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Epic Japanese Series ‘A True Novel’ Set at Matt Brodlie and Jonathan Kier’s Upgrade, Shochiku

L-R: Matt Brodlie and Jonathan Kier

(Courtesy of Upgrade Productions)

Upgrade Productions, the production company launched last year by Matt Brodlie and Jonathan Kier, is working on an epic Japanese-language TV series.

The company has teamed with venerable Japanese studio Shochiku to produce “A True Novel” as an eight-part adaptation of Mizumura Minae’s 2003 Yomiuri Prize-winning novel.

Inspired by Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights,” the sweeping family narrative is set in the decades after World War II in Japan and the U.S.

The series, adapted by screenwriter Sakaguchi Riko (“The Tale of the Princess Kaguya,” “Mary and the Witch’s Flower”) will bring to life a love story spanning three generations and told by different characters.

“The extraordinary team at Shochiku, one of Japan’s most innovative and successful studios, is the perfect partner on this show. ‘A True Novel’ is a beautiful story with universal themes. And to be collaborating with the incredibly talented Sakaguchi Riko is a dream come true. It’s an epic story which is appealing to global audiences,” said Upgrade co-presidents Brodlie and Kier.

The series will be produced by Akita Shuhei from Shochiku and Brodlie and Kier. Upgrade Productions will be credited as executive producer.

“We are excited to be adapting this powerful story, based on a prestigious and popular Japanese novel. Collaborating with Upgrade will help us bring this series to the world,” said Shochiku’s head of sales Koyama Meri and Shochiku producer Akita.

The oldest of Japan’s big four studios (founded 127 years ago), Shochiku is a film production and distribution major, and the leading producer of Kabuki theater. Its has been home to Ozu Yasujiro, Mizoguchi Kenji, Naruse Mikio and Yamada Yoji, who is responsible for the world’s longest-running feature film series, “Tora-san.”

Upgrade is backed by Constantin Film, and represents sales for titles flowing from production and financing company Bron Studios. It aims to capitalize on increasingly globalized audience tastes by developing and producing local-language content worldwide.

Brodlie previously served as senior VP of international content for Disney+, where he led the content strategy for the company in all non-U.S. markets. Prior to that, he was director of original film at Netflix and had earlier stints at Paramount and Miramax. Kier was president of Sierra/Affinity, where he managed the worldwide sales and distribution of films including “Spotlight,” “Whiplash” and “Drive.” Previously, he oversaw releases from The Weinstein Company and Dimension.

Upgrade’s current development slate also includes the TV series “Twenty Faces,” based on the popular book series written by iconic Japanese mystery writer Edogawa Ranpo, co-produced with The Klockworx; “La Jaula” (“The Cage” in Spanish), an original fantasy horror series co-produced with DeAPlaneta and Minoria Absoluta; and “Sausages,” an original series from the popular Australian comedian Ryan Shelton.

Variety's Patrick Frater contributed to this post.

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