Thursday, January 29, 2009

Novels to Hollywood, take 2

I have too many postings in a row with no pictures, so here is a gratuitous photo of a balloon over Las Cruces, New Mexico. It really has nothing to do with the topic at hand.

Here is a second meaty email I received on the subject of turning novels into movies. Nick O'Connor has kindly given his permission for me to post it here. Thanks, Nick!

Dear Bob,

I should probably shut up, because Kelli may already have told you all you
need to know by introducing you to her husband. But what writer can shut
up?

Essentially, I agree with Kelli. I worked as a script reader and story
editor for a TV movie company in Hollywood for a year and all of what she
says is standard truth.

However, a couple of other thoughts for you: Projects, especially feature
films, get made in Hollywood because someone with influence is passionate
about it. I mean, much as you probably lived and breathed your novel for a
long time, someone has to be willing to give up a big chunk of his or her
life to make it happen. That means they have to fall in love with the
project. If you've got a "good story well-told," you're way ahead of the
game. Although every movie company is literally wading in scripts, about 95
percent of them, including those submitted by supposedly professional
writers through big agents, do not bear reading. It's amazing how much bad
stuff is cranked to script readers, and amazing how much of it is from those
who should know better.

Hollywood is run by accountants who are afraid to take chances, who would
much rather put $100 million into asure-fire sequel than an unknown
newcomer's crazy concept. But what really keeps Hollywood alive are the
surprises, the films made by outsiders (relatively speaking, perhaps) on a
shoestring that prove again and again that you can't formulate creativity.

So, think creatively. There's a famous story (I think maybe in William
Goldman's *Adventures in the Screen Trade*) about some screenwriters who
wanted to get a script to Frank Sinatra. Nobody could get to Sinatra. They
parked a moving truck on the street in front of his securely gated house,
with the big back door open. Inside the truck was a table, chair, and a
working reading lamp (and maybe a bottle and glass). On the table was the
script. A ramp lead up to the truck. There was some kind of sign making it
clear that this setup was for Mr. Sinatra's reading pleasure. Sinatra read
the script. I forget what script, or what else happened. The point is
that Sinatra read the script.

Do some research. If a working director (like Kelli's husband) likes a
project, he's one of the best people to take your novel the distance. There
are lots of directors out there -- most of them, even some good ones,
needing work and therefore looking for projects. It's not hard to find out
what kind of movies they've already directed and even what they're looking
for. The Director's Guild lists members and their contact info. IMDB gives
credits information. Netflix has the movies. Get your hands on *The
Hollywood Creative Directory.* **You can work up a list of directors to
submit to.

If there's a star who would be perfect for the main character, you can try
submitting to the star through her agent. Visit the Screen Actors Guild
website.

Or find a screenwriter. The *Writer's Guild* has members' contact
information. Or check out the *Scriptwriter's Network*, which is where a
lot of new screenwriters are getting their feet wet.

I must dispute the assertion that producers don't read books with the idea
of making movies from them. Some do. And some specialize in finding books
as a producing niche. You can figure out who some of these people are by
starting with a movie made from a book and tracking its evolution.

Enough! I have work to do!

Nick O'Connor

6 comments:

Katie Hines said...

Bob, I hadn't really thought of screenplays in this regard. Actually, I tend not to think of them at all since it seems so far removed from my sphere. good job.

Christina E. Rodriguez said...

That last point is very valid. Just look at the movies coming out that are based on YA novels and graphic novels. That trend is really hot right now, but it makes me wonder what will come next.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Interesting post with good ideas. Is there a writer who doesn't dream of seeing their book on the big screen?

Jane Kennedy Sutton
http://janekennedysutton.blogspot.com/

Marvin D. Wilson said...

man that photo makes me want to be IN that balloon!

Helen said...

Great posts you're doing on books to screen. Thanks for getting such a range of information from the people who know.

Helen Ginger
http://straightfromhel.blogspot.com

Morgan Mandel said...

You just have to be careful they don't think you're a stalker.

Morgan Mandel
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com