(L-R) Rebecca Green, Sarah Epstein and Kristian Moliere.

The producers of The Babadook and US horror movie It Follows are teaming up for a feature adaptation of Small Spaces, a young adult novel by Australian author Sarah Epstein.

Triptych Pictures’ Kristian Moliere and US producer Rebecca Green have hired Shelly Lauman to write and direct the psychological thriller.

Epstein’s debut novel follows Tash Carmody, who has been traumatised since childhood when she witnessed her gruesome imaginary friend Sparrow lure young Mallory Fisher away from a carnival.

At the time nobody believed Tash and she has since come to accept that Sparrow wasn’t real. Now aged 17, as disturbing memories resurface, Tash starts to see Sparrow again.

She realises Mallory is the key to unlocking the truth about a dark secret connecting them, raising the questions: Does Sparrow exist after all? Or is Tash more dangerous to others than she thinks?

It will be the feature debut for Lauman, whose short Birdie screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and was acquired by Fox Searchlight.

Moliere and Green said: “We were captivated from the moment we read Sarah Epstein’s novel. Not only is it a compelling psychological thriller, it is grounded by relatable, authentic teen characters with an underlying social commentary about our unwillingness to believe the experience of women.”

Moliere tells IF he got in touch with Green before It Follows was released in 2015 as it kept coming up in his Google Alerts for The Babadook and they started talking over Skype.

Ever since they had looking for a project to work on together and Green discovered the novel in an article when it was named Australian Children’s Book of the Year for older readers in 2019.

Moliere, who had met Lauman through her US manager Grandview, shared Birdie with Green, who loved it and felt Small Spaces was a perfect match of material and sensibility for Lauman.

“The novel has a lot of parallels with Shelly’s short film and we were thrilled when Shelly responded in the same way as we did to Sarah’s book,” he said.

The deal was brokered by the author’s agent Alex Adsett, who said: “I am so happy this incredible story is in the talented hands of Shelly, Kristian and Rebecca. Sarah’s incredible tense book will be realised beautifully for the screen.”

Meanwhile, Allen & Unwin has sold the rights to Epstein’s new novel Deep Water, a thriller about a thirteen-year-old boy who disappears during a violent storm, leaving his mountain bike at the train station, to Fischer Sauerlander in Germany and Editions Bayard in France, with more deals on the way.

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