If Your Book Becomes a Movie

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Anyone ever dream of their books becoming a movie or TV show?  I do it a lot since I picture a lot of what I’m writing in a visual style.  I’d love to see Nyx casting magic on the big screen or settle in every week to see what trouble Luke is getting into.  It’s a fun dream to have at times because it gives me a feeling that there’s more to shoot for.  Yet part of what I said might hint at some fear too.

We hear about some movies where the author has a lot of influence like Harry Potter and they come out great.  It becomes hard to be angry at changes when you know the author of the book was part of the creation.  Then there are adaptations where you wonder if the author was involved or if they were locked in a basement until the release date.  It could be that some of them had no creative control or they simply didn’t care.  Honestly, this really only comes into play if the movie is terrible.  After all, the author behind ‘Mary Poppins’ hated the movie, fought and failed to change it, and the movie went on to become a beloved classic.

There is a threat too when it comes to adaptations.  If the movie tanks like a bowling ball in a swimming pool then it can take the books down too.  People will steer clear because they think your books are identical to the sucky movie.  At the very least, you stop getting the attention that was built around the movie.  Think back to ‘Eragon’, which was on everybody’s lips when it arrived and was going to be a movie.  Then the film came out and people hated it.  I waited for a rental since I worked at a DVD store and only made it 45 minutes before quitting.  Still it wasn’t long after the movie that you saw the fervor around ‘Eragon’ die out.  True fans and obsessed haters held on while everyone else moved on to the next bandwagon or stopped getting involved in the chaos.

The same goes for if the movie ends up being a great success and is nothing like the original book.  An author can stand up and say they didn’t like the adaptation in friendly or not-so-friendly terms.  Yet that can cause trouble if you don’t have enough clout to survive the fight.  I’m not saying to accept a severe alteration because it’s popular, but to be more diplomatic about your stance on it.  Many authors have banned their books from becoming movies after one is made and they disagree even against a successful reception.  I can see why too because I would have that fear of being placed in a ‘movies are better than the books’ category.  It could mean that nobody would buy my books until a movie comes out because that would inevitably be better.  For many authors, that isn’t a lot of fun and could make the world feel a little backwards.

Now I was originally going to post a fun list of what to do if you find your book being made into a movie.  I won’t because the hell do I know about it.  Instead, I leave it open to suggests and personal thoughts on such an event.  Here’s my entry:

  1. Try to hold onto as much creative control as you can without being inflexible.  It is best that you make the changes to the adaptation to fit it into the overall concept than to let someone else do it.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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15 Responses to If Your Book Becomes a Movie

  1. sknicholls says:

    Become very good friends with the casting director. I have certain images in my mind for my characters and I could see a casting director taking them in an unacceptable direction if I wasn’t watching close enough.

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    • I wonder how much pull an author would have even if they made friends with the casting director. A suggestion might be taken, but I would guess it depends on the contract that the author signed.

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  2. L. Marie says:

    I talked with a lawyer friend about this issue. Having seen adaptations like Earthsea in which Ursula posted on her blog to denounce, After seeing that, Eragon, and others, I was wary of ever signing a contract to allow a film to be made of anything I wrote. She mentioned that some writers like Suzanne Collins have clout (she was already a screenwriter), which is why they’re more involved in the adaptations of their work. But most authors have no say in what goes on once they sign the contract. You sign over the right to someone else.

    On the flipside, having seen LOTR, The Fault in Our Stars, The Hobbit, the Hunger Games movies, and Harry Potter, I see how glorious films based on books can be.

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    • True, but I think those later mentions had the benefit of a verbal fan base. Just like superhero movies, you have a big enough audience built-in to make sure you show respect. (Unless you’re Michael Bay and get your hands on the Turtles. Yes, I’m harping.)

      I would hope that an author can fight for a clause that gives them some creative input. Something like being an adviser or help on the script to stay true to the essence of the original. It never made any sense to me that they would go against the author. You would think getting the originator’s input and blessing would be important.

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      • L. Marie says:

        According to my lawyer friend, it definitely depends on the deal you make with whoever options you film. If they’re not offering you some type of creative input, it’s best not to sign the contract in the first place. An author needs a good entertainment lawyer who specializes in this type of deal.

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      • I agree. That’s what I’ve been told. I’d really hate to turn in my own characters.

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  3. I think I would insist on being involved in the creative process — not that I would necessarily have veto power, but just the right to sit in on meetings and voice my opinion. Obviously I know nothing about filmmaking, but I think I could learn enough to be useful — even if it’s just giving the script my stamp of approval so the movie doesn’t turn into a complete mess like City of Bones. So I’d definitely want to be in on the scripting process … and also the casting process … and then probably a little bit of the set/costume design as well. Again, not telling them what to do, just to be there as a voice of reason in case they did something absolutely bonkers and needed me there to say, “Okay, calm down, you’re way off base here”.

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    • Just wander around the set and meetings like an author fairy. I would like to do the same thing. Also to be on set or around if sudden changes need to be made. Maybe I’d settle for sit down chats with the actors to discuss the characters.

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  4. Ask for a trailer on set, of course. As long as we’re dreaming… 🙂

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  5. Good advice. I just can’t wait until I get the call and when I do , I’ll be ready

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  6. I’ve never placed any real thought into this topic, though it IS a valid one. Before my books could ever be interpreted into a movie, they first need to be interpreted by the imaginations of readers. Such is my focus.

    However, today as I was scrolling through my WordPress reader, my youngest daughter asks me; “Papa? When are you going to make your books into a movie?”

    I could only laugh at her naivety and as gently as possible explain to her the nuances of such a venture. Kids, right?

    If, and or when, it ever comes to be that and one of my character’s stories finds its way to the big screen, I would hope that I am somehow involved in the creative process. I’d be interested in how they would tell the character’s story, as well as how it got there, and I would hope that I could at least share some insight into who they are during their journey.

    In the end, however, I don’t think I would place much value on whether or not the movie turned out like the book. It wouldn’t matter how much I did or did not like it, because no matter what was done on the screen, my book will always be there.

    How many times have you watched a movie and heard someone say ; “The book was so much better,” or “This was pretty close to the story in the book” or even “Apparently this is based on a book”? I would love for someone to watch a movie about one of my characters and then seek out my work to get to know them better. It would be strange having a movie as a vehicle for advertisement, but then again, there seem to be more film-goers than book enthusiasts in the younger generations.

    Would I ever “ban” my work from film? Hmm. I think it would be more like me screening the creators for the work they have already done before making my decision to give them the green light.

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    • I think that’s part of the challenge. From what people have said, most authors don’t get the chance to screen the scriptwriters and directors. Those that do seem to have either amazing lawyers or enough clout to get that kind of power.

      Funny thing about the ‘book was so much better’ mentality is that there is a new one that is building steam. I’ve met many people who won’t touch a book series unless it’s been made into a movie or there is an announcement that the rights have been bought by a studio. It’s like people use this event to determine if a book is worth reading.

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