ADAPTING NOVELS TO CATCH HOLLYWOOD'S NOTICE
Anybody will read your script. ANY studio will take a meeting with you, so if you HAVE FOUR DAYS, do a script of some book that you adore. That's how a kid got in, he loved CUCKOO'S NEST. That script got him in the door everywhere. I studied at Loyola with a two time oscar winning pro adapter (his scripts are Jeremiah Johnson with Redford, Becket with OTOOLE and BURTON, Boston Strangler with Tony Curtis. The guy was good. He always warned how hard it was to get started and how luck had everything to do with his early days and he didn't feel that anybody could get HOllywood's trust and attention but after years of hearing his classes, I did see a map. Specking out scripts IS a way in!
As you know WGA writers (guild members,) cannot adapt on spec. They have to option the rights to the novel, Or
producer does and he hires the scripter. And you are RIGHT that ADAPTING
THING is the way for a NON WGA scribe to break in. HE DOES NOT haVE TO
OPTION the book. Say you see a novel that has 'it!' Speck it out fast as
probably that novel is making the rounds and has been since months
before its actual publishing date
Do your script fast! Be motivated! This is a great 'show around' script
to get you thru the usually closed doors. Who knows, they may hire you
for another job they have lying around, you get to be some indie's
stringer. Or 'go to.' They want financing so they get a cheap scripting
by you, who've shown yourself to be competent!
Important thing is, in first meetings with producers, you show how you
made novel bETTER. That it had weak elements which you FIxED. Being a
story fixer is HOT!
CUCKOO'S NEST was specked out by some kid. Kirk Douglas and Michael got
hold of that script and optioned it. Had the kid do a rewrite all of
this paid but I believe the final writer was WGA and don't recall what
happened to the orig fellow who saw a flick in that great book. But the
fact he rode that novel IN TO A STUDIO means he could take meetings on
the PHONEBOOK, anywhere for years after! Whether he did or not I don't
The important thing is to sort out chaff in novel and 'fix it' for film.
Twice I've seen movies be much better than novel. L.A. Confidential and
Devil's Advocate w. Pacino. The novels were a mess. Scripter sorted
stuff out that you literally could not have seen in the orig novel which
was blah (Devil) or CHAOTIC (LA CON).
Not that those were specked out. but sorted out. yes.
~^~^~^~^~^~ Anita Sands wrote the above about adapting novels and got a
disagreeing letter. "With all due respect and I do respect you, I do
have to disagree with a cou ple of things here.
You need to get an author's permission to adapt their novel whether it
has been published or not if it's protected under copyright law. If you
don't you're breaking the law.
A screenwriter shouldn't try to sell an adaptation if they don't have an
agreement in place with whoever owns the right to material. If someone
is int erested in your script and you can't produce a writer's agreement
you're screwed and they aren't going to be very happy with that
screenwriter. Also y ou have to make sure the author or whoever you are
dealing with really has the rights to the material. Personally I would
want to see every agreement the author ever entered into before I would
agree to adapt the novel.
Even if a producer hires me I want to see their agreement with whoever and
all other agreements. FWIW this is what a producer will want to see if they
are interested in making the film.
I've been writing adaptation for a few years now and I'm currently
working on my thirtieth one. I've had a little success doing them but
I've had a few w horror stories as well that could have been avoided if
I knew better. Any way I strongly suggest anyone that wants to do
adaptations to go for it bec ause I think it is a great way to break
into the business. However a lot of things can and will probably go
wrong if you don't do things right from the get go.
If a screenwriter contacts an author or publisher and finds out a
producer has already secured the movie rights it could be worth
contacting the producer and letting them know that you are interested in
adapting the novel. FWIW that is how I ended up getting hired to write
the HOT STUFF adaptation. Also if someone adapts a novel it isn't that
difficult to attach a director with some good movie credits and that
will really help you sell the script. Anyway this is just some
informatin based on my own personal experience so I could be
completely wrong about everything.
If you are interested in writing adaptations let me know off list. Since
I specialize in the I come across deals now and then. I do have WGA
representation and I do have contacts in the business as well."
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