First Option Pictures teams with Jonathan Shapiro on crusading unionist drama

Harry Bridges, labor leader in San Francisco in a discussion with businessmen. San Francisco, California: c. 1936 (Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)

Harry Bridges (Photo credit: Underwood Archives via Getty Images.)

Morrissey Management’s First Option Pictures is working with US screenwriter/producer Jonathan Shapiro on a TV drama series inspired by the true story of the Australian who became a champion of the labour movement in the US.

Shapiro (Mr Mercedes, The Black List, Goliath) has written the pilot of Radicals, which follows Harry Bridges, the merchant seaman who became a union leader in San Francisco in the 1930s.

In a 40-year career he helped launch the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union and battled criminal charges, which were quashed, civil suits and the US government’s attempts to deport him.

Mark Morrissey alluded to the project but was short on specifics during a webinar on Monday with Screen Producers Australia CEO Matt Deaner in which he revealed he quietly launched First Option Pictures 18 months ago.

“Harry Bridges changed the face of American workers and US unions,” Morrissey said today. “Radicals tells the stories of historical underdogs, the leaders of US oppressed men and women who fought the biggest political and corporate bullies in history – and won.

“Discovering and bringing to life these kinds of stories – at once intimate and global – is at the heart of First Options Pictures.”

The veteran talent manager’s interest in the subject was piqued several years ago when he was sent a copy of the book Burning Bridges: America’s 20-Year Crusade To Deport Labor Leader Harry Bridges.

He read the tome twice one weekend and the next day got in touch with the author, Peter Afrasiabi. Within a few days they negotiated an options deal.

Morrissey started developing the project as a feature film but soon realised it needed the bigger canvas of a TV series. Last September Shapiro contacted Afrasiabi, who put him in touch with Morrissey.

Shapiro, who is a consulting producer on HBO’s upcoming miniseries The Undoing, has a personal connection to the story: His father was a unionist who fought industrial battles on the front lines with Bridges.

Separately, Amazon’s Audible has commissioned First Option Pictures to produce a 10-part audiobook inspired by the book, which is being scripted by Melbourne-based playwright and screenwriter Ross Mueller.