From Self-Published Novel to Screenplay
It all began in a bar in Clarksdale, Mississippi. A bizarre conversation with a local, followed by a chance remark by my friend, started me on the road that led to me writing and self-publishing my debut novel, Fat Man Blues.
The writing part mostly took place when I was “off-duty” from my day job as a freelance technical author, and hence took the thick end of three years to complete. Once it was ready, I uploaded files to Kindle and CreateSpace, bombarded social media with multiple pleas to ‘click on my links’, and submitted the manuscript to as many agents as I could. Shortly afterwards, the agency rejections came rolling in. Thus far, my story was no different to any of the majority of indie authors, all clamouring to make their voices heard whilst holding out for the Holy Grail of a mainstream book deal.
From manuscript to screenplay
Then, a couple of things happened: Firstly, two separate indie film makers – one in New York and one in Mississippi – got hold of my book and each said that they would be interested in making a movie about it. Secondly, an agent got back to me, said she loved my submission, told me that she “got” my novel, and also said that she thought that it would make a great film.
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I signed there and then and we spoke with indie filmmakers. Everything they said sounded great, but being independent we would have to raise funds ourselves, which would have meant a crowdfunding project, which at the time, neither of us thought would be practicable. Then something else happened. It turned out that my agent knew someone who knew someone at Central Artists Agency in LA. The “someone” there just happened to be the agent for an A-List Hollywood actor. An email introduction was made and the Hollywood agent said that usually, they never looked at unsolicited screenplays, but that he would make an exception.
“When can you have the screenplay ready?” asked my agent.
“Next week?” I said, my fingers firmly crossed.
I had already started adapting Fat Man Blues to screenplay format. My initial plan was to adapt the entire book and edit the screenplay down to a maximum of 120 pages (one screenplay page = one minute of screen time). For a 350-page novel this soon proved to be impossible within the timescale, so I returned to the manuscript and cut out any chapters that I thought would be superfluous to the film. Even after drastic hacking and slashing I was still left with a 220-page screenplay. Further creative and merciless editing eventually reduced it to 115 pages. In total, this took me ten days of burning the midnight oil (after a full day at work). I ended up looking like a zombie, but at least I had a screenplay.
My agent sent it off to Hollywood, and…. we still haven’t heard back! But at least we have a screenplay. My agent has since told me that she has made contact with a couple of people in TV and film production companies, and suggested that I create a film treatment. A film treatment comprises the following: a two-page synopsis of the movie broken down into three acts, a ten-page screenplay extract that shows music cues amongst the dialogue, and a music sample. After some serious and in-depth research, I managed to prepare a treatment and record the music from the opening scenes of the screenplay. When I played it back whilst reading the screenplay, I got really excited! I could see the action taking place and felt hairs lifting on the back of my head.
Everything is now in the hands of my agent and the lap of the gods as we tout the screenplay and film treatment to as many production companies, producers and directors that we can find. Our hope is that we can bag a deal for a feature film for general release, and/or Netflix or Amazon Prime. I’m currently writing the sequel to Fat Man Blues; with this adapted, we could even make a case for a Netflix series. Lofty ambitions, some might say, but my agent and I firmly believe that if you want something then you may as well shoot for the moon. Go big, or go home.
It’s been a steep learning curve and such hard work just to get this far, but I’m fiercely proud of what we’ve achieved together, and immensely grateful to my long-suffering wife for all of her support and criticism. I feel like I’ve climbed a mountain, but as the cliché goes, that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
…And at least we have a screenplay.
More About the Author
Richard has also written the following short stories for Kindle:
Evel Knievel and The Fat Elvis Diner
Five Pairs of Shorts – a collection of ten short stories.
Hank Williams’ Cadillac