July 18, 2006

Wait! There's More!

Morning Edition gives us the latest in jazzy, snazzy PR ideas for your book... novel trailers! Kind of like movie trailers, only... not.

Is this really a good idea!? Coming soon to a bookstore near you!

Speaking of cinematic efforts, I remember with queasy good feelings my favorite fourth grade novel How To Eat Fried Worms, by Thomas Rockwell. There were rumors that it was being adapted into movie form by the same company that did the Narnia series last winter, and I thought... well, you know me. I thought uh-oh, because I am convinced that most movie directors don't read the books upon which they're basing their movies. (I vote for adding the word "loosely" before the word 'based' in the movie credits. Case in point: Disney's version of Howl's Moving Castle. In a word: ghastly. Some of the best plot elements were completely obscured to make an entertaining little cartoon for those who've never read the book! And what, then, is the point of basing a movie on a book? [I mean, besides the obvious, that directors don't have original ideas? But I digress...]) Well, I was right to be skeptical about the Worms, it seems. The movie has already been hijacked. Fuse#8 reports on a piece she read in this month's Creative Screenwriting that talks about the director's "vision" for the movie, and his issues with it. Too many worms, for one thing... and since it's a short children's book, he seemed to feel no need to be faithful to the plot.

WOW. Does he have any concept how old that book is, and how long its been around, and how people still love it?! Novel adaptations: they're a disease, I'm telling you! Directors out there: please! We READ EVERY WORD of the books we love, and we expect you to do it, too, and be faithful to the original vision of the author!!! We're trying to encourage people to READ, here!

1 comment:

David T. Macknet said...

The rule of Hollyweed: we'll use the character and maybe place names, but the final work will be a total rape of the original.

The ONLY outstanding exception to the rule that I've ever seen is the Jeremy Brett rendition of Sherlock Holmes. I continue to watch them as repeats on the Biography Channel. (And Poirot, of course, but since I'm not such a fan of reading Poirot, I won't comment on faithfulness to the original).

Skipped the Narina series. Tried to watch LOTR, and made it a whole 30 seconds into it before I could find the remote to turn it off - and promptly took it back to the store, not wanting that abomination to share my airspace.

The takeaway is this: as a writer, it is your responsibility to retain film rights in your contracts. Period. End of discussion. If it takes hiring an agent to accomplish this, do so before signing the contract - it's legit, and there are agents out there who specialize in just contract negotiation.

If you sell those rights, you'll end up like Rockwell, Leguin, and many others, I'm sure.

Now, if you have a greedy descendant that's another problem. (C.S. Lewis didn't sell the rights, but some descendant did so, even though Lewis was "absolutely opposed to a tv version"; Frank Herbert finished the Dune series, thank you Brian, so please stop with the knock-offs).