A man who grew up in Kelowna has signed a deal with Netflix to produce a film based on a psychological thriller he wrote in a coffee shop.
The film, to star Blake Lively, is based on a novella written by Marcus Kliewer, a 2011 graduate of Kelowna Christian School.
It's the first time Kliewer, who has been working as an animator in the Vancouver film business, has ever been paid for something he's written.
"This has all been pretty overwhelming and surreal," Kliewer, 28, said Friday in an interview. "I'm still just sort of processing it. A little bit in shock, to be honest."
The novella, parts of which were first published on Reddit, is called 'We Used to Live Here'.
Agents saw it online and shopped it around last week in Hollywood, where it sparked a bidding war that resulted in a "solid six figure deal", according to trade publication Deadline.
Lively will star in and produce the film through her production company 'B for Effort'.
The story is about a homeowner getting a visit from a family with the father explaining he used to live in the house, and asking permission to come inside for a trip down memory lane.
Reluctantly, the homeowner lets the family in, and soon comes to regret her decision. Book rights for the novella are now being negotiated.
Kliewer says the inspiration for the story comes from an incident when he was about eight years old and his family stopped by a home in White Rock where they used to live.
The man who lived there at the time told them some strange things had been going on in the house.
"It always stuck in my head very vividly," Kliewer said. "I don't believe in ghosts personally, but this guy who lived in my family's old house seemed so sincere.
"It was almost like he was almost embarrassed to tell us what was going on, and that really spooked me," Kliewer said.
Last fall, as the COVID-19 pandemic ground on, Kliewer's contract work in the Vancouver animation industry dried up, and he had some time on his hands.
He started writing the novella in coffee shops, where he'd spend hours at a time.
"I probably wrote 90% of it at two Dennys restaurants," Kliewer said, adding with a laugh, "I ordered food too, you know, so I wasn't just one of those guys."
Regardless, the restaurants weren't very busy because of the pandemic and Kliewer says the staff, many of whom he came to know, were friendly and supportive of his writing efforts. As well, the feedback he received from readers as the story evolved on Reddit helped shape the story, Kliewer says.
"I'm incredibly grateful to my friends and family and people who've read my story online and offered their comments and suggestions," he said. "I definitely would not have kept writing without their support."
He hasn't been back to the two Dennys since signing the Netflix deal last week but he plans to return soon. "This time," he said, "I can leave a really nice tip."