May 18, 2024

Universal Pictures Content Group has boarded “The Beat of a Nation: Kerouac’s Road,” a feature documentary directed by Ebs Burnough (“The Capote Tapes”) about Jack Kerouac’s seminal novel “On the Road.”

Produced by London-based banner Ventureland, the documentary starts filming this week and sees Burnough using the prism of “On the Road” to depict the turmoils of today’s political and cultural landscape in the U.S.

Burnough is the former White House deputy social secretary and senior advisor to First Lady Michelle Obama. He made his directorial debut with the documentary “The Capote Tapes,” which world premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and explores the impact of Truman Capote’s explosive unfinished novel “Answered Prayers.”

“The Beat of a Nation: Kerouac’s Road” is produced by John Battsek (“The Rescue,” Searching For Sugar Man”) and Eliza Hindmarch (“Kid 90,” “The September Issue”) of Ventureland, in collaboration with the Kerouac Estate, for which Jim Sampas will executive produce.

The documentary will use never-before-seen personal archives to tell Kerouac’s story in his own voice, enriched by interviews with the myriad of talent influenced by him and stories from today’s “on-the-roaders” consciously choosing a different way of life, just as he did over 70 years ago.

“‘On the Road’ is an iconic work of American literature. Jack Kerouac and his journeys across the nation defined an era that encouraged future generations to see America in a different way,” said Burnough, who currently chairs the Sundance Institute’s board of trustees. “I believe that together (with Universal Pictures Content Group and Ventureland) we can explore a contemporary understanding of the literature, the man and the times.”

Battsek, whose credits include Oscar-winning documentaries such as “Searching for Sugar Man” and “One Day in September,” said Burnough “has a unique and very creative perspective on the story we want to tell.” The producer pointed out he’s worked with Universal Pictures Content Group on a “number of successful feature docs” in the past.

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