My favorite read from last year has been optioned for film! I am so excited!
How likely is it that my favorite book will become a movie?
Not likely at all. An option does NOT a movie make.
My dear Gentle Reader, I searched so hard to find someone else’s blog post on this subject so I wouldn’t have to write my own. I searched and searched until I realized I was spending more time searching and asking around than it would take to write the cursed thing, so I might as well do it myself.
One of those “she who sees a problem is responsible for the solution” situations.
An Option DOES NOT a Movie Make!
I don’t want to be a downer, it’s not really my thing, but I am a realist.
Yes, the Parasol Protectorate books have been optioned. I talk a bit about the forst one here, when it originally happened in 2012. And here’s a more recent option announcement where I break down my team, their roles, and answer your questions about the process.
Witness Gail the author fielding a Social Media storm about Soulless the Movie…
- So where is the movie?
- When does the movie come out?
- Doesn’t the fact that it has been optioned mean we get a movie?
- I want it!
- I want it NOW.
(OK so my options are usually for TV, but leaving that quibble aside…)
No. No it does not mean you get a movie.
No movie for you!
I’m not going to sugar coat it.
A friend who worked in TV told me on the DL that accepted industry guesstimates were that:
of one hundred options a production company took on, ten would move to script stage and, of those ten, one would actually get made.
99% of book options die in production
“In media industry jargon, development hell (or development limbo) is a state during which a film or other project remains in development without progressing to production.”
“Someone hands you an envelope of cash and a puppy. The puppy has a 99% chance of dying in twelve months. This is called a movie option.”
~ Daryl Gregory (@darylwriterguy)
Here’s another thing to consider…
“The upper female quadrant—shall we call it Apple Pie?—is composed of women over twenty-four, like me. We are the least frequently targeted quadrant because of our penchant for waiting until we have unloaded the dishwasher and done every other imaginable errand we have to do before we leave the house and go to the movies.”
~ Sleepless in Hollywood by Lynda Obst
Do you know what else that Apple Pie quadrant is?
Yes, I know there are exceptions out there *waves* but there is a reason the Apple Pies are also voracious book consumers. Because a book is something you can pick up and put down again.
(Although I try to write in such a manner as to make the putting down part very difficult.)
Look, I am super excited about the fact that there may be anything made of the Parasol Protectorate series, even the possibility is pretty darn cool. I have played at fantasy casting and you have played at fantasy casting. It’s fun to imagine. But even if the odds were in my favor, my books have three additional strikes against them…
Why is it particularly difficult for my book to become a movie?
- They are expensive to make because they take place in London, which means foreign location (Budapest in this day-and-age, if rumors are to be believed).
- They are expensive to make because they have supernatural creatures and steampunk elements which means lots of CGI.
- They are expensive to make because they require period consuming and set dressings.
“The one thing human beings do not do well with is abundance.”
~ Sleepless in Hollywood by Lynda Obst
What are you doing Gail?
You’re talking anyone interested in optioning any of your other books out of it.
My dears, I certainly hope Hollywood is at least as realistic as me about my various properties because, frankly, a loss of any one of the above elements (in the interests of economy) would make them no longer really my books.
Which brings us to the final aspect of this situation. Once the option is sold, the author has little to no control over anything from production to casting to script.
But they are YOUR books, Miss Gail!
Did you see the Wizard of Earthsea TV Series?
I rest my case.
Book to TV adaptation struggles – further reading
- LA Times talks a little about how many Neil Gaiman properties are in development hell before Stardust came out (2007).
- An agent is interviewed about books turning into movies (2011).
- How the Sci Fi Channel wrecked my books by Ursula K. Le Guin (2016)
- But I’m not a lawyer. I’m an agent.
- The Option Versus The Shopping Agreement
- Mark Kermode’s Business of Film podcast mini series for the BBC is worth a listen too.
- Also, this planet money podcast episode, about halfway through goes into perfect detail on how a movie option works for laymen, if you want to listen to the matter.
- Finally, here is a great Stuff Mom Never Told You on Podcasting Women: Chicks Who Script. Has a more positive spin than one might think.
All the above articles are a little old.
If anything, here is the USA, it is has gotten more difficult for books to become movies (or TV shows) rather than less difficult. The globalization (or perceived globalization) of the film market means action-based, low-dialogue, tent-pole movies are increasingly profitable and other movies are, well, not.
So far as TV is concerned, streaming platforms have changed things, but not as much a you think. There is a reason content out Asia is shifting the viewing world (like k-pop with music). As exciting and unique as many of these shows are to American audiences, at the back end it has little to do with what’s being made so much as HOW it’s being made.
Book recommendation on the insides of the film industry
If you are genuinely interested in this subject and the weird reality of how Hollywood works, I cannot recommend Sleepless in Hollywood: Tales from the New Abnormal in the Movie Business by Lynda Obst (2013) highly enough. I found it utterly enthralling.
Yours (destined to die in development hell),
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Quote of the Day:
“We cannot judge the business by what happens during Oscar Season. It’s like judging your own work behavior only by the times your boss is in the room.”
~ Sleepless in Hollywood by Lynda ObstTags: Beginning Writers, Video