Mark Terry

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Being Cinematic

March 21, 2012
My former agent sent me an email she received from the film agent she works with who was looking at some of the things I'd written lately. I figure I'll share it with you. It's sort of illuminating.

Regarding FORTRESS OF DIAMONDS, while I liked the Indiana Jones-like adventure of this property, the zombies and vampires make it a really tough sell at this time since the market on both of those got saturated a while ago…
Regarding MONSTER SEEKER, unfortunately this just has too much similarity to Harry Potter for me to be able to set it up. Regarding CHINA FIRE, while I really liked the book and it’s a cool action thriller, it seems somewhat reminiscent of many other films of the same genre without the unique hook needed for adaptation. Regarding DIRE STRAIGHTS, as a short story, it would be hard to set up for TV or film but I loved Derek in this really action-packed spy story. Regarding THREE MUSKETEERS, I also liked this property.  This is always a fun story with recognizable characters, but since the newest Three Musketeers movie just came out, also with a girl in the lead no less, I don’t think I’d have any luck setting this up, unfortunately.

One of the thing that was driving me crazy about my former agent (aside from the fact that she was basically acting oblivious to the implosion in the publishing industry) was that she seemed to put far more of "her" energies into a movie deal than she was in actually getting the books I sent her published. Whenever I spoke with her about what was going on it was all "well Lane's working hard on getting a film deal" or "I'm waiting to hear from Lane."

NOT: It's at Random, St. Martin's, and Kensington.

Anyway, that's besides the point.

The point, for me, is that really, if you look at a films, it's clear that just about any book can be made into a movie. Really, folks, do you think THE ENGLISH PATIENT, upon reading it, a filmmaker said, "Wow, that'll be an easy adaptation."

If so, they're crazy.

Did somebody read TWILIGHT and say, "Well, vampires have been done before..."

No. There are other factors.

Which is a slightly around-about way of saying, in my opinion anyway, that you should write your book the way you want to write your book with little if any regard for the possibility of it being turned into a film. (It's DIRE STRAITS, by the way, but don't get me started). Do I think my books would make good films? 

I'm reminded of a line from the wonderful Peter Lefcourt novel, THE DEAL, a satire/caper about the film industry, when the junior executive/script reader at the film studio asks Charlie Bern, the down-on-his-luck film producer, if he thinks the script he's got is good. "What's a good script? My definition of a good script is one that gets made into a movie."

She accuses of being cynical (he is). But is he wrong?

Really? Have you ever read the book THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP and then seen the film? Who read that book and thought it would make a good film? Who would have guessed it would even be possible?

Who read the book ERAGON and thought it would be a good idea to turn the sprawling 8 billion word novel into a 90-minute film?

Who read Stephen King's short story CHILDREN OF THE CORN and thought ANYTHING should be done with it except perhaps scoured from memory?

So to answer the question, Do I think my books would make good films? The answer is: it depends.

I think they COULD be made into good films. They're cinematic. Lots of incident. Fairly straightforward. But it always depends on having a good director, a decent budget, a good cast, an actor who can carry the film, and a whole slew of factors regarding directors and producers, etc., who don't just want to make money, but want to take whatever magic they found in the book and turn it into something similar on screen.

I'm reminded of the enormous success of John Sandford's "Prey" novels. To-date there have been two made-for-TV movies based on the books. The first featured Eric La Salle, which was fairly interesting casting, to say the least. The movie went for dark (with no pun or reference intended to La Salle's race) and the film was a really grim experience, although on the surface I suppose it was okay, although the feel and tone of the movie was waaayyyyy different than the book. Then they made one recently featuring Mark Harmon. I like Mark Harmon as an actor quite a bit, but he's a very understated actor. To my mind, the character of Lucas Davenport is very flamboyant and charismatic. I didn't think Harmon was as good a match (I'm not sure who would be), and although reasonably entertaining, the tone and feel felt wrong.

Which may just be another way of saying that it's really hard to do this well. I haven't seen Katherine Heigl as Stephanie Plum yet, but I wonder.



Blogger Kath Calarco said...

Thought provoking post (it'd make a great movie).

I find it rather sad that art is boiled down to dollars. Perhaps I'm very naive, but it's hard to put a price tag on something that comes from the heart. Do people create for art's sake or to line their pockets?

It's all very sad.

7:44 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

Sounds like your agent was fixated on the money which might be made in films. Sadly, I think a lot of the publishing industry today sees book publishing as in large part the minor leagues for the major league film industry which is largely under the same ownership. Publishers produce books knowing that some will develop into much more profitable films.

But novels are not films. The two art forms work differently, They excel at different things. Writing a novel as if it were a film short changes the novel. Even a good film about a good novel is going to be much different than the novel. To an extent we're losing the art of the novel as a lot of authors pursue film contracts.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Well, I don't know. In terms of film, there's way too much money involved for even a modest film to get made to just do it for "art's sake" unless you're already fabulously wealthy.

10:09 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

She was something. I always felt, "Yeah, if a movie gets made, great." But if the odds of getting a book published suck, and to get it published and have it catch on are even worse, then a movie deal is infinitely more difficult to get, followed by the even less likely even of it getting made, and even yet less likely event of it being successful... which made me wonder why you'd spend so much time on the film end of things, although at least part of that was - she wasn't, someone else was.

And I agree. Novels are not films.

10:12 AM  
Blogger Kath Calarco said...

I still find joy in my writing, even knowing it'll not see light of day. And I also find joy in low-budget-art-house movies, but I tend to stay away from the blockbusters.

It's madness, I tell ya. Utter madness! :-)

11:26 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Even a low-budget arthouse film can cause a lot of money to make unless it was shot on somebody's iPhone. :) But I know what you mean.

11:36 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home