THE story of Annie Palmer — the infamous White Witch of Rose Hall — could make it to the silver screen by next year if film and television producer Mark Kenny has his way.
Irishman Kenny was introduced to the story when he first moved to Jamaica and lived in Montego Bay. A tour of the majestic great house, which is now a popular tourist attraction, made him aware of Palmer and her reign of terror mingled with lust, the fight for power and tragedy — a fantastic story and the basic elements of a good feature film, he thought to himself.
"At the time, I was looking for projects to develop into feature films and this was perfect, so I got together with a writer friend of mine and we began discussing the possibilities," Kenny tells the Sunday Observer.
The project is now at the treatment stage and a script is set for completion by May of this year. Once this is done, Kenny will be making the rounds seeking financiers to fund what he expects to be a US$2-million budget.
"There is a company in the Dominican Republic — Indomina — which is already interested. But I will be taking the script to the Cannes film festival later this year to seek additional funding," he discloses.
If all goes as planned, filming should commence in the final quarter of this year.
And what of the treament of this Jamaican story, which has made the Rosehall Great House one of Montego Bay's major tourist attractions? Kenny says upon discussing the project with his business partners, it was realised that making a period piece would be to expensive. Therefore, the decision was taken to write a contemporary version of the story set in present day with historical references.
Film-maker Storm Saulter, who directed the 2010 gripping drama Better Mus' Come, has already been contracted to direct the White Witch film, and he is excited about the prospects of the project.
"This film is not going to be what everyone is expecting," an excited Saulter notes. "I am currently working with Mark on developing the story and it is truly a wonderful journey that we are on."
Both Kenny and Saulter are tight-lipped about their wish-list of actors for their film, but both did indicate that it is a mix of both local and international talent, in order to fulfil the balance of global appeal yet being authentic.
The authenticity of the final product is especially important to Saulter, who notes that he is keen on keeping the Jamaican elements true in the story and eliminate bastardisation, as sometimes happens when a director is brought in from outside. As he has done with Better Mus' Come, he is even willing to opt for subtitles in order to "keep it real".
Here in Jamaica, Kenny is known for his production work on the popular televised talent show Digicel Rising Stars and the boxing reality series, Wray and Nephew's The Contender.
Regarding The Contender, Kenny says the second season of the sports series returns to local screens in February. "The boxers have already been chosen and we are just sorting out some issues with the ring, and depending on what happens, we will begin airing either February 8 or 15," he tells the Sunday Observer.