what we’re looking for in a global story,” she added. “It is relatable and rich from a character perspective with an amazing Outback backdrop so we immediately jumped in and picked it up.”
Speaking to Deadline, UIS and Universal Content Productions President Beatrice Springborn praised the novel’s ability to bridge the generational divide, in a similar vein to the likes of Netflix’s Ginny & Georgia.
The development was unveiled as Balance and Springborn addressed the Berlinale Series Market.
UIS label Matchbox’s Stan drama Bad Behaviour is shortlisted for the debut Berlinale Series Award and Balance told Deadline there are “incredible filmmakers coming out of Australia” – a territory that UIS is focusing on.
The team is now seeking an American or Australian writer for The Island.
“The Island is in line with the projects we’re trying to find from Matchbox,” added Springborn. “We want to play off what they’re great at: working with Australian talent but finding global appeal with their projects.”
Springborn and Balance spoke about UIS’ international strategy and territory-by-territory approach this afternoon at the Berlinale. Speaking earlier this week on a separate Berlinale panel, Springborn said when her outfit is striking deals with European talent such as Parallels creator Quoc Dang Tran, it “wants them to be our partners on the ground.”
UIS is developing a range of novels into TV including Jessica George’s debut Maame.