Sunday, August 30, 2020

Turn That Book Into a Movie!

Hollywood loves Adaptations (See? I even capitalized the “a” word.)

The number of Academy Award Winning movies that were once novels, memoirs, comic books, stage plays, etc. is staggering.

A studio executive in the movie industry is more likely to read an adaptation from a successful book than a screenplay with no history of fans and nothing to speak for it.

Even if your book isn't a NY Times Bestseller, it might translate well to screen.

Have you ever thought this?

Me too. 

A few years ago, I attended a Sisters In Crime event at Universal Studios Hollywood that brought together a group of Hollywood’s Who's Who to talk to a select group of crime writers about turning a book into a movie. It was highly inspirational, to say the least. I got to talk to the woman who wrote Batman Forever, the showrunner (boss writer) of Bones, the woman who negotiated Gone Girl for Gillian Flynn, Shari Smiley, and many other big wigs. I came home pumped and ready to find a screenwriter for my novel.

Cut to a year later and I still hadn't found someone to write the screenplay, but I was wondering about writing a script. I attended another conference, this one in my home state of Washington and it was there I met my book to film agent and shortly after that, was offered an option for my 3-book series. Luck had something to do with it, being at the right place at the right time, then having an agent with connections and vision and tenacity had something to do with it too, although the book is high concept.

Before I’d signed the option contract, which is a very long legal bundling of papers to talk about subsequent film deals, merchandising, payment, option length, consequences if the movie doesn’t get made, legal rights etc I was asked by my agent to write the screenplay.

And, because I didn’t want to tell this amazing angel from my dreams that I couldn’t write a screenplay, I started reading everything I could find about how to do such a thing. I read Save the Cat three times, I read the Screenwriters’ Bible twice, I read how to Adapt a Novel to Screen, and anything that was written online that suggested it was possible for a verbose novelist to reduce their 100,000-word book to a mere 100 pages of mostly white space. My agent reassured me that she just wanted to have a spec script in hand. It looked better than having a book in hand with no script.

It took 3 months to polish the script to a blinding shine, but I wrote the thing. There were loads of rewrites, scenes were dropped or rewritten or combined until everyone thought my screenplay of 102 pages sounded marketable. The company who optioned the 3-book series, 5 x 5 Productions, liked the script and set about showing it around Hollywood to draw other producers in to the fold.

Films take a really long time to get made. Many optioned books, or screenplays never see the camera lens and although I know this, I am hopeful mine will. To help the project, I’ve begun looking for investors, actors, awards for the script. At this point I have some interest from a big-name actor but he wants a director attached first. The production company is in pre-production for another book to film project and mine is next. They don’t object to me dabbling in producer-type activities and I’ve been looking for investors to help with the 3-5 million needed. That’s what I’m working on in my spare time between writing books. And as far as awards are concerned, The Dream Jumper’s Promise screenplay won The Los Angeles Film Awards Best First Screenplay, semi-finaled in the Burbank International Film Festival Screenwriting Competition and won Best Feature Screenplay in the Royal Wolf Awards and won the Hollywood Fellowship of the Bigfoot Screenplay Contest. There were other wins, but these were the biggies, the ones I’m most proud of.

I wrote another script from a Christmas Romance novel (these are wildly popular!) and then wrote a TV one-hour pilot, then wrote the book from the pilot, something I don’t recommend. Writing both at the same time was confusing, and it isn’t easy to confuse me somedays.

These days, I speak on the subject of adapting your novel to a screenplay at writer conferences and promote the idea that novelists make fantastic screenwriters, especially of their own work. No one knows the story like you. You already know how to write. Boiling your story down to 45 key scenes that are visually pleasing to carry the story line to a satisfying end is all you have to do.

Go ahead, write a movie.

If I can, you can. 

Want the Power Point to the RWA class? 

email me with this as the Subject:  POWER POINT

I'll send it to you by email because I cannot figure out how to put the one drive link in here. Apologies.

Also, join my Facebook page for screenwriting!

Follow me at my Beach site on Facebook

Or TWITTER where there is a big active screenwriter community

Try #PipelineWriters on Friday night at 5 pm, PST for a fun mixer of screenwriters!

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