Kizmet in the Land of Hollywood

I guess summer is a good time for movies, which might explain why we’ve recently been posting about them. I got a good response to my post, so I thought I’d follow it up with a look at the inner workings of a bestselling book-to-film adaptation. This piece from National Post is really cool because it talks about how a relatively unknown director got the job for this huge Hollywood movie through some very strong personal connections to the book author. Here’s another piece that talks about how they’ve been friends since kindergarten!

Turns out Tate Taylor actually optioned the book long before it sold to a publisher, envisioning it as a low-budget movie that might actually help get it sold as a book after having been rejected by over 50 literary agents.

Having worked on the outskirts of Hollywood for a number of years, I know this kind of back road to getting a movie made without big Hollywood names attached is practically unheard of, for a few reasons. First, Hollywood likes to reward success with money, in the form of job offers, and they don’t like risk, which is why there are barely more than a handful of A-list Hollywood writers out there. The same writers get all the big jobs. Also, they like to separate the writing and directing process, leaving the best of each to do their jobs (there are exceptions to this, like Clint Eastwood and Woody Allen). Another reason, and the reason I love this story that much more, is that the book writer is often essentially left out of the adaptation process completely since they rarely have screenplay experience and therefore create a higher risk for the project. Not always, but often, the screenwriters come in and do the adaptation, and the process unfolds with very little and sometimes no involvement from the creator of the book that the movie is based on.

Talk about a Hollywood success story that breaks all the rules (and in the book author’s favor!). This kind of synergy is practically unheard of today. Seems so easy that childhood friends should work together to create a blockbuster film from a bestselling book, yet in Hollywood this is a really rare occurrence. What do you think about this insider track for the movie version of The Help? I haven’t seen it yet, but from what I’ve heard and read, it’s quite good. Maybe Hollywood will take notice and start listening to the writers of the film’s source material more often. Hope so!

One Response to Kizmet in the Land of Hollywood

  1. Sarah Joy says:

    At a writing conference that I attened, the writer of the book Bridge to Terebithia spoke, along with her son, the producer of the movie. It took him 20+ years to get the movie rights to his mother’s book. Then, whenever the writers/other producers would disagree with him about something in the book, he would simply CC his mom in an email to the writers/producers telling them what he thought… why something was not the way it should be. They would get all upset, “Stop CCing your mom!” but in the end, it got done the way he wanted. The movie ended up very close to the book. Love that story. :)

    Sarah Joy, an associate agent-in-training

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