By ERIKA ANDERSON, Special to the Bulletin | Published July 18, 2013
ATLANTA—Though she was born in Savannah and grew up in Milledgeville, Flannery O’Connor did not write sweet, Southern fiction. Many of her works, which include two novels and dozens of short stories, are considered violent, graphic and often grotesque. But in the midst of them, there is God’s grace and mercy.
Good Country Pictures, an independent film production company that has offices in Atlanta and Louisville, Ky., has secured the rights to a number of O’Connor’s works, and hopes to convey that depth and meaning through film and TV.
Joe Goodman, CEO of Good Country Pictures, is a lifelong fan of O’Connor’s writing.
“She was concerned that people couldn’t see the devil in their everyday lives, so she wrote from that perspective. Her work is considered dark, but she writes from a point of view that allows people to see behind the curtain to find the depth and meaning,” he said.
Goodman launched Good Country Pictures—its name derived from one of O’Connor’s short stories—with the help of lead investors Deal Hudson, and prominent Atlanta Catholics Frank Hanna, Mary Welch Rogers and George Levert. Attorney Brett Grayson, who works for Hanna, serves as Good Country Pictures’ general counsel. He said O’Connor’s works are appealing because they are a “rare combination of artistic genius and profound religious vision.”
“That her work is also dark, violent and Southern gives it commercial appeal with modern audiences. Her work is also very well known in creative circles,” he said. “This is important because the opportunity to work on art of this quality does not come along very often, and writers, directors and actors of the highest caliber are often willing to work on projects like this for far less than they normally charge—which helps make the project affordable.”
The first order of business for Good Country Pictures is to make a feature film based on O’Connor’s novel, “The Violent Bear it Away.” Future plans include making a multi-episode TV series based on her short stories, as well as a biography of O’Connor.
Goodman said the challenge, particularly in producing “The Violent Bear it Away,” is to keep the integrity of O’Connor’s vision of faith through darkness. The novel focuses on three main characters, including an orphaned boy, Francis Tarwater, who is kidnapped by his great-uncle Mason. Mason is a fanatical Christian and is convinced he is a prophet who must raise Francis to follow in his footsteps.
“This is a dark novel. It’s hard. But Flannery’s brilliance is that God’s grace and mercy are there all along. Film makes it easier to connect those dots, but we want to maintain that mystery that Flannery was all about,” Goodman said. “We want to be faithful to Flannery, but enhance it with the visual abilities we have that weren’t available in her time.”
Goodman was instrumental in securing the rights to O’Connor’s works from the Mary Flannery O’Connor Charitable Trust. Just obtaining the rights to “The Violent Bear it Away” alone took a year.
“Joe doesn’t have an ego problem, like so many others in Hollywood do. Other big names tried to get these rights, but it was important to Joe to maintain Flannery’s integrity. I think that’s what really made the difference,” Grayson said.
“I think it was about perseverance,” Goodman said. “Not everyone in Hollywood has the patience or the attention span to stick with something that long. Our goal is to tell these stories to show people that despite dark times and suffering, God’s grace is there. We just have to be patient and look for it.”
Goodman is currently searching for a writer to bring his and O’Connor’s vision to life. The goal is to finish a script by the end of the year, with production next year to lead to a 2015 release.
“We want fans of Flannery to know what we’re doing and stay tuned for more,” Grayson said.