Los Angeles – The largely invisible yet profoundly harmful for-profit U.S. foster care industry gets exposed in the timely, reality-inspired feature film Foster Boy, starring Matthew Modine, James Earl Jones and newcomer Shane Paul McGhie. It starts production November 13 in Los Angeles.
The script is written by attorney-turned-screenwriter-and-producer Jay Paul Deratany, who based it on his experiences as a top litigator in Chicago. The story puts Modine’s character at the center of a trial in which a for-profit corporation, contracted by the state to provide foster children safe homes, instead places a known sex offender into the same home as the young client, with catastrophic results. An edge-of-the-seat legal struggle finally brings justice to the young man.
Modine, who plays litigator Michael Trainer, has credits that range from “Full Metal Jacket” to “The Dark Knight Rises” to the first season of Netflix’s streaming TV sensation “Stranger Things.” He had a featured role in the recent sleeper hit “47 Meters Down.” Jones, an Oscar®-winner, is a beloved actor whose credits range from his role in “The Great White Hope” to his memorable work as the voice of Mufasa in “The Lion King,” Darth Vader in the “Star Wars” films, and of CNN. He will soon be seen in Jon Favreau’s remake of “The Lion King.” With Foster Boy, he plays the judge in the high-tension trial that is central to the story. McGhie secured the part of the young defendant, Jamal, after the production’s exhaustive talent search had them looking at more than 400 actors. A 2016 graduate from USC, he previously appeared in the independent film “Victor” and the TV series “Rebel.”
Deratany’s experiences fighting for foster children inspired him when he pursued screenwriting. He earned an MFA in Screenwriting from the University of California and Foster Boy is a product of that career side trip. It was at that program that he met producer Peter Samuelson, who was teaching a class on Social Impact Filmmaking.
In addition to his successful film production career, Samuelson (Arlington Road, Wilde, Revenge of the Nerds) has built a national reputation over the last 35 years as a leader in social justice issues relating to children. First Star, which he co-founded in 1999, is at the forefront of addressing the foster care crisis. First Star Academies house, educate and encourage high school-age foster youth on 13 university campuses, where they also build a sense of community that is missing in their lives. Currently, 91% go on to colleges and universities.
Foster Boy is based on true events - it is about courage, an unlikely friendship and a tireless search for justice, it will shine a bright light on the very real abuses in the for-profit segment of the foster care system. Deratany and Samuelson hope that the film will help raise awareness of the daunting challenges faced by all youth in foster care.
Studies show fewer than three percent of foster youth earn a college degree. Each year, more than 20,000 youth age out of foster care, and within two years, more than half are homeless, incarcerated, on drugs or on welfare.
“There are an estimated 400,000 children in foster care in America,” Deratany noted. “They are basically unrepresented, with few ways to shape their destinies. Why? One simple reason: they are children. They have no money and they have no voice.”
“Foster children are the last great civil rights victims in America,” Samuelson added. “After 25 years, I thought I had retired from producing, but Jay’s script was too compelling and too important.”
Foster Boy is directed by Youssef Delara (Filly Brown, The Bounce Back, English as a Second Language) and is produced by Deratany, Samuelson, Anne-Marie Mackay (The Last Word, The Girl from Nagasaki, Always Outnumbered) and Andrew Sugerman (Conviction, Shop Girl, Premonition). John Schimmel, and Thom and Matt Lipari serve as Executive Producers. Foster Boy has been entirely financed by equity investment.
The production is partnered with nationally recognized charities Children’s Rights of New York, the Children’s Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego, and First Star of Los Angeles, as expert advisers on the story.