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Entries in Film (14)

Thursday
Apr222010

Forging Through Film Without An Agent

Question of the day: My husband self-published a book -- and it is his first novel.  It is selling extremely well and has gotten excellent reviews on Amazon and from other readers.  We live in a small Connecticut town so his outlets locally are limited to advance this writing, but I am absolutely certain it would make an outstanding TV movie . . . better than most I have seen lately.  I have encouraged him to send a copy to a producer but wonder if an agent would be the best route?  

In my opinion, a film agent is always a better, smarter choice than not - just as a literary agent is always a better choice then winging it on your own. So, if he has the option, of course I would recommend going with a film agent. That said, landing a film agent is very, very, very, very, very difficult - harder than landing a literary agent, if you can believe that, as film agents are even pickier about the projects they take on than lit agents are. And then, of course, even if a film agent does take it one, the odds of selling it aren't 100%, and then, once sold, the odds of it getting made are slimmer - probably about 5-10%.

I'll also add - not to be discouraging but because it's honest - that I suspect it will be very tough to snag the interest of a film agent with a self-pubbed novel. Which isn't a crack at self-pubbling, rather an frank assessment of the marketplace: film agents are SWAMPED with submissions from some seriously big-time books, many of which they say no to or can't sell to producers/Hollywood. The odds of one of them plucking up a smaller, self-pubbed book, well, they're just not high. And again, I'm being honest - and hope that doesn't sound unkind - because that's not at all how I mean it. From your email, it sounds like you may have a producer connection, and if that's the case, then I say you work it for all you can. THAT's the smart route to take here. 

Look, every writer (or nearly every writer) dreams of having his or her book adapted to the big screen. It is the big KAHUNA. And I promise you that each of those writers thinks his or her book is also perfect for the movies/TV. And maybe they are. But Hollywood is soooooooo tough to crack and soooooo strange and difficult to understand, I'm truly just trying to save you some heartache here. Pursue the leads you can - I think that's the most viable option you have.

I'd love to hear from others: has anyone has success selling a project to a reputable studio and/or producer without a film agent? Am I being too pessimistic here?

Thursday
Mar042010

Movie News: Making Sense of Options

So good news in the little world of the Time of My Life movie: I heard this week that The Weinstein Company has re-upped their option to Time of My Life! Whoohoo! So what exactly does that mean? I thought this might be a good time to break down movie lingo and how (on the rare chance) an adaptation actually gets made.

So, first of all, you have your book and you have your literary agent. In most cases, your literary agent will connect you with a film agent, and this film agent may or may not agree to take on your book/work. Many times, he or she doesn't. Getting a film agent is, believe it or not, even harder than landing a lit agent, and they pass on many more projects than they say yes to.

But if you do manage to land a film agent, your agent will then (at a certain point - timing may matter, revisions may matter, publication date may matter), take your manuscript or book out to studios, production companies, directors, actresses, etc. Much in the same way that your agent will take your book out to publishing houses. Many, many of them will pass for a variety of reasons: they're developing a similar project, they think that transgendered vampires are all the rage and exclusively looking for scripts with that angle, they think your writing just plain sucks, etc, etc, etc. Hopefully, however, one or more will think, "aha! This is just what we're looking for to really bolster our chances at the Oscars," or "Gee, this book will bring us in boat loads of money and fund our children's college tuition plans for life!"

If this fortuitous turn of events should happen, your agent will negotiate an option deal, and what this means is that the studio/producer/whomever, retains the right to make your book for a designated period of time for a lump sum: I believe the standard period is 18 months, but I've heard of 12-month deals, so there may be some flexibility...not sure. After that period of time has expired, the same studio/producer has the right to renew that deal (and pay the author another lump sum) to give them another 18 months to get the movie made. This is where we currently are with Time Of My Life. That the option has been renewed is very positive news because the studio has had quite some time to digest the book and their hopes for it, and often times, options are NOT renewed because the studio realizes that the project (for them) isn't going anywhere. They're not going to write you another check if they have zero expectations for it.

If nothing happens after this second period of time, you and your agent then have the right to shop the book around to new buyers. In fact, if the option isn't renewed the first time around, you can, of course, do that as well. And on the very fortuitous chance that the movie gets made, you then get paid a much bigger lump sum than the option money. A win-win for all involved.

So that's how it breaks down. (More or less: I'm sure that there are a lot of other variables that I haven't covered, and I'm not an expert, so don't sue if you've heard of differing experiences!) Right now, it feels like Time of My Life has cleared a lot of hurdles, and my fingers (and toes) will remain crossed that things keep moving in that upward direction!

Tuesday
Aug112009

Yesterday was Made of Win!

So, yesterday morning, I'm grocery shopping when my iPhone pulls up an email from a Facebook friend who happened to see my name ON THE HOME PAGE OF ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY! I totally, totally flipped, right there in the grocery store, sort of akin to when I was shopping and flipped through People and just happened to see my face/book in the review section, and just about tackled the cashier.

Anyhoo, I ran home, and yes, because I am such a nerd, I took a screen cap of the blessed event. :) You see, EW is my bible, my FAVORITE, and if there were ever a job I wanted outside of what I currently do, it would be to work for the mag.

What was the buzz about? Well, I announced this here a while ago, but it's officially official: Nicole Eastman, who wrote the recent hit, The Ugly Truth, is adapting Time of My Life for the big screen, and in fact, is almost done the script. I'm sooooo excited!

Here's the Variety article about it.

Also, I also have an interview up on Lisa Romeo's fabulous blog, which is a must-stop for all writers, so if you haven't clicked over there or added her to your blog roll, do so now!

Tuesday
Jun022009

FIlm Agents - Yay or Nay?

Question of the day: I have often thought that my story/book would make a great movie (especially for Lifetime!), and my question to you is when it comes to books that are made into movies does that come about from your agent shopping the book around to film agents or you wait and see if interest comes to you?


While I don't have any concrete figures, I would say that 99.9% of the time, of books that actually get made, a film agent has shopped it around. Let's rewind a bit to discuss why.

I've said here before, but I'll say it again because I think I have a lot of new readers: getting your book published is a very, very difficult task. Getting it made into a movie makes getting your book published almost easy. In order for it to hit your local cineplex, an almost serendipitous stream of events have to occur. Including (but not limited to): 1) a film agent has to agree to take it on. So after finding a book agent, you now have to be vetted even further...these agents take on even fewer project than lit agents, AND there are fewer of them out there, so...the odds are small. 2) A producer (or director or some sort of behind-the-scenes figure) has to want to option it. 3) A studio has to agree to give this producer money. 4) A script has to be developed that all parties agree on. 5) The studio/producers has to decide that despite steps 1-4, it is still worth their time to pay everyone involved their big payouts by greenlighting the project. 6) You have to overcome a wide variety of snafus throughout the process (including but not limited to: weak scripts, temperamental directors, temperamental actors, temperamental producers, studio bankruptcy, etc, etc, etc.)

Phew! And those are seriously just SOME of the steps that come to mind. There are about a dozen others.

Film agents, like book agents, act as a filter between authors and producers/studios. The best agents (and I count mine among them - I'm very fortunate to have her), have relationships with producers, studios, directors, etc, and know what they're looking for, in the same way that lit agents have relationships with editors. Sure, of course, someone could read your book and contact you and want to option the rights. Definitely. But the odds that they'd have all of the other linchpins in place to actually get the movie made? Probably not high. I'm not suggesting that Steven Spielberg doesn't read books and contact authors - he might (though again, I'm guessing it's not his standard way of finding material - he has a team, I'm sure, who is always actively looking), but this route is sort of climbing up and over a mountain when there is a tunnel that offers direct access. But yeah, that tunnel has a pricey toll and doesn't allow everyone to pass through.

Sorry for the bad analogy. Anyway, I wish that I had other news; I wish I could say, yes, I know a dozen writers who have been contacted by legitimate producers who have then not only paid them fairly (I'm not talking about these ridiculous options for basically no money) but have gone on to get the movie made...but I can't. In fact, I know very few writers who have sold movie rights to begin with. Some, sure, but most? No.

But readers, correct me if I'm wrong. What say you? Possible to get your movie adapted without a film agent?


Monday
Apr202009

Scrapping the Screenwriting

Question of the day: Why didn't you try to be the screenwriter for Time of My Life? Do you care that someone else is writing it?

I get asked this question a lot, and to begin with, I didn't even entertain the idea of adapting TOML. For a few reasons: 1) I had no idea how to write a screenplay. I'm sure I could have learned, but at the time, it felt like selling the book was enough. 2) The various producers who were looking into acquiring the project weren't interested in using me, or so I assume. Producers like to vet their own "talent," work with people who have reputations or experience they're aware of, and I totally respect and understand that. And 3) the stakes were just too high. Selling this project and getting it made mattered to me personally but also, let's be honest, mattered (and matters) to my career. I didn't want to mess around by either not landing the producers we wanted or producing a screenplay that wasn't up to par. It was just too important that everything came together seamlessly, more important (to me) than writing the script.

So I guess, to answer the latter question, I don't care AT ALL that someone else is drafting it. To begin with, I totally trust the producers - I met with them several times, and my vision is very cohesive with their vision. But, that said, even if it weren't, it's a win for me to get this made, period. Even if the movie were total crap (which I don't expect it to be), that's no reflection on the original book. The book stands as it is. THAT was my work. The rest is gravy. A bad movie still sells more copies, a bad movie still raises awareness of the book. Beyond that...I don't feel any real ownership. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love this book, and I love the characters, but whether or not they're perfectly translated on screen...well, I have other things to worry about. (Really, I do!) I mean, sure, are there some actors who I might not want playing these roles? Well, yeah! But the fact that ANY actors are playing them is enough for me.

For now.

For the next book, if we're lucky enough to sell it, yeah, I might be interested in tackling that script. But I'm at a different point in my career than I was when we sold TOML, and I feel more confident with that challenge. And if they opt for someone else? That will likely be okay with me too. The good news is, is that by then, I'll hopefully have moved on to my next book, and with that one, there's always more possibility for another movie and another challenge and another option to write a screenplay...not to mention new characters who promptly make me forget the old ones.

Would you guys be okay letting your work fall into someone else's hands or do you think you'd be concerned over the implications?

Monday
Mar302009

Movie News: And We Have Lift-Off!

So super-duper excited! I was told last week that things are moving forward with the movie version of Time of My Life! After an extensive search for just the perfect screenwriter, the producers have finalized a deal with Nicole Eastman, whom I do not know personally but who wrote the forthcoming flick, The Ugly Truth with Katherine Heigl, and given the depth of the producers' search, Nicole is, I'm sure, a great match! What does this mean? Well, for one, it means that they're definitely serious about moving the project ahead from book to film, and it also means that we might have a draft of a script in a few months. (Squeeee!!) (I should note that I use the term "we" very liberally, as the producers are very kind to keep me abreast, but certainly, they are helming this - as they should! - and I'm not the one in charge, and anything they share with me is out of the kindness of their own hearts, which are big, and which I appreciate very much.)

Anyway, here's a trailer of Nicole's movie, out in July. Hopefully in the near future, I'll be posting the trailer of her NEXT movie, TOML! :)

Monday
Jun092008

And, Finally, Variety!

So it doesn't say too, too much new stuff re: the film deal, but it's still pretty cool to be on the top stories of today's Variety.

This is my last post about this, I promise! (Other than updates as to what is going on, progress, casting, etc, if things move ahead as hoped.)

http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117987102.html?categoryid=13&cs=1

And, in back to reality news, I'm getting cracking on the next book today. Yikes. I've been feeling a bit paralyzed with my writing: Time of My Life has been so well-received that I've been struggling to come up with that "great hook" that everyone has been singing about in TOML. It might sound weird, but it sort of has me frozen - feeling like I might not be able to top this book. Not in terms of writing quality, because I'll always push myself to be better, but in concept...because I've learned that concept is king when it comes to enthusiasm from your publisher, reviewers, booksellers, etc.

But my agent suggested that I revisit the book that I wrote in between TOML and TDLF - that there were some really good ideas there and some good writing, even if it wasn't super-high concept, so I'm going to start rereading today and see what I can pluck out of there and make it a little more hooky. (Is hooky a word? Does it sound like my book is prostituting itself? Hmmm, must rethink that.) :) It's sort of like remodeling a house: I'll pull what I like, ditch what I don't, and hopefully come out with a much better product. But it also might turn into a never-ending remodeling project that ends with my head exploding. We'll see.

So that's where I am. We'll see how it goes. I'm a little distracted with all this other stuff, but do need to get cracking. I'd like to have my next book nearly done by the time TOML comes out in October. I'll keep you posted on my progress and maybe we'll do a little writing challenge with blog readers.

Anyone else out there working on a work-in-progress?

Thursday
Jun052008

Knowing My Strengths

Question of the week: Did you ever consider writing the screenplay yourself? I've been in similar shoes and instead of selling the rights to a production (albeit MUCH smaller than yours), I asked to take a stab at the screenplay myself. I've submitted one draft, received feedback and am now on round three or four. And yes, there are many days when I kick myself for not just selling the rights!

I didn't, not for one second, consider writing the screenplay myself. Which, I guess, might seem a little crazy. As my wise friend Laura Dave once said to me, "We really need to figure out how to write screenplays because that's where the money is!" Ha! And she's right, of course. You'll earn a lot more money on the deal terms if you adapt your own book, not to mention probably have a truer version (in most cases) of the adaptation.

But, eh, you know what? I just don't have any idea how to write a screenplay, and learning seems...daunting. I'm sure that I could read a few books and probably eke one out, but in many ways, I think I'm better off handing this over to someone who really rocks at creating a cinematic vision rather than pull together a scrappy version of what I might come up with. Another concern is that in some ways, I might be too close to this material. Obviously, not all aspects of a book can be included in the movie version, and what if I wanted to include certain aspects that are close to my heart but might not translate well on-screen? I'm not sure that I could toe that line. And since I've already written the best dialogue that I know how to come out of these characters' mouths, I also imagine I might have a hard time coming up with fresher, more movie-worthy chatter.

I dunno. It just seems hard. Writing a book is hard enough! Do I really need that challenge? :) One thing that I would certainly be open to is co-writing the screenplay alongside a pro, but since no one asked me, I guess that's not in the cards! Ha!

You know, maybe this sounds trite, but I'm really okay with passing it off to someone. I truly trust the producers on this project so much that I know that they'll put the material in good hands. Qualified hands. Which is more than I think I would be.

But readers, chime in - would you rather have a pro take a crack at your adaptation or do it yourself? Any personal experience with this?

Tuesday
Jun032008

Casting Call

Hee - I love how so many Ask Allison readers think exactly like I do: namely, they can't wait to cast their own novels and can't wait to hear how I'd like cast mine!

I should preface this post by saying that frankly, I'd be thrilled if anyone whose name I'd ever heard of would agree to be in an adaptation of my book. And I mean that. I also fully recognize that once you sign the rights away to your book and cash the check, you really lose all say. As I mentioned, I'm fortunate enough that the producers asked my opinion, and we were all on the same page, but still...if someone I never imagined as a character is cast...well, really, I won't complain. It falls under the category of "high class problem." And I try not to worry too much about those. I'm also not a casting director, who can see things in actors that I certainly can't.

But that doesn't mean I won't try!

So...answering your questions about how I would cast the movie is a little difficult because everything about this movie hinges around Jillian, the protagonist - different actresses would need different supporting players, and oddly enough, when I was writing the book, I never even pictured whom these actors would be. With The Department, I definitely did, but ironically enough, with this one...nope.

That said, as you guys know, I'm a devout Felicity fanatic, so I would absolutely squee to high heaven if we landed Keri Russell. In fact, I thought her final six episodes of the series, in which she goes back in time, were sheer perfection: her acting didn't get better than that, and she will forever have my girl-love for that (and the four seasons before that).

But certainly, there are other fabulous choices. The tricky part of this character is that she has to be both 27 and 34, and while that doesn't seem like THAT big a difference, it can be...and some wonderful actresses who can play 34 wouldn't be believable as 27, and vice versa. Jillian is this superficially perfect, desperately unhappy housewife who transforms herself into a breezier but still haunted 27 year old when she flashes backward. A few who I think could do it? Anne Hathaway, Kate Hudson, Jennifer Garner, Amy Adams, Rachel McAdams, Reese Witherspoon...who else? Chime in.

The other roles, as I said, all revolve around Jillian. Jack, her boyfriend in 2000, is that guy who so many of us dated at some point in our 20s: so close to what we think we need, sexy, kind, but maybe lacking that quality that we don't even realize we need. In the book, he's her escape (literally), and he's a good guy who doesn't quite have his world figured out, but who is good-looking enough (and sexy enough) to dupe others into ignoring that fact. If it weren't a full-out Felicity reunion, I'd be delighted with Scott Speedman. :) Robert Buckley, who is a hot piece of eye-candy on Lipstick Jungle would work. Ah, if only Timothy Olyphant were a bit younger, he'd be perfect because that man is the embodiment of sexy. (Though if they went with a slightly older actress, maybe he could work.) This is a toughie. Suggestions? This is why I'm not a casting director: I would just cast everyone from Felicity over and over again.

Henry, Jillian's husband when she's 34, is a classically handsome, straighter-laced kind of guy who has a quiet confidence about him that comforts and supports her. He's both her calming influence and also what undoes her: he's linear and rational, and gives her what she needs while simultaneously ignoring what she needs entirely. Again, casting the guys is so tough and so different for each potential-Jillian. But, I dunno, James Marsden? Patrick Wilson? Mark Ruffalo? Ben Affleck? Michael Vartan? Again, suggestions?

Jillian's boss is a 39-year old who has devoted her life to her work at the peril of her family (and because she has to be the primary bread-winner), and is sharply funny and sadly regretful. I'd love to see Catherine Keener, Laura Linney...anyone in that vein who can bring both snark and pathos to a character. There are SO MANY good actresses out there for this part.

Ditto Jillian's mom, who at about 55, has led a life of regret but also lived life to its fullest - leaving behind her family to find what she thinks is her true self. This role is entirely based on Jillian, so I can't even speculate.

Finally, the only person in the entire book about whom I DO have a clear vision is Jillian's dad, who has a gentle humor and a tender, wistful air about him, and for that, I think Jeff Bridges would be perfect.

But, as you can see, I'm game for just about any and every variation. As I said, I would be so flattered that any actor would even consider lending his or her time to this project that I really don't care so much!

But play along with me: which actors or actresses spring to mind when I describe the above roles? Jillian? Sexy, fun-loving Jack? Hard-working, but kind Henry? Lemme know!

Monday
Jun022008

The Next Steps

So more on film talk, since I got a lot of emails with questions and comments about the deal...which I think will be mentioned today or tomorrow in the trades. I'll post when/if I see some info.

A lot of people, I think, don't realize that while getting your film optioned is AMAZING, it is definitely NOT a guarantee that it will get made. What happens is this: a studio or production company buys the "option" to pursue the opportunity to develop your book for a designated amount of time, usually, in the case of film, 18 months. The very large majority of these options go nowhere. And I absolutely must and do keep this in mind. Someone on Backspace posted that she thought the percentage that actually get made is somewhere between 1% (if it's optioned by a production company that isn't attached to a studio) and 5% (if it's optioned with a studio deal). So, those are pretty sobering statistics.

That said, I have all sorts of reasons for being optimistic about this particular project moving ahead, not least that they are very, very actively looking to attach actors, writers, etc. Thus, they are moving forward, and hey, sometimes these projects do get made, and why shouldn't it be mine? This, coupled with a few other factors, has me feeling pretty good about where things stand right now.

But even so, even if it never gets made, I won't be disappointed. Here's why: in my opinion, this is a win-win situation. Not only do I get a very nice-sized check for doing absolutely nothing other than writing a book that I'd already written (and been paid for), but this announcement helps generate more buzz for the yet-to-be-released novel, which means that the sales teams, the foreign rights team, the marketing team, the PR team, the magazines who are reading galleys, etc, all take a little more interest in the book and might, just might, give it more promotion/review space/attention/bigger print run. I really can't lose, here.

So yes, I am feeling good about the chances of eventually seeing Time of My Life with a big old bucket of popcorn on my lap, but even if I don't, I can't say that I won't have won.

Tomorrow: we'll talk casting. :) (For all of you who have written to ask about my dream cast!)