Focus is on 'Funny'


Focus Features will finance, produce and distribute the next film from the writer-director team behind the 2006 pic "Half Nelson."

The specialty division has boarded "It's Kind of a Funny Story," a coming-of-age dramedy that Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden are directing from a script they wrote.

Kevin Misher will produce via his Misher Films banner, and Wayfare Entertainment will also finance and produce; Ben Browning will produce on behalf of the New York-based shingle, and Michael Maher and Peter Rawlinson are exec producing.

Originally developed at Paramount, "Story" centers on a 15-year-old boy named Craig who, battling depression, checks himself into a psychiatric hospital but finds himself placed in the adult ward.

He has a series of colorful and dramatic relationships with a group of adults -- many of whom he finds are far crazier than he is -- and a girl his own age.

"Story" is based on a young-adult novel by Ned Vizzini, a 450-page tome that gained critical acclaim when it came out in 2006 and which was published by Miramax Books.

The budget for the Focus pic will be in the $8 million range, with shooting set to begin in the late fall. Production chief John Lyons is overseeing for Focus; Matthew Plouffe is the creative exec on the project.

Producers are out to cast, with the goal of bringing on a name-driven adult ensemble and a number of discoveries for the teen roles.

The WME- and Management 360-repped Fleck and Boden gained acclaim with their debut feature "Half Nelson," which told the story of several New York City students and their devoted but crack-addicted teacher (Ryan Gosling); the pic garnered a best actor Oscar nomination for Gosling.

The pair were also behind immigrant baseball drama "Sugar," which caused a stir at Sundance in 2008 and whose screenplay was nominated for a Spirit Award.

The migration of "Story" from Par to Focus marks what is an increasingly rare example of a project moving from a studio to a specialty division.

With specialty divisions cutting back their slates, many projects that might have gone to one of those units now wind up being financed independently. Darren Aronofsky's upcoming "Black Swan," for instance, is a former Universal project being financed and produced outside the studio and specialty division system by financier-producer Overnight Films, though Fox Searchlight eventually could come board.

Focus has a history with coming-of-age projects. This year, it released the animated fairy-tale "Coraline," which told the story of a pre-adolescent girl trying to find her place in the world. The Uni specialty division also is set to release "Taking Woodstock," in which Demetri Martin's twentysomething character discovers himself as he helps stage the landmark concert, and the Coen brothers' Midwestern coming-of-age tale "A Serious Man."
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