Sunday, September 19, 2010

Labor of Love

So, to continue the discussion from last week regarding the book-to-movie experience, I want to start with some back story about Flipped the book. I wrote it because I had this idea I wanted to explore, not because I had a contract to write it. And in the process of exploring that idea I became consumed first by Juli, and then (unexpectedly) by Bryce. It became one of those labor of love experiences that was worth all the time and effort and emotion, even if it had never been published. Upon publication it did receive some stars, but also some criticism. Some reviewers thought the character of David (Daniel in the movie) was contrived. (Obviously they didn't know anyone who'd come into this world with the umbilical cord wrapped around their neck.) There was no big push by my publisher, or large marketing budget behind Flipped. But it went out into the world and people started talking about it. One kid passed it onto the next and on and on and on. Word of mouth is what made the book catch on and it became, as my editor later described it, the Little Book That Could. That didn't happen in its "opening weekend" -- it happened over time. Flipped the movie was never supposed to be a blockbuster. It had a small budget (by Hollywood standards) and was a bit of a puzzle to market. And although it performed respectably in the original 3 major cities, its subsequent expansion was to 6 other big cities, and this is where I started to get a little worried. I don't see Flipped as a big city movie. It's quiet. Heartfelt. About real people. I started getting e-mails from people asking why it wasn't playing in their town. Asking if there was something they could do to get it to their town. So I asked people I know at Castle Rock whether there was some clearing house for requests, or how to go about letting these people have their voices be heard. To make a very long story short, I was encouraged to contact the head of Warner Brothers. This seemed excessive to me, but I did wind up e-mailing him and he did e-mail me back a very nice response which lined out some of the reasons for WB's decisions and strategies. I was impressed that he took the time to write such a thoughtful response. But it still left me wishing I could do something to get the movie into places where there were people dying to see it. So I called my local multiplex and was told that if enough people went to the on-line "comments" segment of the chain theater websites and requested a movie, the chains would actually listen. So I put the word out about that, even though I was skeptical. (In my experience it's much easier to affect a change at an independent bookstore than it is a chain bookstore where everything has to go through "corporate.") A few days later Rob Reiner called with the wonderful news that the movie would be opening in 350 theaters. The line kept "dropping" so the next day I called the Castle Rock office to verify that I'd heard correctly and was told that the number was up to over 450 theaters. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not claiming any responsibility for this "sudden expansion." But I was so happy to now have something to work with! So I put out an e-mail to my friends and contacts with a link to a Yahoo site that would allow the user to see if the movie was playing in their area, and I asked them to please pass it on. I heard "I'm on it!" from so many people. Librarians posted it on their list-serves. Friends sent it to their e-mail contacts. Principals told their teachers, teachers told their students. It was SO nice to feel like there was a growing army of people out there helping to spread enthusiasm about the movie, and I have the feeling that things will continue to grow over time. It's still playing in theaters, then it will be out on DVD, and I predict that in time it will prove to be the Little Movie That Could. One more little thought before I call it a night: In order for a book to become a movie, it seems that every star in the universe has to be aligned. And that's for a book that has obvious movie potential! I know that the only reason I'm lucky enough to have had this experience is because Rob Reiner loved the book and wanted to make it into a movie. It was his cache in the industry and his vision that made this a reality. I know that movie making is a business, but I get the sense from him that this was first and foremost a labor of love for him. Which is exactly what the book was for me. (Next week: Sammy!)

16 comments:

Stefunny said...

:)

Anonymous said...

First things first: Putting 'Next week: Sammy!' at the end of the post is NOT a good idea when you have psycho fans foaming at the mouths behind their computers with sharp utensils around them. :P

Next: I still don't get why the movie didn't come out every all at once like most movies. Or maybe I am mistaken. I don't know anything about the movie business, which is strange, because for my career report last year I did it all about being a movie director and such so you think I would know this stuff.
I must see Flipped this weekend. I juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuust texted my friend, she wants to see it too.
SO YES. It's on my iphone calender, along with my countdown to Wedding Crasher. 22 Days left. (:

xxCammyLoverxx said...

PS that post was me. I dont know why it said anonymous so I went back to the original name.

janna said...

i can not wait for new sammykeyes

Pooja Dimba said...

Cool! :)

Eleanor said...

I'm SOOOOOOOOO excited for the new Sammy Keyes!!!! I ordered it on Sunday afternoon! I CAN'T wait!!!!

janna said...

i all ready ordered the book

Ashlee said...

I am so happy your accomplishments are being seen and appreciated by others. You have such a gift and talent, that deserves to be shared with others. I can't even imagine how much work goes into each book, each idea that soon becomes amazing literature, but I'm glad there are incredible people, like you, that are still willing to write about what truly matters without worrying about potential mass production. As you've proved throughout your career in writing - real people and real stories sell. Keep up the good work Wendelin.

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Thanks everyone for the comments. I want you to know that I do read them every week and I always intend to comment back, but sometimes it slips away from me.

I'm glad you guys are still excited about Wedding Crasher -- it's finally almost here! It seems like such a long wait for me, too. Like I promised, more Sammy on Sunday.

And Ashlee, big thanks for the comment :-) It's always a little mind blowing to me to have what I work on for sometimes two years "consumed" in a day. But I try to think of it as a compliment. If it also took two years to read it would have to be a pretty boring book!

Anyway, see ya'll on Sunday!

Ashlee said...

I think the true compliment goes to us, the readers - that you're willing to put so much time and effort in, simply to let your "labor of love" go out into the world - off on its own journey you can't control.

And you're right, I "consumed" runaway in a night's time, but don't you fret, I plan to read it over and over (and over) again! Your time doesn't just go into a novel, it goes into a novel that can change people's lives - and that lasts a lifetime. If you ask me, that's time well spent. :)

Alexa said...

I soooooooo want to see Flipped! But I like live in a small town and its not playing by me. :( I can NOT wait for SK 13!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Not too long to go!!!!!!

bookworm said...

i marked my calender up with the countdown days. XD 20 more days!!!!!!!!!!!! i ordered the book about a month in advance. borders has no excuse!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :D

Wild About Words said...

Absolutely LOVED the movie FLIPPED, as did my friend who watched it with me. I've recommended it to many, many people. The "labor of love" really came through. It's fabulous!

xMarraMatchboxx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rachel Bird said...

What a happy post! I got hung up on the part where people said the umbilical cord around the neck was contrived. This is my reaction: $#*(FJDSFJ:HJ:H!!!! You get me, right?

Sam said...

i soooooooo wanna see flipped!!!!!!