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Saturday, 12 April 2014

What comes first -- the book or the film of the book?

UPDATE: Since posting the message below I have received very useful suggestions about the need to make my book less like a film script. In view of this, I have made several changes (see the link towards the bottom of the page). Feel free to make any other suggestions that you feel might improve the telling of the story. Ian R

As much as there are any hard and fast rules in the film-making business, it is the received wisdom that a book is written then someone else buys the film rights and turns it into a movie.

That's not the way it is with me, but then perhaps I am just perverse.

To be honest, I had never intended to become a screenwriter -- certainly not one so late in life after more than 40 years in print and broadcast journalism in Australia and the United Kingdom. Nor had it ever occurred to me that I might write a book. Quite the contrary. I always thought a book would require too much damned effort. But here I am, both screenwriter and book author and doing things in what many professionals think is the wrong way around.

But to go back a bit...

My first screenplay, GOD'S TRIANGLE, came about by accident. My wife, Rosemary, and I are keen genealogists and stumbled across the fascinating and sad story of my Australian Great Aunt Florence "Florrie" Cox. Florrie was a Baptist missionary in East Bengal (now Bangladesh) during the First World War, and as the story emerged of why her marriage to the Rev. Frank E. Paice went into meltdown, Rosemary recognised its potential as a feature film.

I sold the idea to an official of  Film Victoria, the Victorian State Government film agency in Melbourne. But pitching an idea to someone who thinks it is a great idea is the easy bit. In my case, I also naively believed that a total of seven years in television news qualified me to write the script for a film lasting between 90 and 120 minutes. Wrong. So wrong. My first attempt at a script was truly terrible, chiefly because it was dialogue driven and gave away too much information too early. Gradually I got the hang of screenwriting, but still no-one came forward with a firm offer.

The turning point came when Rosemary pointed out that I should be drawing up a detailed chronological account of our God's Triangle research for the historical record. This soon morphed into diary that became a paperback and ebook. And that did the trick. Once that was published, the interest grew and the film rights were picked up. The screenplay is now in pre-production development with two producers in Melbourne, financed by Film Victoria.

This got me thinking about my three other screenplays -- in particular The Moral Maze, a fictional thriller about a foreign correspondent corrupted by the intelligence services with disastrous consequences. Why not also write the book version of this story, I wondered? And that's what I am now doing, in the hope that its publication will lead to the screenplay being picked up by someone with access to about $US10m.

The book should be published before next Christmas. I'm just loving writing it because it requires such a difference approach to a film script. If you interested in making the comparisons, I have posted the opening scenes and chapters on my main Richardson Media Limited website. Here are the LINKS to the SCREENPLAY and to the BOOK.

Feel free to send me your comments to me: ian*at*richardsonmedia.co.uk

PS: Sorry that I can't give you a link to any extracts of the God's Triangle screenplay at this stage, but the script is again a work in progress and currently subject to commercial confidentiality.

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