Hollywood Movie Producers Offer Tips to Authors
By Scott Lorenz
“Having an agent skilled in negotiations, rights, and contracts would clearly be beneficial, but even more important is having an agent who believes in you as a writer.”
– Peter Miller, producer of Helter Skelter, Citizen Jane, Kill the Irishman, The Mona Lisa Myth, and Goodbye Miss 4th of July
Find out what movie producers have to say about turning your next book into a cinema worthy masterpiece.
Many writers dream of writing a book that turns into a movie. If your goal is to turn a novel or memoir into a silver screen success, be prepared for some hard work. After all, movie producers are selective and only the right stories make their way to the big screen. The reality is that very few books even get considered for movies. Fortunately, however, turning your book into a movie is not impossible.
To help you understand just what it takes to get your book noticed and turned into a movie, it only makes sense to share some advice from movie producers. Let’s take a closer look at what reputable movie producers have to say to authors who are on a mission to write books that make it to Hollywood.
“The older I get, the more I look at movies as a moving miracle. Audiences are harder to please if you’re just giving them special effects…but they’re easy to please if it’s a good story.” – Steven Spielberg, academy award winning producer of movies such as E.T., Jaws, The Color Purple, and Schindler’s List.
Spielberg’s quote illustrates just how important it is for you to ensure you have a good story. An average story cannot get spruced up with some special effects and make it to the big screen. Books with high concepts are typically the ones that turn into movies. These books feature striking ideas that can be easily communicated.
“I think the biggest mistake people make when they’re trying to sell an idea is keeping it too narrow,” Sullivan said. “It speaks to such a small demographic that there’s no way that it can be financially successful. Creatives become so attached to their ideas that they’re afraid to make it bigger, because they think it waters it down. But it doesn’t. It actually gives you a better chance for a sale. The broader and more commercial your idea, the bigger audience you can speak to, the better.” -Jamie Primak Sullivan, executive producer for a brand new movie called Breaking In.
Sullivan explains that while working on a horror movie called Fear Followers, she realized that pitching a U.S. movie that captured Americans’ fear obsession could be successful. However, Sullivan knew that incorporating the way the characters use technology could make the movie more appealing to the global market and increase its chances of selling.
The moral of the story is that when you’re writing a book that you hope to be movie ready, search for ways to make your idea resonate with a large demographic. If your book could only capture the attention of a select group of people, it won’t make it to the big screen.
“Selling a great idea to Hollywood most often starts with effective feedback from a person who understands what top decision makers are looking for.” -Regina Romain, producer of Troy the Train of Car City, Judge Alex, and Cristina’s Court
Romain knows what it’s like to be a writer with the hopes of selling a book to Hollywood. She states that most writers want to hear “That’s nice, honey. Your story could be a Hollywood movie one day.” The truth is that this type of feedback does not show you how you can improve or sell your story. If possible, you should work with an agent with ties to the movie industry who can provide you with effective feedback.
“Human stories have always moved me. I like movies about people who are outliers, who are not in the mainstream for one reason or another, even if they are famous. It’s not something I’m actually seeking, it’s just a trend I’ve noticed over the years, about myself as a producer.” -Jonathan Sanger, producer and director, known for The Elephant Man, Chapter and Verse, Flight of the Navigator, and Vanilla Sky.
Sanger is one of my clients so I know that he is specifically interested in people and what makes them unique. When writing a story for Hollywood, remember this: Ensure there are characters that can evoke emotions in your audience because they’ve overcome adversity, opened up about a serious illness, or saved someone’s life. Focus on your characters and things like their incredible achievements or heroic acts.
In Sanger’s film, Marshall, Chadwick Boseman plays Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice. The film focuses on State of Connecticut vs. Joseph, one of the first cases of Marshall’s career that involves a chauffeur being accused of rape by his white employer. It showcases how Marshall overcame the daily challenges of working in the Supreme Court and inspired others.
Check out Sanger’s book, Making the Elephant Man: A Producer’s Memoir which offers an insider’s look at the creation of one of the first ever indie films. It can provide you with some valuable insight into what it takes to turn your book into a movie. View the trailer here.
“Having an agent skilled in negotiations, rights, and contracts would clearly be beneficial, but even more important is having an agent who believes in you as a writer.” Peter Miller, producer of Helter Skelter, Citizen Jane, Kill the Irishman, The Mona Lisa Myth, and Goodbye Miss 4th of July
In Miller’s book, “Get Published! Get Produced! A Literary Agent’s Tips on How to Sell Your Writing,” he focuses on why it’s crucial to work with an agent. Miller explains that if you find an agent to represent you, you should ask yourself whether the individual only seems interested in your specific project or whether they’ll work with you to develop your career. He states that success in this field is very difficult but those who make it, make it big. Check out Millers most recent book Author! Screenwriter!
“Find something you enjoy and do it. The money will somehow take care of itself.”-Alan Trustman, writer, lawyer, and producer who is best known his books-to-movies, The Thomas Crown Affair and BULLITT staring Steve McQueen.
In an interview, Trustman, another one of my clients, discussed the importance of passion for writers. You have to really want to turn your book into a movie and pour your heart and soul into your story and efforts to get it noticed.
Here are some resources that may help you take your book to Hollywood:
1. How to Turn a Book Into a Movie, Script Magazine – https://scriptmag.com/page/how-to-turn-a-book-into-a-movie
2. The Power Of Theme: Turning Books Into Movies, Writer’s Digest – https://www.writersdigest.com/there-are-no-rules/the-power-of-theme-turning-books-into-movies
3. Books Turned Into Movies, Newsday – https://www.newsday.com/entertainment/books/books-turned-into-movies-1.3596896
The Bottom Line: Writing a book that’s worthy of Hollywood’s attention takes a great deal of time, effort, and dedication. Don’t give up as you may just be the author of the next popular flick.
About Book Publicist Scott Lorenz
Book publicist Scott Lorenz is President of Westwind Communications, a public relations and marketing firm that has a special knack for working with authors to help them get all the publicity they deserve and more. Lorenz works with bestselling authors and self-published authors promoting all types of books, whether it’s their first book or their 15th book. He’s handled publicity for books by CEOs, CIA Officers, Navy SEALS, Homemakers, Fitness Gurus, Doctors, Lawyers and Adventurers. His clients have been featured by Good Morning America, FOX & Friends, CNN, ABC News, New York Times, Nightline, TIME, PBS, LA Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Woman’s World, & Howard Stern to name a few.
Learn more about Westwind Communications’ book marketing approach at https://www.WestwindBookMarketing.com or contact Lorenz at [email protected] or 734-667-2090 or fill out the form below. Follow Lorenz on Twitter @aBookPublicist. Want help titling a book? Check out Scott Lorenz’s new award winning, bestselling book: Book Title Generator- A Proven System in Naming Your Book www.BookTitleGenerator.net.
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