Michael Scott and Adam Smith were already in Thailand when the story of the missing boys soccer team broke. Smith lives in Thailand, and Scott, whose wife is Thai, spends most of his summers there. And, the faith-based producers tell TheWrap, that deep connection to the country provides their motivation to “respectfully” make a film about the “miracle” rescue effort that has captured the world’s attention.
“We think the advantage we have, being here on the ground, having a connection to this place and contacts here that we’ve worked with, is we know how to respectfully tell this story,” said Scott, founder of PureFlix Entertainment, the studio behind the “God’s Not Dead’ series.
The 12 boys and their coach went missing June 23 after being trapped in a cave system near the Myanmar border that was flooded by sudden rains. They survived for a week rationing their food and were finally located July 2. Efforts to save them were complicated by rising water and the boys’ inability to swim — one Thai Navy SEAL diver died after delivering them supplies. Rescuers finally freed all 12 boys, with ages ranging from 11 to 16, and their coach on Tuesday.
Soon after the story broke Scott, and Smith, co owner of Kaos Entertainment in Thailand, traveled to the rescue site to see for themselves. They’ve spent the last five days at the foothills of the Tham Luang mountain cave system, talking to journalists, rescuers and onlookers at the scene. The cave was dark, the water murky; Scott and Smith said rescuers couldn’t see more than 5 meters in front of them. The rope they used to get to the boys just barely reached them, the two said.
“There was a point where it felt very pessimistic,” Scott told TheWrap via Skype from Thailand. “The technical difficulty to pull off this rescue was out of this world. I think we were all really surprised at this outcome. It really feels like a miracle.”
“We were following along with the story and just as it progressed, our interest grew,” Scott and Smith said. “There were hundreds of people — thousands. The main concern was for these boys, but as the rescue progressed the conversation around became, ‘wow, what a story this is going to be.”
The producing partners have also been speaking to Thai authorities to get things right for their planned telling of that story.
“We’ve been coordinating with the Thai government to make sure we get the facts and all the aspects of the rescue right,” said Scott. “We’re not just trying to do something quick, we want make sure this story is told the right way. This is an amazing story, especially for Thailand.”
The story has an added personal dimension. One of the rescue divers is a friend of Scott’s wife, he said. But though he considers the eventual outcome to be a miracle, Scott said the plan isn’t to make a religion-based film, “just an inspirational one.”
It’s still early stages, but the producing team said they’re working on getting life rights from the families of the boys and the rescuers involved. And though they couldn’t disclose any names, the two said they’ve already been talking screenwriters to pen the harrowing story.
They expect the film to have a roughly $30 million to $60 million budget and plan to release it under Scott’s more mainstream banner, Pinnacle Peak.
“There are a lot of of people around the world who would love to tell this story,” Scott and Smith said. “We think the advantage we have, being here on the ground, having a connection to this place and contacts here that we’ve worked with, is we know how to respectfully tell this story.”
Scott and Smith said they don’t plan on going the Clint Eastwood-route of casting the real-life people to play themselves onscreen, but they were inspired by the global effort and want to make sure the cast of characters is an internationally diverse group of actors.
For now, they tell TheWrap they’re giving the families of the boys time and space as they wait for updates from the hospital on Wednesday in Thailand, before getting their stories.