How Do I Get My Book Made Into a Movie?May 05, 2021
My Experience In the Book-to-Movie World
When my first book Party Girl came out in 2007, it was a different time and there were numerous offers. I took the highest-paid option offer, which was $20,000, which didn't seem like a lot compared to what other people were doing and getting, but now books are optioned for zero so my opinion has changed.
I naively thought the movie would for sure get made so I just figured I’d cash the biggest check until then. And I was thrilled when the producing team that acquired the book hired the screenwriter from Reality Bites, which was my favorite movie at the time. It was super glamorous. I would go to New York and have lunch with the producers and everything was so exciting—until the day they stopped returning my calls. Emails went unreturned and nobody called me back. I was represented at CAA at the time and one day I got an email from my agent at CAA and it said, “Congratulations. The rights to Party Girl have reverted back to you.”
What Happened After the Flurry
What that email meant in non-Hollywood speak was that nobody wanted to make the movie anymore. I never even saw the script. I never even knew if they were telling me the truth about a script being written. And so I wrote back and said, “What do you mean?” and I never got an answer. And I gleaned over time that this option was dead so I went back to the other people who had been interested in making the movie and they were long gone. Years later, I wrote a piece for a website where I talked about this experience and Helen Childress, the Reality Bites writer, saw it, emailed me and said, “Are you serious? You never saw the script? Let me send it to you.”
So she sent me the script. So there I was reading my favorite screenwriter’s take on my book based on my life from 10 years or 12 years earlier; it was so surreal. She and I decided we should try to get the movie made. But it had been put into something called turnaround, which means, essentially, good luck getting the script back. But I own the rights to the book.
Then It Happened Again
On my fourth book, which was called Falling for Me. I was represented at William Morris. And I got a call that the producers of the TV show Community, which was a big show at the time, were interested in developing it. So I went and met with them. I quickly gleaned that option money was a thing of the past.
But they brought in this writer and she started developing the book into a TV pilot. It was bizarre to me; developing meant just sort of changing things a little; instead of the character having a female friend, it was a gay best friend and instead of working here, she would work there. I figured they knew what they were doing.
I told them, “I am very sensitive when it comes to rejection. So what I would like is for you to go take it and try to sell it. And if you get nowhere, just tell me that. And if you get somewhere, tell me that.” Instead, they said, “Your book is about you. So why don't you come to these meetings?” So I went with them and sat in the room while this woman and these producers pitched this TV idea based on my book. I smiled as we pitched to ABC and NBC and CBS and all the places. And then every day after one of those meetings, I’d get a call from the producer saying, “Hey, I'm just letting you know they passed.” So that wasn't super fun.
So What Should You Do?
If you think your book is perfect for a movie, here is what I suggest: go get an account at IMDB pro account for $12.50 a month. Think about who you’d want to star in it; of course, don't shoot too high. It’s probably not going to be Charlize Theron or Brad Pitt. But don't shoot too low, as in that random girl in that indie that you saw late at night on Hulu.
Think: who is big enough to get it made and not so big that they’re being inundated?
The Current Status of Party Girl
For Party Girl, which we're in the process of packaging right now, my friend who was a big producer for many years said, “You know who you want as a lead If you're looking for a young girl in an edgy movie? Go look at former Disney stars who then did a dance movie because afterward they often want to break out and do something wild.” It seemed like a good theory. There was Vanessa Hudgens and there's this woman Sabrina Carpenter and others.
How to Approach the Rep
Figure out who you think would be good for the role and glean everything you can from social media about them and their rep. Then reach out to the agent or the manager and pitch them.
Jeff Garlin, who's on Curb Your Enthusiasm and is a friend of mine and a producer on Party Girl was on a Clubhouse room I hosted recently. And somebody said to him, “How does this work?” And he said, “If anybody sent a book to my manager and said, ‘I would like Jeff to read this,’ I will read it. I'm a reader. I have respect for authors.’” But he suggested sending something that will really get their attention. Cause not everybody is a mensch like him and going to read it. He jokingly said, he loves gefilte fish. So if somebody sent that, even though that's just kind of gross, it would get his attention.
So figure out what you can from social media that could make you and your book stand out.
Make a Deck
A deck is a roughly 20-page document with images. And we just did it for Party Girl where we took the book cover, all the interesting blurbs and reviews and facts, wrote a logline on one page and picked visuals of what we wanted the look of the movie to be, and picked actors and actresses—not to say that they’re attached but you would most like or who fits the role and do a character description on each page with the image. For Party Girl, we put Dakota Johnson as the lead.
And then you put bios for you and the producer or anybody else who is involved.
Movies can be made on all sorts of different budgets. For Party Girl, we're talking to one producer who wants to make it for $300,000. There's someone else who might want to make it for 3 million, it could probably be made for 30 million.
Budgets are really determined by the actors. Certain names mean a lot overseas, which means that if you are going to go the indie film route, you can attach an actor whose name alone will guarantee a certain box office result and your investors will earn their money back. The best thing is if you can get a huge actor who could do a one-day role and get all their scenes shot so then the movie could be billed as a Bruce Willis vehicle or as a Robert DeNiro vehicle or whoever it is.
It’s a Rough Road But IP Is King
Everyone says that the best way to sell something in Hollywood is to have IP or Intellectual Property. Well, a book is IP so if you have a book, you have that but of course, Hollywood is not just going to come banging down your door unless you have a crazy number one bestseller that everybody wants.
But if you want to make this happen, it is within the realm of possibilities. And if you have a book you got out, you are a hustler extraordinaire so you could do it.
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QUOTE OF THE POD:
"Everyone says that the best way to sell something in Hollywood is to have IP or Intellectual Property. Well, a book is IP so if you have a book, you have that. But of course, Hollywood is not just going to come banging down your door unless you have a crazy number one bestseller that everybody wants."