'Modern Family' Director, 'Colbert' Writer Teaming for Comedy 'Joy' at Columbia Pictures (Exclusive)

Jason Winer Max Werner Split - H 2011

Jason Winer Max Werner Split - H 2011

The high-concept project is based on a "This American Life" segment about people with a rare neurological disease called cataplexy.

How’s this for a romantic comedy premise: A man suffers from a serious disease that causes acute narcolepsy whenever he is happy. The man develops a variety of techniques to deny himself pleasure and deal with the sleep issues, but they’re put to a big test when he falls in love.

That’s the idea behind Joy, a feature project based on a segment from public radio’s This American Life. Columbia Pictures is negotiating to pick up the comedy pitch to be directed by Jason Winer, helmer of Warner Bros.’ recent Arthur remake and many episodes of ABC's Modern Family, and to be scripted by Max Werner, a writer on The Colbert Report whose feature debut, the Halloween comedy Fun Size, is being directed by Josh Schwartz for release in 2012 by Paramount.

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Winer tells THR he sparked to the project because it reminded him of his favorite high-concept movies and TV shows growing up, such as Tootsie and Taxi, “something truthful about the human condition,” he says.

The radio segment detailed the challenges faced by people who suffer from the rare but very real disease of cataplexy, which sometimes affects people with narcolepsy. Winer and Werner's story centers on one male character, a librarian in New York, who has isolated himself to protect himself from the humiliation of passing out in public. But the man then meets a woman for whom he is ready to risk everything.

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“While somewhat outrageous, it seems like the great basis for my favorite style, human character-based comedy with a hint of sadness,” Winer says.

Mosaic is producing along with This American Life's Ira Glass, Alissa Shipp and Joshuah Bearman.

Winer is repped by ICM and Mosaic. Werner is repped by WME, Anonymous and McKuin Frankel.

Email: Borys.Kit@thr.com
Twitter: @Borys_Kit