Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Real Book-to-Film Process + ComicCon Wonderland + Thoughtful Reflections = This Blog Post

Last week I had the great fortune of traveling to California, where the weather was far nicer than in Chicago, which had turned into an oven in my absence. While I was there I did many things, some of which were meeting the people currently involved in the process of turning Divergent into a movie.

First, I'm going to let you know how this process works, because I had no idea until I got involved in it, and I think there are many misconceptions-- understandable ones, but misconceptions nonetheless. So, here we go:

1. I don't choose the cast.
2. I don't choose the director.
3. I don't write the screenplay.
4. Actually, I don't control anything except who I sell the rights to, and that's already done.

I am in the fortunate position of being fairly well informed about what's going on with the movie. This is due partly to Pouya, "my film rep guy," as I call him, because he is involved on the production side. But unless you are an author who fights hard to get involved in the movie-making, your control over the process will be fairly limited.

And that's kind of how I wanted it. Why? Because I write books. I love writing books and I tend to get annoyed by things that interrupt me from writing books, like the need to sleep and shower and buy groceries. Don't get me wrong, I think movies are great. But unless some huge revelation happens wherein I consider a more varied career path, it's all books, all the time.

So while I do love to hear your casting thoughts, know that I participate in them in much the same way you do: musing and speculation.

And while I certainly understand the "please make sure the movie is like this or that" comments (because it's okay to get attached, and to want things to remain intact), know that I can't make sure the movie is like this or that. All I can do is, like you, place my trust in the people who are making it.

BUT if you read on, that might sound less scary to you. It certainly feels less scary to me.

Two days before my ComicCon adventure, I was fortunate enough to have breakfast with Doug Wick, who owns Red Wagon and has done many amazing, impressive things in the realm of film production, all of which made me a teensy bit afraid to meet him. However, Doug is the sort of person who makes you feel very much at ease. My fear was gone within three minutes of having breakfast, and then we just chatted for an hour or so, sometimes about the book and sometimes not. When we did talk about the book, Doug was very enthusiastic and specific about what he liked, which I always, always appreciate. Basically, I learned that Doug is like the Allstate Insurance of production company guys.

Basically, it was a fantastic experience.

Which leads me to part 2 of this little blog adventure: ComicCon.

ComicCon = Insanity.

My day began with a press conference and transitioned into several interviews, some of which were with some of the Divergent fansites! I haven't had much time to do interviews lately, so having them built into the time I had set aside for ComicCon was great. And I got to chat with some of the people who have been supporting Divergent! Sweet.

Then we got to wander the ComicCon floor. I saw so many things. I saw a man dressed in a very sophisticated Ghost Busters costume. I saw Harry Potter walking around with Bellatrix Lestrange (someone yelled, "Harry, watch out! Bellatrix is right behind you!" Oh, the nerdery. I love it). I found Waldo. I found him again. I saw too much of one girl's butt cheeks. I saw a bunch of Trekkies. And this was all in the half-hour that I was able to stand the huge, intense crowds inside that building. Then I had to leave, because I was feeling a little faint. I am just not built for being around that many people at once.

There was a signing (I met some of you there, I'm sure! Always great to sign books, especially at such a huge Nerdfest), and then, I met more people.

Such as: Gillian and Jeyun of Summit Entertainment. Gillian is the one actually handling all the Divergentness, so it was fun to talk to her about it, and hear her thoughts. And then, what I was most nervous about: meeting Evan Daugherty. Screenwriter.

(Ignore my red eye of doom.)



As his posture suggests, Evan is a chill dude. He also likes Divergent. Now, that may seem obvious to you (why would he want to write the screenplay if he didn't like Divergent?) but that's not necessarily obvious-- people do things for plenty of reasons, not all of them genuine affection. This very much reassured me.

Evan also told me that he has been to ComicCon before...as a fan. Several times. And we both love Star Wars. Should I bring out the Allstate picture again?




Also, for those of you who are still concerned, I am in touch with everyone I met, in case they have questions about Divergent. (Actually, I think I'm supposed to be drawing a map of Dauntless headquarters to make it easier to visualize.) So even though I say I'm not in control, I will be involved when people ask me to be involved, and in the way I like to be involved-- when it's very much about the book.

I was also fortunate enough to meet Erik Feig, president of acquisitions and production at Summit, who was enthusiastic and friendly and not at all a "Hollywood Dude" (I have this Hollywood Dude caricature in my head-- he's very slick and tan and not all that genuine. Total opposite of Erik Feig. Except Erik might have been tan-- it was too dark for me to tell conclusively. But, whatever. People are allowed to be tan).

I met a lot of other people, too, and I will probably kick myself for not telling you about all of them as time goes on. But let me just say that my day at ComicCon confirmed a few things for me:

I have tried hard from the beginning to find good people. I believe that good people, who work hard because they love something and not out of selfish ambition, are the best people to surround yourself with. That way, even if everything goes wrong, you feel satisfied, because you know that everyone failed doing what they love, and working as hard as they could. Luckily I found Joanna, my agent, and she connected me with other good people, including Pouya and Molly, my editor. And Pouya went out and found me some really solid individuals on the film side, as I have now confirmed myself. So often I find that people are not authentic. I am fortunate enough to have good radar for that. And even though I try not to discard people who are not authentic-- because everyone has a lot to learn, and is in a different stage of that learning-- I also know where to put my trust.

Anyway, I'll get off my soapbox, but my adventures at ComicCon made me feel good about where I had put my trust. Making movies is complicated, and I am a defensive pessimist by nature, so I'm not letting myself get too excited. But I believe things have gotten off to a good start.

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