In the land of Hollywood options some people strike gold right off the bat. Certainly it has seemed that way for author Melissa Marr. After a troubled start for her young adult supernatural fantasy novel Wicked Lovely, momentum seemed to carry her along to a shot at signing an option for her work.
"The weirdest part was probably the initial call," Melissa said. "My agent said, ‘Vince Vaughn wants to buy your book.' My response was ‘Who?' and ‘Doesn't he have a nearby store?' As I rarely watch movies, I had no idea who he was. The most awkward part was that I had to tell Vince himself I didn't know who he was, but he's so absurdly charming and smart, that we ended up having a great conversation."
After the troubles that had haunted her efforts at getting the book published in the first place, this option deal must have seemed like one more divine intervention in what had been a long process.
"My first book was rejected, but then it sold in a pre-empt and debuted on the New York Times list and then a bunch of international bestseller lists."
Vince Vaughn's company, Wild West Picture Show, also came with another little surprise. They were attached to a studio.
"Wild West Picture Show has a First Look deal with Universal Studios. That meant that we had to go to them first."
Universal seemed to like what they saw and took the project on. Then suddenly the climate changed at the studio. A large deal between Universal and Hasbro concerning a deal to make a film based on the game Ouija came apart, ostensibly over the high budget. Then a week later the axe came down. They were dropping the Wicked Lovely series also. The official word from Universal channeled through The Hollywood Reporter on why the project was dropped was that "it was being set free due to the studio realizing that it doesn't suit their needs." For Melissa the blow from the announcement was softened by the producers whom she has come to love.
"My producers have been clear from the start that they intend to make this movie. When my producers called to tell me the news, they started with "we're renewing the option; we'll just be going with a different studio.
"I think that Universal is a great studio, but we weren't a match. It's no different from publishing. Someone at Universal decided that this isn't a fit. I'm fine with that.
"My producers are going forward with the project. That's the part that's been amazing to me. Everyone says ‘Hollywood lies,' but ‘we're going forward whether Universal does or not' has been Wild West's answer from the start. They're still saying it, and I'm still cashing checks."
Going forward is an understatement as the list of big names being attached to the project continues to grow. Mary Harron (American Psycho) is on-board as director, a choice that really seems to please Melissa.
"The people attached are hanging in there with us, even though we no longer have a studio attached, as are some other names that are not yet public. When it was optioned, we had a studio and producers, but no cast, director, or script. Now, what we lack is a studio, but we still have producers - and a great director and a wonderful screenplay (and other pieces). I still have a kickass director (I mean, seriously? She was the first American journalist to interview the Sex Pistols back in the day. She gets weird)."
The current draft of the script is written by Caroline Thompson who has scripted Edward Scissorhands for Tim Burton among scores of other projects. However, this may have been a golden opportunity for Melissa to try her hand at screenwriting.
"Caroline's script is still with us," she illuminated. "Turnaround - as it was explained to me - just means that the new studio will need to compensate the old studio (Universal) for her script, my option money, director, design, and other miscellaneous expenses. As to my writing a script...no thanks. I'm concentrating on my novels right now. I read several versions of Caroline's script and gave notes, but she's the screenwriter."
Melissa views the entire undertaking as a learning experience.
"The biggest take away is that - much like publishing- passion is the part that makes or breaks a project. My team is passionate, ergo we're still moving forward. She has even been lucky enough to have her first adult horror novel, Graveminder, be optioned by Ken Olin for development as a television program in the late spring.
"So, I'm two for two so far. It's really surreal. It's been exhausting at times, but it's been fun too. My first true frustration has been receiving the flurry of ‘Poor Melissa' messages (after the announcement about Universal dropping the project). I appreciate the sympathy, but the project is still under option."
Flurry of messages is an understatement. Melissa received so many of the sympathy messages that she finally had to issue this message to her legions of Twitter followers: I appreciate the support, but I'm not crying in my cornflakes over here. My director & producers & screenwriter continue to be awesome. :)
What most writers hope for is that an experience like this will create many more opportunities for the future. But Melissa takes a more down to earth approach to the roller coaster ride.
"I don't think it has opened any doors. Maybe it would if I wanted to write for Hollywood, or maybe it will if we make it to the screen, but I'm still hanging out writing novels. The checks decreased my weeping over the cost of some of my daughter's top choices for college next year, but beyond that it's life as normal."
That would be normal when it comes to life in the fast lane and the world of Hollywood options.
Del Howison is a journalist, writer and Bram Stoker Award-winning editor. He is also the co-founder and owner of Dark Delicacies "The Home of Horror" in Burbank, CA. He can be reached at Del@darkdel.com