Imagine Your Book as a Movie by Helen Laibach
Helen Laibach lives in Southern California with her husband of 20 years and their youngest daughter. Along with being an avid reader and talented nature photographer, Helen enjoys writing contemporary women’s fiction. All her novels will have messages of hope, self-discovery, and empowerment. And while the characters will go through their fair share of loss, heartbreak, betrayal, and even danger, she promises that each book will have an ending that satisfies. Her debut novel, A Soul Less Broken, is no exception. Visit her website at www.helenlaibach.com.
As an author, maybe you’ve daydreamed about having your book optioned into either a made-for-TV movie or into a feature film. If you haven’t thought about that, I’m going to share with you why I believe it’s important, and how it can help you become a better writer. I’ll also give you some information on how to take the first step in the process of getting your material considered by production companies.
So you’re an author … of a novel(s) … you’re most likely not a screen play writer, and in fact, probably don’t know the first thing about writing a screen play (if you think the formatting requirements for submitting a manuscript are meticulous – the requirements for screen plays are 10 times more stringent). So you may not have ever thought about what it would be like to have your novel made into a movie. Maybe you’ve never allowed yourself that luxury because you feel the idea is just too far out of reach. I strongly encourage you to let your mind go there and here’s why…
The first reason is because even if you shoot for the moon and miss, you’re bound to reach the stars (yes, that pun is intentional). If you’re like me, and you believe in the power of positive thinking, you have nothing to lose – so why not at least imagine it?
Secondly, it will help you make your characters more vivid. Take a moment to think about your main character (or characters if there’s more than one). Let your imagination go wild and actually picture what actors or actresses you would want starring in the movie-made-from-your-book. Now imagine that actor or actress actually acting out one of the key scenes. Pick a scene with either a lot of action or plenty of drama. By picturing a person becoming your character on screen, you automatically see greater detail with your minds-eye then you would otherwise. Maybe it’s how they rub their temple when they’re stressed, or how they furrow their brow when they hear difficult news, or the twinkle in their eye when they see their lover for the first time, or the special way they laugh, or the way they twist their hair around their finger when they’re nervous … I’m sure you get where I’m going with this. In learning to become better writers, we’ve all heard that it’s better to “show rather than tell.” This mental exercise will help you do just that, in more detail and with more clarity. I encourage you to give it a try!
And if you’re interested in taking the first step in actually pursuing it, here is what I’ve learned in my limited journey:
You’ll need to at least write a treatment of your novel. A treatment is the industry term used to describe the narrative version, presented in story format. Opinions on the length of treatments varies, but on average it is a five to ten page document that should read like a short story and be written in the present tense. It should present the entire story including the ending, and use some key scenes and dialogue to draw the reader in. More about writing a treatment can be found in these articles:
Another great article about the treatment for the movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith can be found here: http://www.creativescreenwriting.com/csdaily/smithstreatment.html
Once you’ve written the treatment for your novel, you’ll want to register it with the Writers Guild of America (either East or West depending on where you live). It costs $25 dollars for non-members and this basically serves as copyright protection of your material should someone else read your novel and decide they would like to do a screen play “adaptation”. When you register you’ll receive a registration number and this protects your material for five years. Here are the links to the Writers Guild of America registration sites both East and West:
Writing your treatment is the first step in the process – the next is to submit it to film studios, which can be done directly, but as always, the old saying holds true “it’s not what you know, but who you know”, so your best chance for success is to be represented either by a literary agent or publicist with connections to the movie industry (and that would be an entirely different post for a different day!).
The actual submission process may sound a bit intimidating, so even if you never intend to submit your work to film studios, I still encourage you to imagine your book as a movie! Have fun with it and let the exercise help you become an even better writer!
Best of luck ~ believe in yourself and believe in your work!