Monday, April 4, 2016

Reflections of LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!

Or, How to get your novel noticed by Hollywood.

Sisters in Crime (created to promote the ongoing advancement, recognition and professional development of women crime writers.) is not:
  • As the police or sheriff officers that have come to speak at our meetings thought—that we are ex-prostitutes or women who have committed crimes.
  • Or, as the woman at the registration counter at the hotel I was at this past weekend thought; a support group for women who have been abused.
What we are is an organization that has ongoing support for women writers in any of the sub-genres of crime (suspense, romantic suspense, thrillers, cozy detectives, etc.). And, I just finished attending a wonderful conference put on by Sisters in Universal City, CA. on adapting your novel to Hollywood.

So, what were the challenges and processes that got me to the doorsteps of Hollywood this past weekend, thinking I could pitch to the gatekeepers and maybe have my novel adapted to film or T.V.?
  •  I wrote a story. 
  •  I improved and re-edited that story until I was convinced I had the best crafted novel I could achieve at that point in my writing career (which is an ongoing process of improvement for which at some point I had to say, “enough!” And pry my fingers from the manuscript and let it go).
  • I went through the process of getting it published; a whole other skill set in learning to deal with the time line of a publisher, editor—edits and re-edits, maybe cover artist or formatting expert, and the waiting. . . ..
  • I'm still learning effective promotion, because unless you are a Stephen King, promotion is in your hands.
  •  And, I'm crazy enough to want to see my story adapted to film or some visual medium. So I pitched to Hollywood – another whole skill set because you don’t just walk in and hand over your book and expect to have it made into a film or T.V. series.
This past weekend was a premium eye opener for me. There were wonderful, intelligent writers, script writers, producers and gatekeepers of all types that I had no idea were a part of the process. A whole other world from the author’s world—which is the key point. You need to be knowledgeable and smart about what you are doing when pitching to that end of the business. The key here is “business.” You approach it from a business perspective with facts and figures at the ready.

Sisters in Crime did a wonderful job of sponsoring this event. Many kudos to those who organized it, steered it, and in anyway were a part of making it work. And it did work, magnificently.

When looking to Hollywood, you will have to see your ‘product’ with new eyes. There are so many ‘cogs in the wheel’ who will have a different take on what they see in your novel, what their personal feelings are about what they read, what their bosses want/need at the moment and that fit with their goals for their publishing house/business/outlet/venue. Producers, directors, actors, script writers, screen writers, money people—the list goes on and on in the many meetings that will be an ongoing process (but not for you as the writer) if your book fits with what they are looking for at the moment. (And next year what they are looking for will probably be different so your project might be dropped, or shelved.)

The sometimes ethereal process of writing a novel (pantsers especially) all the way to the concrete aspects necessary to translate it to the visual mediums are fraught with pitfalls, delays, money troubles, artistic differences—the list just goes on and on.

But, the bottom line that the producer I pitched to wants us to remember above all else: They Need Us!

Without that story idea to work off of, there can be no Oscars or BAFTAs or any other awards. No jobs, no money to be made—nothing without that story.

So take heart, but get smart about how to pitch, and above all remember that the person you are pitching to is a person—so engage them as you would any person you meet for the first time and want to make a favorable impression on. You are, first of all, appealing to the emotions and feelings of another human being who just has a different job than you.

But remember, after you get your foot in the door, it’s nothing personal—it’s all business. And if your project doesn’t fly this time, you’ve made a favorable impression on the person who might then consider your future projects.

During one of the panel sessions a woman in the audience was complaining about her novel not getting in the door. The producer I pitched to later was on that panel and responded succinctly (though she later confided to me she hoped she hadn’t offended anyone—still she said it, which brought the house down in laughter).

This producer told us that when she wakes up in the morning, to make sure she’s in a positive frame of mind (which the woman asking the question was obviously not) she asks herself, “Am I fuck-able today?” If you keep that mindset, you will avoid being unpleasant and grumpy about life not giving you what you want.

So, stay positive—stay fuck-able!

I've been posting excerpts from my new novel, Haiku Dance on my website this month. Go take a peek!

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Unknown said...

Oh, I remember that comment, Cora. "Am I f***able today?" Totally outrageous. For me it put a new spin on the Hollywood take about getting F***ed! But then again, that's always been a given if you want to be a star.

The conference was a real high point for me. What an experience. I hope they don't wait another ten years to do it again.

Thank you for all the comraderie and critique-y help on the trip.

Cora said...

I will be dwelling on this conference for some time. It was awesome. Thanks for commenting.

Anonymous said...

Cora, thanks for sharing. Will you be posting more about this? Next time around I'll be there.

Cora said...

I hadn't planned on posting more. What 'more' would you be interested in? You might inspire me if I know.

Sunny Frazier said...

I hope you send a very version of this to the Poison Pen (deadline right now) and to Will Kill For a Story. Might delete the "f***able" for Marilyn.

Anonymous said...

Cora, did they talk about craft, adapting a novel to a screenplay?

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

I've read several posts about this conference, and the big thing I've read is that you really must have an agent.