Taylor Branch spent twenty-four years writing “America in the King Years,” and he’s been trying for almost as long to get his civil-rights trilogy adapted for the screen. The project has bounced around film studios and television stations for so long that Alex Haley even worked on a script. “Film is about intimacy,” Branch said on Friday, at a panel during the Maryland Film Festival, “and it’s hard to get people in Hollywood to show the civil-rights movement for what it was, which was people every day in internal conflict with themselves about things that really mattered.”

Branch was speaking in Baltimore’s Station North Arts and Entertainment District, not far from the recent protests over the death of Freddie Gray and ongoing police brutality in the city. The panel, “A Work in Progress: Writing Race,” featured the writers who are, along with Branch, finally bringing his masterwork to the screen, as a miniseries on HBO: the novelist James McBride, the journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates, and the writer David Simon. Read on