After years of fits, starts and close calls, the fact-based indie “Radioactive Boy Scout” — about a 17-year-old American who attempted to build a nuclear reactor in his mother’s potting shed — is getting closer to the big screen.
Beverly Hills-based OBB Pictures has acquired the option on Ken Silverstein’s book based on a 1998 Harper’s Magazine article about the case, with producer and director Eric D. Cohen angling to start production next fall.
Cohen said when he stumbled upon Silverstein’s magazine story about David Hahn, whose boyhood property became a Superfund site, his first question was, “Why isn’t this a movie?”
He then turned to OBB President and CEO Michael D. Ratner, a classmate in the graduate film program at New York University’s Tisch School, to figure out how they could get their hands on it.
“I had been a Boy Scout, I grew up as this science-obsessed person,” Cohen said. “I had an engineering degree. It was a natural project for me to sink my teeth into.”
But first, he had to win over Silverstein.
“The film had been optioned a number of times,” the author told TheWrap, mentioning that HBO was the first to pick it up. “Frankly, I was skeptical at first. It moved along pretty far a couple of times. So it was disappointing — there always arose one huge obstacle.”
However, Cohen’s passion for the project soon convinced Silverstein that he and OBB were the right partners. He also had some good fortune: At the time, Silverstein was represented by an agent who worked at the same firm as OBB’s representatives.
“He was really, really attached to the story, clearly loves it, was super motivated,” Silverstein said. “Eric clearly was going to devote his time and energy. It just seemed like a good bet. We tried and failed with bigger places. Let’s try this.”
Ratner will produce alongside Cohen, who is also OBB’s head of content and operations. It will be Cohen’s first time directing a feature film. He also wrote the screenplay.
Cohen won the 2015-2016 NYU Alfred P. Sloan Feature Grant for $100,000, which will be used for initial production costs. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a major supporter of independent film. Its mandate is to further the public understanding of science and technology.
Since 2010, OBB has created scripted and unscripted content for big names like ESPN, Vice and Verizon’s Go90 mobile network.
Ratner wrote, directed and produced “The 30 Year Old Bris,” an official selection of 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, and executive produced the documentary “In Football We Trust,” which played at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.
OBB is currently producing “The 5th Quarter” for Go90, a sports mockumentary series that follows “the greatest untold and untrue stories in sports history.” The company also recently wrapped production on “One in a Billion,” a feature-length documentary about the National Basketball Association’s first Indian-born player, Satnam Singh.
This year, OBB has forged partnerships with Mandalay Sports Media and Authentic Brands Group, which owns entertainment brands including Marilyn Monroe, Muhammad Ali and Elvis Presley.
Ratner and OBB are represented by United Talent Agency, 3 Arts Entertainment, and Hansen Jacobsen & Teller.