Hi all. First off, Merry Christmas. Whoops -- Seasonal Greetings one and all. Here I am, the computer Grinch, who is hard at blogging on the holiday.
Last week I got a fair bit of email indicating significant interest in how the movie business works from the writer’s end.
And pssssssst. By the way, you can post remarks on the blog. Nothing bad will happen to you.
What initially stimulated the interest in Night Town was the heroine of the book. Back Alley Films takes great pride in featuring women in their productions. In particular, strong women, who find themselves in a pickle. The pickle is the hook I mentioned last week.
Now you’d think that since I’ve got the hook and the story has already been written, it would be relatively easy to adapt.
The first challenge was length. My novel comes in at approximately 300 pages, meaning a goodly whack of the story line had to come out. I talked to the director, Adrienne Mitchell, and what intrigued her was the fact that the story unfolded in the dangerous, and largely unknown Toronto of the 1970s.
So the front half of the book vanished.
With that cut, came the challenge of referring to pivotal events that happened in the past, without resulting to icky cheesy flashbacks. In the movie and TV business, flashbacks are generally considered lazy writing. The odd one is okay, but they shouldn’t be a device you use regularly.
Since my young heroine, a teenage girl, becomes somewhat embroiled in the '70s drug scene, psychedelic trips worked quite nicely with taking the odd walk down memory lane. Logically they made sense. Nearly every kid coming of age in that decade tried something at least once.
Then came the BIG change. Night Town is meant to be a very broad portraiture of a family that stretches from the 1960s through to the mid '70s. Not to be hubristic, but I am a huge fan of Jonathan Franzen and John Irving. I wanted to write something broad like that, with lots of players and a big family.
Alas in the movie business, there is no market for that. What sells movies is genre. And in particular thrillers. To make a chilling thriller you need a terrifying antagonist. Adrienne and I decided on a peripheral character in the novel, and bump up him up to an out of control psycho devil. A murderous devil who takes a deadly interest in our heroine.
Once the broad strokes had been worked, Adrienne pulled out Back Alley’s big gun.
The story editor.
This is the person who can make or break a film. Think of the story editor as the chef and me as raw ingredients. I have all these tasty ingredients but not the knowledge to turn it into a gourmet meal. The story editor knows everything about how a story works and makes sure the characters remain consistent. That and a million other things from the macro to micro. The importance of a good story editor is invaluable.
I’m lucky enough to be working with Marguerite Pigott, Toronto cultural bon vivant and one of the busiest women on the planet.
Next week a bit more on the movie and a lot more on the book. If you’re got any questions, load up your keyboard and please fire way.