Wide-Eyed takes on death row inmate doc

Project marks indie firm's first trip to Cannes market

CANNES -- An innocent man who spent 23 years on death row without regretting "a single day" is the unlikely hero of a planned feature-length documentary from U.K.-based indie production company Wide-Eyed Entertainment.

The project marks a series of firsts for the company, including their debut dip into feature-length filmmaking, their first trip to Cannes' Marche du Film and their first effort backed by visual effects house Red Vision VFX.

Wide-Eyed, formed by television production vets and financiers Jasper James, Parule Basu-Barua and David McNab and partnered with Red Vision, plans to bring the story of death row inmate Nick Yarris -- once on the FBI's most-wanted list -- to the big screen.

Yarris, a self-confessed low-life, turned himself in believing that DNA testing would exonerate him from a murder rap. Unfortunately, it would be 18 years before a judge allowed the tests to go ahead. In the meantime, aside from beatings from both guards and fellow inmates, the callow youth learned to read and write and, while in jail, consumed 9,000 dime-store novels. As a result, the way he talks is heavily influenced.

McNab, who is using more than 20 hours of interviews with him produced by Dox Prods., says Yarris talks "like an Elmore Leonard novel." McNab and company will splice together one-on-one interviews from DOX with CG-animation of incidents in the story in a graphic novel style.

Basu-Barua, whose has years of experience raising cash for television projects, told The Hollywood Reporter that the decision to set the project up as a feature doc came as part of Wide-Eyed's aim to "produce feature film animation made on television budgets."

Along with McNab, Basu-Barua is jetting into Cannes over the weekend to take meetings. "We've done MIP and MIPCOM but never Cannes," she said. "The budget for it is going to be £3 million ($4.1 million) because I am very conservative when I do my budgets."

Strange to hear, as Cannes gets under way.