“Lovecraft Country” and “His House” lead Wunmi Mosaku, a BAFTA award winner, has been cast in Gabe Klinger’s fact-based drama “Dreyana Grooms.”
The film focuses on 16-year-old Dreyana Grooms, who as a young teenager was implicated in a fatal shooting in Chicago during her summer break from school. The event radically altered the course of her young adult life.
Grooms and Klinger co-scripted the project, which is being presented this coming week at the International Film Festival Rotterdam’s CineMart co-production market. The film is produced by CogniCine, Black Monarch Entertainment and Les Films Hatari.
Mosaku, a BAFTA winner for her role in the BBC’s “Damiola, Our Loved Boy,” is currently nominated for a 2021 Critics’ Choice Award for her portrayal of Ruby Baptiste in HBO’s horror drama series “Lovecraft Country,” and a British Independent Film Award for her performance in Remi Weekes’s Netflix horror thriller “His House.” She’s repped by Gersh, Principal LA and Ziffren Brittenham LLP.
“I’m more than thrilled to have Wunmi join a growing team of artistic collaborators committed to telling this real-life story with the nuance and sense of timely conviction that it deserves,” said Klinger, whose previous credits include the romantic drama “Porto,” starring Anton Yelchin, and the Venice Film Festival award-winning doc “Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater.”
Klinger heard about Groom’s story two summers ago while attending anti-violence campouts organized by youth leaders in underserved neighborhoods in his hometown of Chicago. He managed to get in touch with her a few weeks later and discovered that she was about to go back to prison on a gun possession charge. “Barely nine months since she had been acquitted of murder, Dreyana had fallen back into old habits, hanging out on the block with gang friends,” Klinger said.
With her family deeply upset at her, Grooms became motivated to do whatever she could to get her life back on track and found a first-time gun offender program offered by the state’s attorney.
One of the criteria for the program was employment. Klinger offered her a job – to write a screenplay about her life.
“Dre and I submitted paperwork to the Cook County Court and Sheriff’s Office announcing her new employment. This was on a Friday, and by Monday she already had her movement granted. On Tuesday she was in my office learning how to use Final Draft, the industry standard software for screenwriting.”
“The idea from the very beginning was not to create a documentary but a realistic narrative feature with professional actors,” Klinger said, noting that Dre was an avid movie watcher and this was the iteration of the project that appealed to both of them. Grooms had already seen a lot of movies and series that would serve as inspiration for this kind of film, he added.
“Slowly over the next weeks, I also found out that she has a knack for dialogue and storytelling. Writing this script became a powerful creative union for both of us – a cathartic release for Dreyana, and an incredible and necessary learning experience for me.”
CogniCine’s Catherine Cilek, Black Monarch Entertainment’s Olivia Charmaine Morris and Michel Klein of Les Films Hatari will be looking for sales, distribution and production partners for the project at CineMart.
Principal photography for “Dreyana Grooms” is set to begin in July on location in Chicago.