Element Pictures has acquired the film and television rights to Nicola Dinan’s debut novel Bellies ahead of its publication in the US and UK next summer.

The Fremantle-owned Normal People producers are working with the author on the adaptation of the novel as an 8 x 30 minute series.

Bellies is billed as “a tender, funny and exhilarating coming-of-age novel about two queer students, Tom and Ming, who fall in love at university and find their relationship dramatically upended when Ming comes out as trans and decides to transition.”

Element Pictures’ Ed Guiney, Andrew Lowe and Chelsea Morgan Hoffmann, who will executive produce alongside Dinan, said: “We were immediately absorbed and transported by the love story between Tom and Ming – and by Nicola’s writing, which is in equal parts hilarious and heart-breaking. We think the world is hungry for a love story like theirs – that authentically allows for the space and complexity of their changing dynamic, both as Ming transitions but also as the two of them grow into adulthood – while still honouring the excitement and intensity of first love. We are delighted to bring their story to the screen and couldn’t be happier that Nicola is adapting herself.”

Nicola Dinan added: “People have told me that Bellies has given them a new perspective. I think that’s really special and reminds me that fiction can enlighten in ways that hard facts often can’t. At its heart, Bellies isn’t about identity. Rather, it’s about two young people struggling to find their place in world, all while learning how to care for each other and those around them. I’m so happy to be working with Element, and to have the opportunity to continue to explore these characters and share them with the world onscreen.”

Dinan grew up in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur, and now lives in London. Bellies will be published by Doubleday in the UK in July 2023 and Hanover Square Press in the US in August 2023.

Element’s television credits include the hit adaptations of Sally Rooney’s novels Normal People and Conversations with Friends and Nancy Harris’ The Dry. Film includes the Academy Award and BAFTA nominated films The Favourite, Room and The Lobster as well as recently released The Wonder starring Florence Pugh and directed by Sebastian Lelio and The Eternal Daughter by Joanna Hogg, starring Tilda Swinton.

Element recently sold a majority stake in the company to Fremantle, who will handle global sales of Bellies alongside De Maio Entertainment.

The film and television rights deal was brokered by Lesley Thorne of Aitken Alexander Associates Ltd on behalf of Dinan and her literary agent Monica MacSwan, and Mark Byrne for Element Pictures.

Jon Creamer

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