Welcome to what I hope is the first of many columns about the transformative process of moving from horror book to horror film. I want to thank FEARnet.com and Cemetery Dance for having the foresight and realization of the need for a column such as this. Let me take a moment and explain for you where I am headed with this column.
Unless there is an interesting or unknown take on a story about the latest Stephen King type novel being optioned for a movie, I am not interested in reporting on it. There will be tons of reportage in the mainstream press and, I presume, a news item about it right here on FEARnet. The big boys are the big boys and they don't need my help in getting the word out about their endeavors. I am much more intrigued by the midlist, small and independent authors who are finally getting a shot at having their books hit the big screen or at least the television screen, which nowadays can also be fairly large. I will attempt to put a face and a personal touch on these author's experiences.
Over the years I have amassed many contacts in the horror world but will always count on you, the reader, to unearth and dig up items I may have missed. At the bottom of this column you will be able to find my email and I encourage you to drop me notes to keep me up to date on the latest happenings or to just shoot me a quick response about the column.
I am not here to tell you how to get optioned and filmed but to tell you who's had a project optioned and what their experience was like. There are multiple steps still to get to the screen once a book is optioned as most options do not end up in films being created. But to get optioned is a major first step. In 2006 there were 291,920 books published in just the United States. Fifty of those books were made into films. The percentage of those 50 that were horror were…well you can see where I'm going. That is why I feel this column is so important and why horror authors need this exposure and encouragement. So let's get moving.
The latest from Artist/Writer Gris Grimly is that Pathé's option on the stop-motion film of his illustrated version of the book Pinocchio, is due to end soon. Whether or not there will be a renewal of that option is unknown at this time. Things seem to have been a little stagnant lately even with the promo booklet that was put together with the help of the Henson Studios. A look at that book shows the true beauty of the project. There was a mention in July concerning the project by Guillermo del Toro who also has some interest in the feature. So Pinocchio may not be completely wooden at this point.
We are keeping an eye on Author David Prill who had his 1996 novel Serial Killer Days optioned on several occasions by different entities prior to Paramount recently buying the film rights to the book outright. The major difference according to David is that "An option is like renting -- now they've (Paramount) bought the house."
David understands that even at this stage it may never get made as that is the way the majority of these things go or it could go into turnaround with another producer or studio. Or it could just sit. But if it does get made David stands to get at least one more payday. Even though this is the only book of his to get optioned to date, he is happy for the experience but cautions others on how to handle the experience since it is a big waiting game.
"Take the check to the bank and forget about it," he says. "It can be a major distraction. Be prepared for friends and family and total strangers asking you about "your" movie, but not your latest story. It's nothing you can control. Hollywood rules all. I recommend watching Sunset Boulevard, then getting back to work."
He believes that one of the drawbacks to filming his novel might be the horror/humor combination it embraces. Hollywood may be reluctant to risk a lot of money on an unproven genre mash-up. Plus the producers could try to hedge their bets by ramping up the humor.
"It's not seen as a marketable category…It can work as long as the horror element isn't underplayed. Serial Killer Days was a pretty sunny novel, considering the subject matter. So the movie will be quite a bit darker, but hopefully, still holding true to what I had originally intended."
In the end though, even an option that never grows to the full fruition of a film is an experience almost every horror author lives to experience.
"Obviously it's flattering to have a major studio pursue a work that you created with nothing other than your imagination," David reflects. "The whole process is far more complicated than I anticipated, though. I'm not sure I understand the movie-making business any better now than I did before. It's a strange country."
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