Dear Snarkie, (Snarkie? what the hell?)

When books are turned into movies do authors have any recourse if the movie is just awful? Can one retain a measure of creative control when their book is being turned into a movie?

I've seen some good books turned into the worst movies and TV shows. Is there anything to be done, other than complain after the fact?



You could take out an ad in Variety and say "this movie sux so much even I won't go, and I wrote the book they've made this piece of trash from".

You can file a lawsuit for "public acts of lewdness on a movie screen".

You can call your film agent and cuss her out for making the deal (you have to stake out the high moral ground by first sending back the money though).

OR you can do what a lot of people have done in one form or another:
have your name taken off the credits.


Lisa S. said...

Or you can insist that they give your "credit" to Alan Smithee. That's the Hollywood credit for someone who doesn't want the (dis)credit.

Lisa S.
(junior snarkling)

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Thank you, ma'am, for the answer. I'd write an Insta Poem to say thanks, but I'm fresh outa rhymes.

My kids depleted my brains. I used up all my words explaining why one may not wear flip flops in January; why one does not flush their plastic blocks down the potty; why watching daddy take the toilet off the floor is not meant to be entertaining; why one simply does not try to save an already dunked cookie for later; and why they ALL have to go to bed NOW or mommy will go nuts.

So, sorry. It will just have to be, "Thanks Snarkie."

A Snark by any other name would be as Snarkie.

Anonymous said...

OK, I know you're going to laugh until your side hurts, but I'm going to throw it out there anyway.....what if you'd really honestly rather not have a movie made of your story unless it's done to certain standards?

Obviously, you'll be out some money, and your chances of actually having a movie made will go way, way, WAY down, but will anything else bad happen?

If you were my agent, and that happened, would you drop me flat on my ass like the nitwit I am?

Stephen Gallagher said...

Your other option is dignified silence.

I've never seen an author yet who achieved anything other than to make themselves look spoilt by trashing a dramatisation of their book.

The movie may serve your work poorly, but let others point that out.

Anonymous said...

There was a great article recently about P.L. Travers weeping at the premiere of Disney's Mary Poppins. But don't some authors write creative control into the deal? I thought the reason the movie of HOLES was so good was that Louis Sachar wrote the script.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Well, firstly (isn't firstly a great word?) my book would have to be published and read and liked. Then some movie dude would have to make the film.

They'd have to figure out how to get a PG rating for a movie about a bunch of Pixies who don't really wear anything, or my cute-ish book would turn to Pixie Pornography.

So one of these days this all happens and I hate the movie? I'll cash the check; say thank you; and sic my guard goat on ‘em. Then I'll go back to writing my next book.

Anonymous said...

The only authors whose agents can write creative control into the deal are well established. As a debut novelist, you just thank your lucky stars Hollywood came a knockin' and write another book. In the meantime, public knowledge that a film adaptation of your novel is in the works will likely boost book sales like nothing else. When you're a bestselling author, you'll have much clout.

David Forbes said...

"Alan Smithee" is a pseudonym for directors only, and the Director's Guild disavowed its use in 1997. Different pseudonyms are now used by directors unhappy with their work, rather than recycling Smithee.

BorderMoon said...

Or you can take the advice of James M. Cain, who, when asked "don't you CARE what they've [Hollywood] done to your book?" replied:

"They haven't done anything to my book. It's right there on the shelf. They paid me and that's the end of it."

Lisa Hunter said...

Your only shot at creative control of your story is if you 1) write the screenplay and 2) direct it. Some indie filmmakers do this. But no Hollywood studio is going to hand over 50 million dollars to someone who's never written a screenplay or directed and say, "Here, you tell us how to do it."

In the novel, you get to have it your way. In a film, the director has it his (almost never her, alas) way. That's because what works in a novel -- witty description, internal monologue, etc. -- doesn't translate to the screen.

Joe Clifford Faust said...

I think it depends on your writer's temperament, to wit:

Tom Clancy throws public fits.

Lawrence Block doesn't. He figures that the words in his original novel didn't change, and the film may drive more book sales.

Richard Price says, "When I want to make money, I wrire a screenplay. When I want complete creative control, I write a novel."

But I think John Steinbeck had it pegged (and I'm paraphrasing here): "Go to the California border with your book. Wait there but don't cross over. Eventually, someone will show up with a briefcase full of money. Take the money. Give them your book. Turn away and don't look back."

Anonymous said...

Snarkie? (shudder of horror)

Honestly, refering to the Right Honorable Miss Snark as "Snarkie" shows a complete dearth of respect for someone who definitely deserves it. I'll bet that even Killer Yapp does not refer to his mistress as Snarkie. He's smart enough to know which hand holds the milk bone.

Scott D.

Carter said...

Harlan Ellison used the pseudonym Cordwainer Bird on his screenplays or scripts that did not get made to his standards. The name translates as "one who makes shoes for birds". Seems fitting.

Anonymous said...