Advanced Television

Compact Pictures acquires rights to The Pharmacist

May 11, 2023

Compact Pictures, the Glasgow-based emerging TV and film indie founded by John McKay (Life on Mars) has optioned The Pharmacist for development. Written by Scots-Egyptian novelist Rachelle Atalla, The Pharmacist is her acclaimed debut novel, chosen as a Sunday Times Book of the Week and nominated for the Scottish National Book Award.

Laura McBride from Compact Pictures originally identified the book as a perfect story for the company. It is now moving into development with Atalla attached to adapt.

The Pharmacist, hailed as a compulsive and wonderfully compassionate read, is a female-led, psychological story about bunker-dwelling survivors in a post-nuclear world. Wolfe is the bunker’s pharmacist, doling out medicine under the watchful eye of an increasingly erratic and paranoid leader. When the leader starts to ask things of her, favours she can hardly say no to, it seems her luck is running out. Forming unlikely alliances, she is forced to navigate the powder keg of life underground where one misstep will light the fuse. The walls that keep her safe also have her trapped.

John McKay, CEO and lead producer at Compact Pictures says: “The Pharmacist is a stand-out novel and will make an atmospheric, claustrophobic adaptation – in the lo-fi, speculative vein of Children of Men, but with a strong female perspective. We are thrilled to be working directly with Rachelle; she is a charismatic, original and dynamic storytelling voice with striking and timely things to say about women, their bodies and the politics of control. Her story also has some uniquely British DNA, and it’s no coincidence that she has been compared to George Orwell. Even though it’s early days, we have high hopes for this project: the story is exceptionally strong, and it readily opens itself to diverse casting and distinctive visual styling.”

Rachelle Atalla adds: “I am delighted to be working with John, Laura and the team at Compact to bring my first novel to the screen. Even though we are just getting started, they have an incredible vision for my work and it’s an exciting prospect for me to turn the book into a screenplay and then see it come alive on screen. And it’s particularly satisfying to be doing all of this out of Scotland too!”

Compact Pictures optioned the book through Atalla’s agent, Nick Marston at Curtis Brown. Rachelle Atalla is a graduate of Chris Young’s renowned Skye Film programme and Write4Film. Her second novel, Thirsty Animals, has just been published by Hodder and Stoughton to critical acclaim.

Compact Pictures has a rich slate of projects in development. Building on John Mckay’s pedigree as a maker of award-winning TV, its small screen developments include The Hum an eight-part, sophisticated, high-concept thriller created by writer James Mavor (Reichenbacj Falls). Set in Glasgow and Estonia and distinctively played out in an immersive world of sound and ominous total silence, the series is being executive produced by former Newen Connect exec Dominic Schreiber at his new company, Colliderscope. Compact is also developing A Beginners’ Guide to Ruling the Galaxy, a teen/YA comedy series written by David Solomons (5 Children and It).

Compact Pictures has just completed its first feature film, Aylin Tezel’s Falling Into Place. A co-production which Weydemann Bros, it has just been acquired for distribution by Global Screen and will launch this month in Cannes. Other current feature projects in development include James Ley’s sparkling gay romcom, Lovesong to Lavender Menace, which has just been selected for Inside Out 2023, the finance forum in Toronto, and Spyglass, an original family action feature also from YA author David Solomons (Not Another Happy Ending)

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