EXCLUSIVE: Temple Grandin writer W. Merritt Johnson has teamed with Precious director Lee Daniels for a drama project in development at Showtime that sheds light on a little-known LGBT subculture. The contemporary drama, which Johnson is writing and Daniels is attached to direct, is set in New York City and centers on the disenfranchised multicultural transgender youth of the Ball subculture, previously portrayed in Jennie Livingston’s 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning. Some say the roots of the New York ball house culture can be traced to the 1930s,when the first underground drag balls were held in and around New York City by white men in gay bars, while others argue that it evolved out of the Harlem ballroom scene in the 1960s. Today’s underground ball house society consists of New York City’s disadvantaged black, Latino, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transexual communities who come together to compete for trophies and prizes. They all belong to different fraternity-like “houses,” or “drag families,” that serve as surrogate families for their members banded together under one leader. Their “voguing” dance style, in which competitors freeze to pose in glamorous positions, was re-created in Madonna’s Vogue video. Johnson and Daniels are executive producing. Johnson, repped by CAA and Leverage Management, was nominated for an Emmy for Temple Grandin and won a Peabody and Humanitas Prize. He also worked on the HBO series In Treatment. CAA-repped Daniels, who received an Oscar nomination for Precious, recently signed on to write and direct an adaptation of Valley Of The Dolls for NBC, 20th TV and Chernin Entertainment. On the feature side, his follow-up to Precious, The Paper Boy — starring Nicole Kidman and Matthew McConaughey — will be released next year.
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