Monday, April 20, 2009

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?


Megan Burke said...

i'd def be concerned about what they'd too. there are too many books i can list which have be ruined by movies.
saying that, i dont think i could cut the required amount to make a screenplay.
i'd be fine with it if they stayed true to the basic storyline and didn't change it that much

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't do it. Writing a good screenplay is very different than writing a book, totally different skill set, and not something I'd want to practice with on my own book! I'd rather have a seasoned screenwriter who has done other successful adaptions do it. Then I'd focus my energy on writing another book.

If I wanted to try screenwriting, I'd try it, but on something else, something that didn't matter so much, so I could learn the process of screenwriting. It's very rare that a novelist also writes the screenplay adaption of their own novel, for a reason.

Angela Giles Klocke said...

I guess I'd have to be okay with it. I don't have the desire to learn screenwriting, nor the time!

But certain projects would be hard for me to let go of control over, I'm sure.

Unknown said...

Great question, great answer. I think a lot of writers feel so protective of their work that they'd rather not see a movie get made if it's not true to "their vision", but honestly, that's not how I see it. I've seen a play I wrote performed on the stage, and it is just incredibly amazing to see people you made up walking and talking. I think a movie of my book would be like that times eleventy hundred.

And you're SO right about screenwriting being a different skill set. Let an experienced screenwriter take a whack at it. Sure, maybe the movie will become something other than your original vision. But it's never going to be exactly the same, even if you're the one writing it. Writing a novel is a solitary act, for the most part. Making a movie takes hundreds of people. Most of them are not going to be you.

Kristan said...

I do know how to write a screenplay, but hypothetically speaking (since I'm as of yet unpublished) I feel the same way as you. I'd rather let the experts handle that aspect and continue focusing on my fiction career. Screenwriting can be fun, but a screenplay is a whole other beast from a novel. Isn't taming one lion enough? :P

Patti said...

It would be hard to let someone else write it but I think that writing a screenplay is a lot different than writing a novel. And like you said maybe once you got more experience you'd want to try.