• Trevor Greenway

Chelsea journalist gets movie deal

Sean Silcoff has been pinching himself all week.


The Globe and Mail reporter still can’t believe that his book about Blackberry’s spectacular rise and fall is getting a big screen release, with the likes of Hollywood actors Jay Baruchel and Glenn Howerton playing the film’s stars.


“I have had a pinch-me kind of week,” explained Silcoff, who co-authored the book “Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of Blackberry” with fellow Globe reporter Jacquie McNish. “It’s really interesting to see how much it resonates with everyone else. There’s a lot of excitement about it.”

Globe and Mail reporter Sean Silcoff’s book “Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of Blackberry” is heading to the big screen. Photo courtesy Sean Silcoff

Silcoff, who calls Chelsea home, was one of the reporters who broke the story of what happened inside Canada’s giant tech player when it crashed to the ground in 2012. Silcoff, along with fellow reporters McNish and Steve Ladurantaye broke the biggest business story of the year in 2013 and almost immediately there was interest from publishers for a book deal. And once the book came out, there was immediate interest in turning the story into a Canadian film.


“It’s a classic story of [the] rise and fall of a couple of entrepreneurs and a company that not only became very successful for a relatively brief period, but also had a pretty spectacular fall,” Silcoff told the Low Down. “It’s a company that really changed the way the world communicated. The fact that we all now carry a small communication device in our pockets that connects us to everything and everybody at all times — that’s due to Blackberry.”


It’s no surprise that Rhombus Media and Zapruder Films see such potential in the film. Business narratives have been a driving force behind some of the top films and biopics over the last several years in Hollywood, with flicks like The Social Network, The Founder and the Steve Jobs biopic enjoying success at the box office.


“I think there is a lot of interest in business narratives,” added Silcoff. “The entrepreneur is a major character of 20th and 21st-century life, and these people, through sheer willpower, bend the world and change it, for better and for worse.”


Silcoff’s article, book and now movie result from good old-fashioned reporting by the Chelsea-based tech writer. When Blackberry succumbed to its epic fall in 2012 – when Silicon Valley giants like Apple and Google “outsmarted” it – every business writer in the world wanted an exclusive sit-down with CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis.


Nobody got it.


But about a year later, Balsillie reached out to Silcoff about an unrelated story, and while he still wasn’t ready to divulge the inside story of Blackberry, Silcoff stayed in touch and eventually persuaded both Balsillie and Lazaridis – along with scores of other former employees – to talk.


The Globe and Mail published the article “How Blackberry blew it: the inside story” on Friday, Sept. 27, 2013, and by Monday, publishers were calling about a book deal.


“That story was an absolute sensation. Everyone read that story,” added Silcoff. “It was the most-read business story in our publication that year. But not only that – something that has never happened to me in my career – all the world’s business press wrote about our story: Time Magazine, Fortune, The Wall Street Journal.”


There’s no release date for the movie titled simply “Blackberry,” however reels and specific scenes will likely be shown to potential buyers at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. “Blackberry” is being directed by “The Dirties” and “Operation Avalanche” director Matt Johnson and stars Baruchel (“Knocked Up” and “This Is The End”) and Howerton (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”).


Silcoff’s book, “Losing the Signal” is available in bookstores everywhere.