Sunday, September 12, 2010

Stars and Gripes

It’s been another interesting week in the book-to-movie experience. Actually, it’s been two, but I didn’t want to talk about it last week. This week I’m okay with it. That’s probably because I know more this week than I knew last week and knowledge is king. Or something like that. If you’ve been following this blog you know that turning a book into a movie takes time. Lots of it. And along with time spent is a building anticipation of the day you are finally going to be able to see it on the silver screen. First, however, come the reviews, and today’s post is about that process. Book publishers release ARCs—advance reader copies—prior to a book’s publication. These are sent out to book reviewers and industry people so that summaries and recommendations can be made about a book prior to its on-sale date. The same basic thing happens with early screenings in the film industry. Production companies arrange screenings, reviewers go, and you keep your fingers crossed that the reviewers like the film and will say glowing things about it. In the book world, reviewers simply summarize and opine, and if you’re lucky, they grace your book with a star. We authors don’t get “three out of four stars” or any such ranking. We get no stars unless our book really stands out in the reviewer’s mind, and then we get one. One little star. But that star is cause for great celebration partly because stars are awarded in a notoriously miserly fashion. Now, if several reviewers all deign to stamp your work with a star, it actually matters because marketing budgets get increased, publicists have more to work with, and the publishing house holds its breath a little in anticipation of big awards being granted. If the reviews are not good, your book’s momentum for success comes to a sad, painful halt, and your book will probably be out of print in short order. If the reviews are mixed—meaning some reviewers like it and others don’t, then it comes down to finding the portion of the population that agrees with the reviewers who like it and selling to them. And the person in charge of doing that will most likely be the author. Over my career, I have gotten mostly positive reviews, and enough stars to keep me happy. But I’ve also been subjected to reviewers who “just don’t get it.” When you have one reviewer giving you a star and another slamming you, you start to see that it’s just subjective—an opinion. But when you realize how much that person’s negative opinion can shape your book’s success, you want to say, hey, wait a minute—what qualifies you to say that? What I’ve learned these past two weeks is that the movie business is very much like the book business. The reviewers give out stars. Or tickets. Or tomatoes. Or thumbs up or down. Or whatever. And marketing strategies are tied to reviews and early box office success. So even if you have good reviews, or good mixed reviews, if you have a “small film” (meaning small production budget) going up against 3-D or huge special effects movies, your initial box office (cash brought it first weekend) might not be enough to warrant further distribution. In other words the big multiplexes—where the majority of people go to see films—don’t want to take it in. With Flipped the movie, a lot of reviewers loved it and there were some wonderful articles in the LA Times and USA Today about it. There were other reviewers who made their cynical opinions quite clear, and the combination resulted in a situation similar to mixed reviews in the book industry. The question then became how do we get the film to that portion of the population that will agree with the reviewers who understand the film? The answer is ongoing, and I’m afraid it’s better left for next week when I have more data. Meanwhile, go see Flipped while you can. It’s a beautiful, heartfelt film, and I'm sure that, unless you're a cynic, you'll agree!

10 comments:

4dia said...

We are a pair of Children's Librarians who have been steadfastly following the progress of the release of this film since we had planned to do a Book2Movie discussion group for kids and attend a local theater to see the movie. We were so saddened when it did not release in our town :(
We still hope to salvage our plan when the DVD comes out (would love to know when that might be?!)
We are the audience that those movie critics shortchanged ultimately. We loved the book enough to want to share the movie : ) ~Librarian girls D & D

N3WYORKD3VIL said...

I need to see Flipped. Evil mother refuses to let me see Flipped. I just checked Google and I'm upset. I went to New Roc City the day Flipped came out and it wasn't there so I saw Salt. Now I see that its there NOW. What a messed up world. Where's the lady who sells pirated movies when ya need her?

quintessajazz said...

It's not showing in New Mexico yet! In fact, it probably won't show in NM, for a while at least ... *sigh*

Can't wait to see it though! Looking forward to SK, too. =)

Happy Reading!

Anonymous said...

Ugh, negativity gets us noooooooooo-where. I used to be such a negative person but in the past week my life's been helllll and instead of crying about it, I've made the best out of it and I've lost all traces of negativity. I'm happy as a, as my friend likes to call it, clam chowder soup thingie. And I know the people who critique movies get payed for how accurate they can be, but really why would you want your job to be full of making crappy comments on someone's HARD WORK? I saw some pretty nasty Flipped reviews, and trust me, if those evil critics would have been in the room with me, I woulda FLIPPED them off. Get it? haha. Ok never mind.
Anyyyyyyyway, BEING A POSITIVE-PATRICK IS A GOOD THING. NEGATIVE-NELLIES ARE WASTING THEIR TIME AND BREATH.
I haaaaaaave to go see Flipped! I'm like totally grounded and under watch on EVerything I do, so I can't this week. I go to the mall on Saturday, and my parents, the teachers, and the police know what I bought and where I shopped. I go to movies, they double-check my ID card. I'm as innnnocent as can beeeee, but I've practically had to change my identity because of all this crap so no, Flipped is unfortunately not on my agenda.
I was so depressed about that today when I was (re)reading some part of COASK. I was thinking, Mannnn now I'll NEVER be able to see Flipped and I'll have to wait until the dvd comes out and then pathetically watch it at home...not happening. BUT OH WELL because I'm also perfectly content with being completely grounded with no cell phone or Internet acces (or so they say...?) for a whileeeeee, and no iPod. :( I'm on my older sister's laptop hahaha I was driving myself nuts by not knowing what you had posted last night. My loyalties for you go sooooo faaarrrrr.
Speaking of which, there's like 29 days left until Wedding Crasher! :D :D It's in my planner and all with little hearts.
I reeaaaaalllly wanna seeee Flipped. I'm not a movie critic, but I *know* it will be great even though I haven't seen it. Just as good as the book probablyyyy. And if I don't get to see it in theaters, I will be anticipating the moment iTunes releases it hahahaha. :) :) I'm just trying to add more happiness and positivity to this negative, pessimistic, disgusting world we live in. :D
SO FLIPPED IS PROBABLY VERY VERY VERY GOOOD AND WONDERFUL AND WATH-WORTHY!! long comment! must leave. :)

--formerrrrr xxCammyLoverxx

sammy4ever said...

i want to see flipped sooo badly! haha, xxCLxx is right, being positive is the best thing to do. and those movie critics don't know jack. i don't think they take the time to appreciate all the hard work and effort that goes into this type of thing.
can't wait can't wait can't WAIT to see flipped. and also, i am very very very excited for wedding crasher, haha (:

Jinnyd said...

Well, food critics are essentially getting paid to be picky eaters, sort of. :-)P And keep up the positivity, CammyLover!

And I've always wondered what the "starred review" was about--and why only one star? Thank you for enlightening me! ahhaha

Businesses are always about what's popular and what will sell--that's how they survive!

Pooja Dimba said...

I want to see Fipped. Been waiting so long.

bookworm said...

I've been with my dad this weekend, my mom has school and needs to study...... I HAVEN'T BEEN ABLE TO SEE FLIPPED AND IT'S OPEN IN MY CITY!!!!!!!! WOE TO ME, MY DOG, MY BUDDY KRYSTEN, AND ALL THAT HAVE BEEN SUBJECTED TO THE PAIN AND SUFFERING OF NOT BEING ABLE TO SEE FLIPPED!!!!!!!!

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

4dia: Oh! I'm so sorry it didn't play in your town. Thank you for taking time to comment and for following along. That's the funny thing about blogging...you have no real idea who all is reading. Very glad you have been!


NYDevil: Didn't you used to be NYAngel? Are you serious about your mom not allowing you to see Flipped? Is it Flipped or any movie? Is this a Must-Do-Homework situation? D-O H-O-M-E-W-O-R-K ;-)

xxCLxx: I'm sorry you've had such a rough week! I hope this one is better! (Yes, stay optimistic!)

N3WYORKD3VIL said...

I DID used to be NYAngel and before that FadedxRainbow. But I'm not an angel. At all whatsoever. Not in this life or the next. And it is a homework thing. But my mom said that if the teachers say good things about me for Back to School Night (tonight) I can see Flipped =] But I have to pay for my ticket...I don't think the teachers know I exist. Ms. Kimmle does, though. I'm "the girl who doesn't like to excercise so I must torture her and make her play kickball."