Hollywood Producers and Development Executives have always taken a special interest in optioning film rights to books. And why wouldn’t they? It’s a script and idea already written. They just have to repackage the diamond-in-the-rough for a silver screen audience. The trick is identifying the book or series that will really be the next hit TV show or blockbuster movie. A great way they’ve done this? Option the Film Rights to books that are proven international bestsellers – think The Da Vinci Code, The Lord of the Rings, The Secret Life of Bees. Television rights can be just as lucrative for Hollywood – including The Secret Circle, Sex and the City, Bones, TrueBlood, and Dexter.
In the three months since best-selling E.L. James book, Fifty Shades of Grey, went viral the Film Rights have sold to Universal Pictures for seven figures (with an estimated value over $3,000,000.) It has a built-in revenue market. Just as St. Martins Press assumed that the millions of individuals who bought the self-published work on Amazon would be a prediction for even greater numbers of print copies sold, the film executives at Universal along with the 10 other outbid studios made the assumption that the collective readership of print and ebooks would be automatic movie ticket sales. They’re probably right.
But Fifty Shades of Grey and the prior examples only show successful bestsellers making a further leap up the ladder. What about books or series which have not been published but hit the ground running with film options? The Selection, by Kiera Cass, was picked up by the CW before the first book had even been released. Now truth be told, I haven’t read it (but plan to – it’s on my to-read list after Bitterblue) but from the awesome book trailer and reviews it couldn’t be more clear that this book is made for television. In fact one of the Editorial Reviews posted on the Amazon page is “Reality T.V. meets dystopian fairy tale in Kiera Cass’s delightful debut. Charming, captivating, and filled with just the right amount of swoon!” – Kiersten White. So yeah, there are those books that have that television angle. (Kiera Cass has an amazing Youtube vlog going on btw…makes me want to write a post on author outreach & new media.)
Trailer for The Selection
It’s cute but I’ll be honest when I ask, beg, and plead with the CW to have a more diverse cast of princesses-to-be in the television series.
Of course the optioning of film or television rights is no guarantee that your book will make it onto anybody’s screen. Not A Fire Exit was optioned for a film in June 2010 by JoJo Road Productions. It’s now almost two years later. I haven’t seen a movie about muscular atrophy recently, have you?
Now what about staying true to the book? There are some really, really great examples of this. And some really, really bad ones. What do I mean by staying true? Not changing the plot significantly, no adding in 10 different main characters who weren’t in the book and visually a good representation of the book.
The Game Of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin
The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
The Sookie Stackhouse Series by Charlaine Harris
*According to my own methodology this is a bad adaptation BUT for many, many viewers (myself included) the flexibility that Alan Ball has taken with the Trueblood script has introduced amazing characters who the original readers would have never met. In fact, Lafayette is a supporting back house character in the books, I know CRAZY right?, and Jessica doesn’t even exist. So change can be good.
Special Recognition for The Last Airbender (Television series turned movie)
What do you all think are other examples of Bad or Good Adaptations? Where do The Vampire Diaries or The Secret Circle belong?