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The dreaded Movie Question

marlinpoo (or rather, his aunt), jules4848, and lady_pamina raised the question of movies based on my books on the Ultimate Movie Cast thread, and rather than answer it there and have it buried, knowing it's a question that comes up often and often, I thought I should answer it here.

Though I confess, you just won't get the same effect of me wailing "All my friends have movie deals!" via lj as you would if you got me in person. Of course, as people keep asking me, you also run a smaller risk of me snapping at last and leaping for your throat if you get the answer here and now, rather than risk asking me about it in person.

Yes. I get asked this one a lot.

My film agent tells me that the largest barrier to my getting a film deal is one of the things my fans like best: the fact that, for 14 of my Tortall books, and 10 of my Circle books, there is a good chance the reader will encounter friends from the earlier books. Readers of the Kel series will encounter characters from the Alanna and Daine books; readers of THE WILL OF THE EMPRESS will encounter characters from The Circle of Magic.

The feeling among moviemakers is that if Company A makes a movie based upon the Alanna books, and Company B makes a movie based on the Kel books, Company B will be profiting from all the work Company A did, for free! (Gasp! Say it's not so!) The bottom line is that unless I get J.K. Rowling-hot, so that a film company will buy an entire universe, my chances of getting a film deal are Not Good. (My other alternative is to write a stand-alone book in a brand new universe, then not write any more in that universe. Where's the fun in that?) Of course, Beka's books may stand a chance, since they don't have any characters from the other Tortall books except Pounce.

When I'm not writhing with envy, I actually don't much mind. Unless I get as big as You-Know-Who, the likelihood that I will be given any degree of control or any advisory position on a movie is zilch. Have you ever heard the woefully incorrect joke: "How do you know who's the stupidest starlet? She's dating the writer"? (And that's the writer of the movie writer.) Hollywood filmmakers are notorious for taking books and turning them inside out. Think a moment: "Eragon." "Ella Enchanted." "The Dark Is Rising." "The Golden Compass." I rest my case.

If I did make a movie deal (I can be had--movie money is VERY good), I would warn my fans not to expect to see my books on the screen. As I said above, Hollywood is notorious for changing the book in their translations. Books take place in the reader's head. No one will capture what you imagine, which is what I love about books.

So there it is: welcome to my reality. I will keep creating my movies in books and audio, when I can get them the way I like them! And who knows? Maybe someday I'll catch up with my friends. I just won't hold my breath! ;-)

Edited to correct my assumption regarding marlinpoo's gender!


( 162 comments — Leave a comment )
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Mar. 26th, 2008 04:19 pm (UTC)
As someone in the midst of film deal happenings, I feel your pain in regards to the whole "What if Company A makes profit for free? What if there's a character from the other book? What if? What if?"
Good grief, the only thing more weird and complex than the publishing world is the film world, it seems.
Mar. 26th, 2008 11:31 pm (UTC)
the only thing more weird and complex than the publishing world is the film world, it seems.

No "seems" about it. I spent some time on the fringes of film in the 80s and have my own experiences, plus those of friends and reading to back me up. Publishing is sane and stolid compared to film! Hell, mad dog fights are sane and stolid next to film!
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 26th, 2008 11:36 pm (UTC)
how could a movie do your books justice??

Think about it--a book happens entirely in your head. Now consider translating that to the screen, or even a play. It can't be done. Peter Jackson did his best with "The Fellowship of the Ring," hewing not only to the letter, but to the spirit, of the book, and people still complain about cuts he had to make to get a film length that people would watch. If he'd gone word for word, the movie would have been something like 40 hours long.

Books take us inside characters' minds as well as give us a view of all that's said and done. A movie just can't cover it all. For the most part, the best movies are the ones that aren't based on books, because they have the freedom to do what movies do best, without trying to work off a book.

There are good movies based on books--as you say, "The Lord of the Rings" is one. "To Kill a Mockingbird" is another. But the successes are far outnumbered by the failures.

thank you for taking the time out of your busy life to post!

It wasn't a matter of virtue on my part--I'm just trying to duck the question at appearances! ;-)
mind's eye - (Anonymous) - Sep. 4th, 2009 10:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 26th, 2008 04:25 pm (UTC)
I often thought the books would be great as a TV series, since there are plenty of books to provide a good amount of shows, or a couple of one-offs like they've been doing with Terry Prachett stuff over here. Is that anything you'd ever consider, instead of having them turned into movies?
Mar. 26th, 2008 11:38 pm (UTC)
Is that anything you'd ever consider, instead of having them turned into movies?

With the same caveat I'd give to fans waiting for a movie based on my work, that what they see on the screen won't match the movie they made in their heads as they read the book. And I doubt TV people would be any more inclined to include me in their production than movie people!
Mar. 26th, 2008 04:28 pm (UTC)
I just couldn't bring myself to watch The Seeker. Ugh. Even with Eccleston in the cast.

What I don't understand is with the success of LOTR and Narnia before them, why do they have to change the books so much? Why?

Of course, this is like asking the tides to stop.
Mar. 26th, 2008 04:59 pm (UTC)
What they did to Susan Cooper's books was disgusting and horrifying, almost as bad as what Sci-Fi did to Ursula K. Le Guin's novels. My only consolation is that the movie did horribly in the box office and hopefully ruled out any chance that they'd attempt to do the other books. Given that they ripped out all of the Athurian lore from the series, I don't even know how they could do a sequel.

Grr, that movie still pisses me off, especially since I love the books so much. If any of Tamora's books are picked up I'd pray like mad that she be the screenwriter so that she could at least keep it true to the feel of the story.
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Mar. 26th, 2008 04:29 pm (UTC)
Your point about "too big a universe" is well-made. And "JK Rowling-hot," well...surely series sustainability and fanbase must count for something...

I've wanted to see an Alanna movie since I was oh, about ten years old.

Relatedly (and in true zomg!fangirl! fashion), I wanted to play her.

::innocent look::

What? I'm 5' tall and kick ass! ;)
Mar. 26th, 2008 06:35 pm (UTC)
Ahahaha, so with you there. 5 foot as well. I'd just dye my hair, and we'd be set.
Mar. 26th, 2008 04:35 pm (UTC)
I am honestly glad your books haven't been made into movies. I am so, so so incredibly picky about books made into movies, and pretty much the only ones I can stand to see are ones I didn't like very much- hence why I have not seen a single Harry Potter movie.

Give me a good book and I'll make the movie in my head. =P
Mar. 26th, 2008 04:40 pm (UTC)
Hmm, I wouldn't mind seeing Terrier as a movie, but I can see how having the characters "cross over" in all you books would make movies more difficult.
And let's not mention those failed movie enterprises...
Mar. 26th, 2008 04:42 pm (UTC)
I actually don't want your books to be made into movies, because of those books that you mentioned. I could barely make it trough Eragon. I had to explain to the people sitting behind me why I was yelling at the screen at the end of The Golden Compass. Ella Enchanted was just ridiculous. And then there's also the disaster that is The Princess Diaries.

The truth is, Hollywood doesn't care about books. I'd much rather that a book doesn't get made into a movie, when the alternative is something like what happened with Eragon.
Apr. 4th, 2008 09:30 pm (UTC)
the ella enchanted movie bugged me while I watched it I kept whispering to my mom one of favorite parts in the books that they didn't have in the movie :/. alot of details It bugs me.
Mar. 26th, 2008 04:51 pm (UTC)
Even She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named having veto control over aspects of the films didn't stop the first two Harry Potter films from being horrible because the director was pandering and the screenwriter was slumming. Studio respect isn't enough- there has to be a core group of people who share the director's vision, like what happened with Lord of the Rings.

F'rinstance, my dream would be Terrier and sequels as a miniseries directed by Joss Whedon and co-written by you, Joss, and Jane Espenson. *sighs contentedly* It may happen one day!
Mar. 26th, 2008 05:04 pm (UTC)
Now THAT movie I would see!!
(no subject) - mundungus42 - Mar. 26th, 2008 07:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tehrussian - Mar. 26th, 2008 10:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 26th, 2008 04:51 pm (UTC)
No movies based on your books is okay with me. I don't enjoy watching something I love butchered on screen (e.g. Golden Compass, V for Vendetta and most of the other comic book movies, including the up-coming Watchmen).
Mar. 26th, 2008 04:58 pm (UTC)
A butchered Tortall would wound me far more than the (sometimes) butchered HP adaptations.

I'll be pleased if it ever does come to fruition (kick ass girls are always fun to watch), but I'll be satisfied much longer with endless rereads!
Mar. 26th, 2008 05:07 pm (UTC)
Bring back the movie serial!
If I am ever tremendously wealthy, I swear I will figure out a way to fund a movie company that works directly with authors to turn their books into gorgeous movie serials. Like, why condense a 500-page book into a 90 minute (or 120 minute) movie, thereby leaving out all the good parts? I'd rather get to go to the theater every few weeks to see a book well-done in smaller pieces.

In the meanwhile, I'll keep listening to the FCA versions of your books with my eyes closed. It's not quite the same as getting a movie, but it's certainly better than having them butchered.

I find it disappointing that the only way for me to really enjoy a movie based on a book is not to have read the book before seeing the movie. (I figure this is why I liked the Spiderwick Chronicles, anyways. I doubt the movie did the books justice.)
Mar. 26th, 2008 05:11 pm (UTC)
If a movie ever DID get made out of your books (and if casting was up to you, which I know it likely wouldn't be but this is just a hypothetical), who would you want to see playing some of your MCs, just out of curiosity? I meant to ask this question for your "ideal cast" meme but forgot.
Mar. 26th, 2008 05:13 pm (UTC)
Suprisingly enough I never envisioned any of your books and live movies...

I always saw them as - dare I say it - Animated. I am not talking Disney or even Pixar here... and I am not necessarily talking MOVIE either... one of my biggest gripes with film is that it doesn't necessarily capture the whole book... I cite Harry Potter, Ergaon, Golden Compass etc... I like the depth... Fortunately your books don't fall into the catagory of a lot of internalising which is a bitch to translate to film. Personally I would LOVE to see a really decent animated series done encompassing all of the Tortall books from Alanna through Aly... or even a live TV series... okay, maybe not the money as movies, but hell there have been some pretty stunning series out there that have then spawned movies!

And animation has the advantage that it doesn't matter if your actor gets old... Jodi Benson played a 15 year old Mermaid 19 years ago, and has just released Little Mermaid 3 and is still 15! Nancy Cartwright has kept Bart Simpson 10 for 19 years too!

It would save a hell of a lot on the CG too :D
Mar. 26th, 2008 05:16 pm (UTC)
The feeling among moviemakers is that if Company A makes a movie based upon the Alanna books, and Company B makes a movie based on the Kel books, Company B will be profiting from all the work Company A did, for free! (Gasp! Say it's not so!)

Bah! That's so stupid. Batman (with Michael Keaton) was definitely no help to Batman Begins. Are these filmakers that pansy or what? If a different filmaker does the Immortals than Alanna's series, chances are pretty good that the same person wouldn't play Alanna or Jon, or Thayet. So it shouldn't be a problem. That's just an excuse, and a poor one, at that! They're all profitting off of your work anyway. It is the price of having something original on the screen rather than the same ol', same ol'.

But please don't feel bad about no movie deal yet. If it takes longer, then maybe yours will be one of the few that doesn't turn the books inside out (think Lord of the Rings). I mean they weren't the same, but certainly not unrecognizeable. Eragon, as you mentioned, hardly seemed like the same book at all.

I'm a total fan. I admit it. You probably saw a quote on my sidebar from one of your books. And I have to tell you I'd be devastated to know that your very rich characters were turned into hollywoodized versions of themselves. I'm also a Harry Potter fan, but not of the movies. The first and second were decent, the rest have been travesties. Super-Hermoine made me want to scream, and watered-down, barely-there Ron made me want to yak. Your characters seem real to me, so if Alanna didn't lose her temper at the most inopportune moment or Kel failed to defend someone smaller than herself even once, I'd be furious. And Dude! They better not mess with Numair at all. He's perfect the way you wrote him -- absent-minded, talks like he swallowed a dictionary, and oh-so loyal and gentle to those he loves -- perfect.

It can't be all that great to pour your heart into creating something only to have it stuffed, stomped, and broken in order to fit a hollywood mold. Yes, the money would be great, and you've certainly earned it. As for the Harry Potter-esque popularity, I think you're getting there. I know a lot of people who prefer your books.
Mar. 26th, 2008 05:24 pm (UTC)
Seeing Numair on the screen would break my little shipper's heart!
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(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Mar. 27th, 2008 08:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
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