UK National Lottery studio franchise Pathe Pictures is financing Cowboy Films and Granada Film's The Hole, set to star American Beauty's Thora Birch.

Director Nick Hamm (Martha, Meet Daniel, Frank and Laurence) is to start shooting the psychological thriller in the UK in July from a screenplay by Ben Court and Caroline Ip. The adaptation of Guy Burt's novel After The Hole tells the story of a group of public school students who face horrific consequences after they seek to escape the control of their parents during school holidays.

Producing credits go to Cowboy's Lisa Bryer, Impact Pictures' Jeremy Bolt and Granada's Pippa Cross. Cowboy's Suzanne Warren is co-producing.

Francois Ivernel, incoming managing director of Pathe's UK operation Pathe Entertainment, described The Hole as having "tremendous potential for today's international youth market."

Pathe, which is releasing Granada's Essex Boys in July, has distribution rights for the UK, France and Benelux. Sales arm Pathe International will handle all other world sales.

The deal was negotiated by Granada's Sara Curran and Pathe's Kathryn Smith.