Category Archives: adaptation

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Technologically Ambivalent

DGLM has had some technological challenges this past week; the cable that carries the internet into our office was somehow severed. (Sabotage obviously. I blame the North Koreans, fresh from their triumph hacking into the Sony Pictures system, exposing the unguessed-at truth that Hollywood folks can be small-minded and mean.) Anyway, my inability to access email, our office network, or the majority of my saved files was disorienting. Then Sharon, tech genius that she is, showed me how to access my e-mail via my spam filter.  This seemed to me thrillingly covert–a bit like crawling into a locked building through its garbage chute–but the interface was so basic. There was no “undo” button, no save.  The result was ugly. Outlook Express and iOS have been saving me from myself. I see that now.

Our computer troubles also allowed me some time to muse on my fraught relationship with technology. I grew up in a family of late (to never) adopters. My parents were unmoved by cable, video games, computers, VCRS, or even color televisions.  I had mixed feelings about this when I was a kid. I cultivated a friendship with a kindly agoraphobic neighbor who watched TV all the day long. To her I owe any knowledge of the A-Team, daytime talk-shows and soap operas that I may possess.

Still, I’ve followed in my parents footsteps.  My sons have had comparatively little exposure to technology.  Given my line of work and benign but inchoate ideas about child-rearing, it seemed natural to favor books over tablets, paper over gaming devices, outdoors over indoors.  But this year—specifically this Christmas–that’s about to change.  We’re buying our sons their own computer.

We are: a) caving or b) emerging from the rock under which we’ve been living, because as it turns out, the standardized tests that kids in our town will take later this year require them to type.  And so it seems cruel not to allow them to build the skills that they will so obviously need.

I can still remember the day when I realized that a computer,  not a pencil, was a truer, faster connection between my thoughts and the page.  I felt a little sad, because I still love the physical act of writing. For me, a good fine line felt tip pen is a source of pleasure.  Today, however, few kids are taught cursive at all.  I’m no Luddite, but part of me finds it awfully sad that reading script will be a skill reserved to archivists. Or–who am I kidding?–an app.

Technology is a great boon—it facilitates so much—but I’m curious about your relationship with it. Or, in the words of Ali G,  “Tech-mology: Is it Good, or is it Whack?”

 

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From book to stage, and beyond

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned here before that in addition to books, I also love the theater (along with my colleague, Jim McCarthy, with whom I share stories of good and bad plays for sport). I think there’s something so magical about a good theatrical experience. I’m proud to say that I saw the original production of Rent off Broadway at The New York Theater Workshop in 1994. It was a profound experience that the few of us lucky enough to see the show with the original cast in that tiny space will never forget.

Rentpostera.jpg

It got me to thinking about books as plays. We often talk about books as films, but plays are so expensive to produce and so often don’t work that the number of shows from books is a lot more limited. What translates to the page doesn’t always translate to the stage. I’ve always loved Les Mis, although I’ve not yet seen the new production, and I recently saw and really enjoyed Matilda, both based on books.

Matilda

A lot of other Broadway shows I’m thinking of are based on films, like Rocky (couldn’t live up to the source material), Kinky Boots (loved the show, didn’t see the movie), and Billy Elliot (saw at a regional theater in Maine this summer). This is a lot more obvious a transition because it’s already a visual medium.

Image result for kinky boots

What books would you like to see adapted for the big stage? Would you turn your favorites into a musical or a dramatic adaptation? Gone Girl, the Musical! So many fun ideas to consider, I don’t even know where to begin!

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Soundtrack

It’s been a very crazy year for me, one that brought film adaptations for not one, but two of my clients’ books; Gayle Forman’s If I Stay and James Dashner’s The Maze Runner. I can say that seeing books you know and love made into films is a very surreal and emotional experience, and I feel lucky that both authors wound up with movies that so perfectly bring their books to life. Music is a key component in any film, but in If I Stay, both the original music and pop songs were an huge part of the experience, while the orchestral score in The Maze Runner amped up the tension and excitement in each scene.

And though I didn’t represent the book (clearly), I’m so excited about Paul Thomas Anderson’s upcoming adaptation of Inherent Vice. I’m a huge PTA fan, whose There Will Be Blood ranks in my top 5 movies of all time, and which features a fantastic score that anchors the film. I was excited when Sharon tweeted a link to the soundtrack listing for IV, and I’m listening to the songs to get ready to see the movie.  I’m fascinated by the selection, and I’m eager to see how they fit into the film.

Any movie adaptation or soundtracks you’re looking forward to this fall?

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Spoiler alert!

I’ve been thinking a lot about spoilers lately.  You can’t really talk about them without citing them, so if you’re really averse and somehow magically haven’t had Gone Girl ruined for you yet, you might want to click away.

With all the book-to-film adaptations* this fall—perhaps not more than usual, but more than I usually have any interest in—I dedicated my vacation reading to finally getting to two books I’ve been meaning to read for quite a while, before the movies could ruin them for me.  I might just be the last person to read Gone Girl, and I wasn’t exactly early to the This Is Where I Leave You bandwagon.  Fortunately, my experience with the latter was spoiler free—the only thing I’d been forewarned about was that it was really, really good.

Now, this isn’t me getting on my soapbox about spoilers, because I tend to think that if you aren’t passionate enough to prioritize something you don’t get to quell the conversations of those who are.  (I’m almost always the late one, so I’ve come to this via zen-like acceptance of my own bad impulses to get angry at someone for talking about something they care about, as if talking about something you care about isn’t a fundamentally important part of the human experience that I value highly.)  I know there was also that whole thing about how people actually like spoilers, contrary to what they think, but I’d argue that it changes your experience anyway, in a way that’s interesting but not ideal.  I know I get distracted by spoilers, and it takes me out of the experience of really enjoying the thing in the way I otherwise would.  To each their own, of course, but I’m not going to start seeking them out, and I’ll still probably have to ban myself from social media on Sunday nights when all the good TV is on for the rest of eternity.

But sometimes—like when you’ve put off reading one of the buzziest books of the last few years until the eve of the release of a film adaptation and you work in publishing—spoilers are not entirely avoidable.  To be fair, I wasn’t totally spoiled with Gone Girl.  I somehow made it all this time without finding out exactly what the twist is. When Stacey read it for DGLM book club, I fled the room.  But I can’t imagine it’s possible at this point to have heard of Gone Girl and not know there’s a twist.  And like all books (or films) that are built around a major plot twist, knowing there is one is pretty much spoiler enough.  It didn’t take me long into the book to realize that there was really only one option people would actually have been impressed with in the way I knew people were.  Unfortunately, while I found it clever and admirably crafted and insightful—that “cool girl” diatribe is everything—I missed my chance to have the opportunity with the novel that so many others did.

The thing about thrillers, or mysteries, or other twisty types of fiction is that I really enjoy the puzzle of trying to figure it out before I’m meant to, but I don’t like it when I win.  I want the author to best my whirring brain and catch me by surprise.

So having finished Gone Girl with quite a bit of like and admiration, but no love, I’ve made a pact with myself:  next time a big buzzy, mysterious novel comes along, I’m reading it right away.

*Like The Maze Runner, based of course on DGLM’s own James Dashner’s novel of the same name.  I know I’m biased, but I thought it was a perfect adaptation.  Exactly what you always hope book-to-film can be, but it almost never is.

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Before the camera rolls

There is a book. Well, not always. But the other day surfing Netflix I realized just how many movies are based on books. There was an entire category devoted to them. And most were movies I had never realized were based on books.

So what’s the process behind turning a book into a movie?

One of the cooler things we do here at DGLM is meet with people in the film industry—production companies, packagers—basically anyone in development. In other words, we meet with people in the film industry who are looking for ideas, which they then bring to the studio, producer, or actor they’re representing.

In a very broad sense, these meetings are always the same. The producer is looking for great storytelling, there is a brief pause, and then we hear what the producer is actually looking for. Memoirs written by ordinary people who’ve lived through extraordinary things. Something geared toward an audience of middle-aged women. Something with a lot of action that can be done on a budget under $X. We then go back and forth with the producer explaining the various projects we have that might be of interest.

My point is that most people would be surprised how much the market dictates which movies eventually get to the “roll the camera” stage. Market and monetary constraints are king. So if there is a book you really, really want to see get made into a movie, be loud about it. If there’s a market, there’ll be a movie.

If you need further evidence, take The Fault in Our Stars, The Giver, and If I Stay, all films which were developed, in part, because of fan support.

So how about it? What do you want to see on the big screen?

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What makes it work?

I had an interesting conversation with a friend over the 4th of July weekend. The internet has been abuzz recently with speculation about when fans of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire can expect to see the next book in the series.

And people have been freaking out. Practically trembling with excitement.

Now I’ve never read the books, but I love “Game of Thrones,” so my friend and I got to discussing how amazing it was that the books and television show seem to feed off each other. It’s generally accepted that movie adaptations of books drive book sales up, at least for a time, but we weren’t discussing sales. Rather, we were talking about the mania surrounding the whole series.

It’s really quite remarkable. The books compel readers to watch the show, and the show sends viewers to the bookstore. It’s been parodied, on talk shows, and all over the internet. So what makes it work?

There are many other instances of this phenomenon. Virtually every movie adaptation of a comic book seems to cause an uproar at Comic Con and comic bookstores across the nation. Harry Potter. The Hunger Games.  And the reverse is true too, if less frequently. Star Wars has countless comic books and novelizations with a wide readership—more than 30 years after the original film.

I think we can safely say that any of the examples above aren’t simply a series, but a franchise. So again, I’ll ask, only somewhat rhetorically: what makes it work?

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Audiobooks, who knew!

As everyone in the office can tell you, I’ve been sick this past week, though thoroughly denying it every morning and trying to pretend I can work anyway. Thankfully, I’m better now because even lying in bed all day can get pretty boring after a while. When I’m not in a right enough mind to focus on a screen to watch or a page to read, what else is there to do?

I keep meaning to start in on audiobooks as I think it’s a great way to pass the time hands-free and a nice alternative to listening to music. As a kid, I spent nearly every night being read to sleep by my dad, and I don’t just mean picture books or short stories. I “read” the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy that way! I’ve got a history with listening to long books being read aloud…just not recently, and it’s something I’d like to start getting back into, but I don’t know where to begin!

What kinds of books do you feel work best as an audiobook? Personally, I would think more fantasy, adventure, exciting exploration stories would work well, but I think that’s just because I’m imagining a narrator with an elastic voice (possibly accented) telling a story to children. Have you read any excellent audio adaptations of novels you’d like to recommend?

I’m all ears…literally! (Give me that joke, please, I’ve been sick).

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A tale of two cultures working together

Last week, I journeyed to LA to meet a group of TV/film people, find out what they are looking for in the way of new projects and tell them about many of the books we are representing which we hoped they would be interested in reading and ultimately optioning.  Often we work through a community of co-agents to get to these producers, but I always feel that meeting in person, when possible, cements a relationship.  Putting a face to a name is a good thing.

I hadn’t done this kind of trip in many years–film people come through our offices all the time–and I really enjoyed meeting all of these new folks.  The differences between our two cultures (book publishing and Hollywood) really struck me, though.

First and foremost is the fact that the people in the LA movie business are totally dependent on their cars–they need to drive everywhere as public transportation is very limited.

Another difference is that we in publishing submit our projects almost exclusively online.  Theirs, on the other hand, is a world of in-person pitches.  Co-agents meet with producers, directors and sometimes writers to pitch them projects.  We do almost all of this electronically. Here is a photo of a pool we sat beside to pitch a producer some of our books (not a bad way to do it, actually, except hard to accomplish in New York City).

Finally, the Hollywood folk spend a lot of time on the phone.  This is something we in publishing really try to avoid.  Of course, sometimes phone calls are necessary to describe a project we are really passionate about, and/or to begin or complete a negotiation, but most of the time we find it more efficient and, frankly, legally sound to keep our communications written.

The “publishing lunch,” though, is something the folks in the film business enjoy equally.  The difference between us is that we journey to our destination on foot, by cab, or subway, while they drive.  Here is a photo outside the CAA Headquarters where you can see a large number of valets who are on staff to park and bring up cars for those entering and leaving.

Bottom line, though?  I think this was a very productive trip in every way and now I am looking forward to digging in and sending out the numerous projects that the people we met with want to consider.

Why are the books always better?

I watched Gatsby the other day. Excuse me, let me clarify. I tried to watch yet another disappointing movie adaptation, another beloved-book-turned-train-wreck-of-a-movie. And I’ve never once gushed over F. Scott Fitzgerald’s magnum opus like so many do. No, I went in with reasonable expectations. Expectations even Leonardo DiCaprio with all his talent and all his movie-star swag couldn’t help the movie live up to.

So cheers to good books that can’t be experienced any other way than through the written word. Gatsby was flawed from the start. People have tried to make the movie before…and all have failed. Some other good examples of poor movie adaptations: