'Blackfish' Team to Make Documentary on New York City Rats


By Tatiana Siegel

Rats are coming to a multiplex near you.

Dakota Group and Submarine — the producers behind the controversial Sea World documentary Blackfish — have optioned the rights to Robert Sullivan’s international best-selling book Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants and will adapt into a feature-length documentary.

Production will begin early next year, with Sullivan serving as an advisor on the film. He also will share his extensive archive of research materials that didn’t make it into the book.

The project was announced at the Toronto Film Festival.

The film will examine the enigmatic and oft-despised creature against the backdrop New York. One of the most resilient animals known to man, rats are known for causing great plagues and also are responsible for some of the greatest scientific discoveries.

With an unimaginable army of rats living beneath the streets and sidewalks of New York (some estimate more than 8 million), it’s something that everyone living in the five boroughs confronts regularly.

Like the book, the film will feature facts about rats (they can have sex 20 times a day and produce thousands of offspring) as well as portraits of city dwellers, exterminators, trash collectors, city officials, Nobel-winning scientists, ethnographers, scholars and historians, along with showing some of the most notoriously rat-infested areas of the city. The documentary also will track their migration to America centuries ago, coming from London, Norway and Holland aboard ships.

New York City rats were particularly pesky this summer, becoming a scourge in even the poshest neighborhoods of Manhattan.

The deal was negotiated by David Koh and Stanley Buchthal on behalf of Dakota Group and Submarine. Paul Brennan of Bruns Brennan Berry and WME repped the author.

Koh, Buchthal and the Brauns are producing. 

"We have been obsessed and terrified by rats living in New York City over the years, and when we read Robert Sullivan’s book, we couldn’t put it down," said Koh, Buchthal and the Brauns, the producers behind the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove. "We look forward to collaborating with (Sullivan) and bringing his highly entertaining and scholarly book to the big screen.”

Added Sullivan: “I love that (Dakota Group and Submarine) are able to take a theme and explore it to great and reverberating depths. In their hands, Rats will take us to great places. I myself am getting ready to travel deep into what a city is and how we think about ourselves as creatures, among other things.”

Photo: Bloomsbury