I know lots of you have been waiting for a movie update, and I haven’t been able to provide any info. Sorry about that. I was having to wait for some things to sort themselves out before I could say anything. Now they have and I’ll tell you what I know: There’s no movie for now. Icon is out. Cut, print, roll credits.
I think I can hear you saying, "WTF?" Which seems a perfectly reasonable thing to say. I’ll try to explain the W behind TF.
Here’s the long story short(ish): Three years ago, Icon optioned the rights to the Gemma trilogy. In case, like me three years ago, you are largely ignorant about how this works, I’ll break it down for you as best I can. Basically, if a movie studio/director/producer/influential Hollywood pet is interested in your book, he/she/they/it can option said book, meaning they can throw money at you and "rent" your book for a while, usually about 18 months while they try to get the financing and creative team together. They approach a star or studio to get them on board. They try to get that sucker into production. If they get a deal and a green light, they purchase (as opposed to option) the rights to make the movie (more $$ for the author) and said movie goes into casting and filming and all those fun things that signify "This movie is being made" and you can email all your friends and buy the shoes you hope to wear to the premiere.
This was how it started with AGATB. Three years ago, the lovely and deliciously British-sounding Charles Sturridge, a rather wonderful director (and the father of the up-and-coming Tom Sturridge), optioned my books. He has a deal with Icon, so they were on board from the beginning. Charles and I had two very nice conversations. He went to work on the script. That was hammered on for a while, then they made more changes. Then there was a writer’s strike which threw lots of things into kerflooeyness. (Feel free to use my made-up word.) The original option expired. Icon contracted for another 18 months, but we still had not gotten that green light. We still did not have a signed-off-on script or some bankable star to make the powers-that-be say, "Yes! We will annoint this one!"
I confess that I stayed largely outside of all of this, mostly by necessity (I was feverishly working on The Sweet Far Thing followed by Going Bovine, which consumed my working hours and then some) and because, from as near as I can tell, in Hollywood, no one thinks to involve the novel writer. (I understand why writers like Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner ended up drinking like fish in Hollywood.)
Anyhow, a little over a year ago, I’d heard that Charles had been asked to step in to take over Anthony Minghella’s last project after this sudden death. I heard no more about the movie after that. Occasionally, I would inquire and it felt a bit like getting one of those an automated phone systems gone a little wonky: "Yes, movies are wonderful!" "Some people eat popcorn at movies; others, Jujubees." "We are in sunny California–hello!" "Press nine if you are having difficulty with pressing eight." I exaggerate. Slightly. It did seem like the whole thing was taking place in an alternate universe though, which, I suppose, it was. The option’s 18-month period ran out this month.
I know one of the reasons cited for the difficulty in turning these books into movies is the cost. It’s a period piece, which, as you can imagine, ratchets up the budget substantially. I can imagine that most studios wouldn’t look at an historical boarding school supernatural fantasy with elements of class, race, gender, and sexual awakening, and say, "Wow! Now, THERE’S a surefire money maker!" I get it.
Am I disappointed? Meh…a little. It would have been cool to see what Charles’s team would have come up with. But I can’t say I was too invested. I have books to write, and that’s pretty much where I live. And you know what? THEY PAID ME FOR DOING NOTHING! I got paid to eat M&Ms and answer a few questions over the phone and then be summarily ignored for three years, which, honestly, exactly describes my high school experience but without the $$$. I’m thinking that maybe I want to become a professional optionee. Are you listening, Hollywood? You can rent my books and we don’t even have to talk. I’ll send you a Christmas card; you’ll send me cash to fix my basement. This is the start of a beautiful friendship.
So right now, there is no movie version planned. Could a studio snap these books up tomorrow? Sure. Could happen. Could happen next month, next year, in ten years, twenty. Or never. Or who knows? Maybe one of you lot will go to film school and option the rights someday. That would be amazing. And there is always my suggestion of the guerilla, backyard movie version.
But the books live on. You can make movies in your head, see the characters however you like, imagine the rooms of Spence and the creatures of the realms. When you read, you are the cast, the crew, the director, and the audience. Not a bad deal.
I promise I’m going to try to be better about blogging. I’m working on lots of fun stuff which is eating my brain. Tomorrow, if the weather holds out, we film the book trailer for GOING BOVINE, which involves a cow suit and a ukulele.
I can say no more.