Guest Post…When a Novel Becomes a Film – An Author’s Perspective

I came across this post a few weeks ago on author Frank Nappi’s Goodreads blog and he kindly agreed to share it with us here. As an author who regularly answers questions about ‘who would play your characters in a film of the book’, I know that having your novel become a film is another facet of writing that many authors dream of. But what actually happens when that dream comes true? Frank shares his experience here….

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Many books are optioned each year for development by the film industry, setting off a conflagration of thoughts and emotions within those most closely tied to those books. When my novel “The Legend of Mickey Tussler” was optioned by Eye in The Sky Entertainment back in 2008, I was thrilled beyond words. Soon, however, I found myself languishing in the uncertainty that attenuates every step of the process. The potential pitfalls are many…who will be hired to do the screenwriting? Will there be enough financial backing to bring the project to fruition? Are there any industry experts out there who want to take a chance on directing? And what about casting? And do I really have to change the name of the story???

All of these issues, and an array of others germane to film production, took about three years to rectify.

Then the fun really started……

Every author realizes the “price” he/she pays for selling rights to a story — while it is certainly flattering to have someone compensate you for the opportunity to bring your story to life on the screen, in doing so, you abdicate your ability to guide the production and preserve the integrity of “your” story as you saw it from the beginning. As I was told on numerous occasions, “Uh Frank, this is no longer your story.” That was a tough one to swallow. Consequently, characters are altered or in some cases deleted, scenes are shortened or cut, and setting falls victim to the pragmatic reality that there is a very real budget which must be honored.

So you have these conversations, and most often you cringe, knowing full well that “your story” works best as is. Still, you are appreciative that this amazing opportunity has happened for you, and you certainly do not want to appear ungrateful. So many options never make it into production.

Time unfolds, and the film is shot. Eventually, you get to see what these folks have done with your story. You hold your breath as you view the “new version” of your creation, praying that they have maintained most of what you had intended in writing it…..

And if you are lucky, as I have been, you smile at the portrayal of your central characters and breathe a little easier as the music and cinematography add a whole new dimension to your tale. Yes, you still harbor disappointment somewhere deep within that your story has been altered in some ways that you know have a deleterious effect on the product (in my case, The Legend of Mickey Tussler was set in the 1940’s but “A Mile in His Shoes”was filmed as a present day story) but you cannot help but watch with surreal detachment as your words come to life for all to see.

So my overall experience with watching The Legend of Mickey Tussler become “A Mile in His Shoes” was favorable. If I can offer any advice to authors who have just had a novel optioned, it would be to pace yourself…and realize that while you are in for some rather taxing moments replete with all sorts of anxiety, in the end, the film credit is something that you will never forget.

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About the Author

Author - Frank Nappi

Frank Nappi has taught high school English and Creative Writing for over twenty years. His debut novel, Echoes From The Infantry, received national attention, including MWSA’s silver medal for outstanding fiction for 2006. His follow-up novel, The Legend of Mickey Tussler, garnered rave reviews as well, including a screenplay adaptation of the touching story which aired nationwide in the fall of 2011 (A Mile in His Shoes starring Dean Cain and Luke Schroder). Frank continues to produce quality work, including The Legend of Mickey Tussler: Sophomore Campaign, the intriguing sequel to the much heralded original story, and is presently at work on a third installment of the unique series. Frank lives on Long Island with his wife Julia and their two sons, Nicholas and Anthony.

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Want to know more? Check out the links!

Links for both of Frank’s Tussler books as well as the amazon link for the movie that was adapted from the first book (the subject of today’s blog post):
The Legend of Mickey Tussler
Sophomore Campaign
A Mile in His Shoes
website:  www.franknappi.com
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2 thoughts on “Guest Post…When a Novel Becomes a Film – An Author’s Perspective

    • I imagine so – but at the same time you might see the merit in what people make of something you created, letting it have a new life of its own.

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