Sunday, November 09, 2008

Guest - John Klawitter

Good morning everyone! I hope you're ready for a very interesting article from our guest today. Here's a bit from his bio (you can see all of it below): John Klawitter has worked as a writer, producer and director. Based in Hollywood, he’s worked for major studios, indy companies and run his own production company. He’s written and produced for CBS, NBC, Disney, The Disney Channel, Paramount, Universal, Atlantis Productions, and many others. Today he'll be explaining some of the nuances of adapting our work to the screen and he's offering a contest so check below for the details.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
THE ADVANTAGES OF ADAPTING IT YOURSELF
By John Klawitter

You—as a storyteller who tends to write in the various popular genre formats—you understand that format is important, but your story idea is everything. And, as an author, you are understandably nervous about allowing someone else to adapt your work—no matter if it is a short story, novella or novel—into a video script or a screenplay.

You are not alone in this. Hollywood has gained a villainous reputation; the testosterone-driven Geniuses of Tinseltown have a history of taking successful novels and putting their own ‘interpretation’ or ‘spin’ on them. I need only mention the various failed reincarnations of Jules Verne’s Journey To The Center of the Earth…or for those of you who follow this sort of thing, consider the ‘interpretation’ director John Irvin & writer Lawrence D. Cohen made of Peter Straub’s wonderful novel Ghost Story. Even closer to home (I worked on it) the mish-mash Disney’s Ron Miller and Tom Leetch made of Florence Engel Randall’s classic The Watcher in the Woods.

Soooo...is there anything you should be doing to protect your work? Once you option your book to a producer or an indy production company, the rest of the process will almost surely be taken out of your hands. Most producers aren’t interested in ‘the novelist as a screenwriter.’ Be irate, but don’t take it personally. It’s a culture thing, a bit inbred, and doesn’t have anything to do with your literary talent. None-the-less, as the writer of your own published novel to which you own all the rights, what do you care what they think?

If you’re going to consider adapting your work yourself, you’ll want to do it before you sell the option. Once you decide you’re going to do this, it’s not as difficult as it may seem. Writing a screenplay from scratch generally takes three to six months. Adapting your own novel to a screenplay may take you as little as four to six weeks.

I personally enjoy the process of interpreting my own work in another medium. And, I’ve seen so many examples of films gone wrong that I’m somewhat paranoid about who is going to be tinkering with my baby. That’s one good reason why I tend to adapt my own stories to screenplays, many before they are published. Sometimes I see my own story on another level and feel driven to go back in and rework the novel itself. But the primary benefit to me personally as the writer is that I’m able keep my creative presence felt, usually through 1st Draft Screenplay.

You’ll notice I’m not talking about monetary compensation. Yes, your agent can demand a slightly higher price for an option if you present a screenplay adaptation as well as your novel. But that’s short term thinking. You have your career to consider, and so you might look on your screenplay adaptation as a little insurance—not a guarantee—but an element in the right direction to help the movie made from your very own novel—help it turn into box office gold rather than a rotten tomato (www.rottentomatoes.com)


SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION:
Those of you feeling you may be alone in a world uniquely unsuited to creative types such as yourself may be interested in my survival manual: TINSEL WILDERNESS, Lessons on Survival as a Creative Person in Hollywood & Other Extreme Climates.

These are hard lessons culled from 40 years of chasing the muse. It is available as a downloadable ebook, trade paperback and/or audio book from the following link: http://double-dragon-ebooks.com/single.php?ISBN=1-55404-487-1&picsize=LARGE&x=87&y=61 I personally recommend the audio book, if you can afford it, as it contains jingles, show openings and other audio moments to illustrate the lessons, which directly translate into instructions on your own survival as a creative person in a world that doesn’t really care too much, one way or the other, whether that unique essence that makes up you, yourself, the person, lives and thrives or dies.


OFFER:
You are not alone. I will read any short story, novella or novel (published or unpublished) and provide any or all of the following:
A) Coverage: $150
B) Summary: $150
C) Analysis of Adaptability: $150
D) Opinion as to Marketability as a motion picture project: FREE with any or all of the above.

Send a copy of your work as a PDF or Word Document (Rich Text) Use PayPal or send check or money order. All work completed within 30 days upon receiving payment and manuscript.


CONTEST:
Submit to me via email ( john.klaw@sbcglobal.net ) a log line pitching your novel. AND a short paragraph explaining why it will make a successful motion picture.

I will select one of these entries and will provide in a timely manner (before the end of January 2009) FREE coverage, a FREE summary, a FREE Analysis of Adaptability, and a FREE Opinion as to Marketability of the winning entry.

The winning entry will not be selected on the basis of literary genius or writing skills (although these won’t hurt your cause), but solely on John Klawitter’s discretionary and personal opinion, based on his years of experience in Show Biz, of the filmic potential of said entry.

BIO:
John Klawitter has worked as a writer, producer and director. Based in Hollywood, he’s worked for major studios, indy companies and run his own production company. He’s written and produced for CBS, NBC, Disney, The Disney Channel, Paramount, Universal, Atlantis Productions, and many others. He’s also worked on animation projects for Disney, Warner Bros. Animation, Hanna-Barbera, Phil Mendez Productions, Zoiyu Productions (Japan), Pink Planet Productions (Holland) and Franke Films (Finland). He has directed short films featuring a wide range of stars and personalities, including Bill Cosby, Ali MacGraw, Jane Alexander, Jacqueline Bisset, Ray Bradbury, George Plimpton, Leslie Nielsen, and many others.

His film credits include the political documentary Scene: Politic (EMMY AWARD); the Television Specials The Great American Dreammobile, Le Mans & The Man McQueen, Disco Mickey Mouse, The Adventures of Sports Goofy, and Here comes Sam (The Olympic Eagle).

He has adapted several novels to screenplay format, most notably HOBBERDY DICK by K.M. Briggs (for Zoiyu Productions, Tokyo), STYX by Christopher Hyde (optioned by Atlantis, developed for Fox), MONSTER TALES by Phil Mendez (for Zoiyu Productions).

He has adapted his own novels CRAZYHEAD, DEVILS, and THE HEART OF DESIRE to screenplays, as well as HEADSLAP, his highly praised biography of legendary NFL player Deacon Jones.

More about John
http://double-dragon-ebooks.com/eAuthor.php?Name=John%20Klawitter

http://looney.goldenagecartoons.com/tv/bbrr/bbrrinterv.html


CONTACT INFORMATION:

e-publisher: Double Dragon Publishing
http://double-dragon-ebooks.com/eAuthor.php?Name=John%20Klawitter

Audio book publisher: Audible Books
http://www.audible.com/adbl/site/enSearch/searchResults.jsp?BV_UseBVCookie=Yes&Ntk=S_Author&Ntt=John+Klawitter&Ntx=mode%2bmatchallpartial&x=9&y=8&D=John+Klawitter&N=0&Dx=mode%2bmatchallpartial

Distribution: Amazon
www.amazon.com (search ‘John Klawitter’)

email: John Klawitter
john.klaw@sbcglobal.net

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28 comments:

John Klawitter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Minnette Meador said...

Wonderful insight, John. Thanks so much for sharing. I sent you an entry...:) You book sounds fascinating. Minnette :)

romance jane said...

I am excited to read your next book!You know how to create a strong interesting ending,that is what I find missing in so many romance novels i buy.I am always searching for that great ending not just all the fluff! Make it another great ending!!

ROMANE AT LARGE JANE

romance jane said...

I am excited to read your next book!You know how to create a strong interesting ending,that is what I find missing in so many romance novels i buy.I am always searching for that great ending not just all the fluff! Make it another great ending!!

ROMANE AT LARGE JANE

babalootie said...

Hey! What is a romance novel doing being a movie anyway? Movies are supposed to have something to do with the real world, no? Seems like romance novels are escapism purely, with no relation to the way people live their lives.
Or is there a genre in between?
I write a column, and I may not always get it right, but I do show up. Seems like romance novelists phone it in, on formula.

John Klawitter said...

Minnette - I'll look forward to your entry in the contest.
Thanks!
John Klawitter

Lynda K. Scott said...

LOL, babalootie! You think romance novels are written to formula? Give it a try :-D It's a bit more difficult than you think.

John Klawitter said...

Romance Jane - I visualized HOLLYWOOD HAVOC as four novels...so, in the first novel ('Episode I')the hero is somewhat thwarted in his efforts to find true love; he has two strong women as his love interests, his ex-wife who is totally committed to her relentless charge toward film stardom...and his girlfriend, who is torn between her love for him and her drive to become an expert in oriental art. There is a resolution, of sorts, but no final resolution. I've just finished my 2nd last rewrite of Hollywood Havoc, 'Episode II', and while I can promise stunning and unexpected developments in Matt Havoc's love life, the final resolution will not take place until the very end of 'Episode IV'. This is because, in my mind, love is never (no should it be) a simple, easy or predictable journey. You may take another example in FOUL, my murder mystery...the Hero, Brando Mahr, is an aphasiac and epileptic minor-key indy Hollywood producer-director. With his two pals, the Ninja Nuns, he manages to turn out cable tv documentaries...point is, Brando isn't what you'd call a Hunk-o-rama of Love. He's a good person, and likeable and even sexy in a weird sort of way...but women find him scary and, as his chances of a long life aren't that good, he's not great husband material. His relationship with his girlfriend, sexy wannabe starlet Belle Denver, is wide but not very deep...though Brando has continuing hopes that it will develop into something he might call a relationship.
best
John Klawitter

John Klawitter said...

babalootie
Hey, yourself!

Yes,some romance novelists do 'phone it in', as you say...although there is nothing wrong with phone sex.

But, that said, as a guy who has adapted a novel or two, and who has some inkling of what the studios and producers are looking for, I just wish I could have optioned Bridges of Madison County when the book first came out. Or, the same goes for The Accidental Traveler, The Shipping News, and Star Wars.

By now you're screaming those aren't 'pure' romances. Ha ha. I tricked you. You see, really great romance with true and inciteful relationships always leaps over mere genre definitions. Romance writers know this. But, being realists in a world driven by business facts and marketing situations, they categorize to reach their readers and give them a taste of what is to come.

I recognize you by your code name, and I know you already know these things, babalootie. Just like in that clever column you write, you just want to throw the dickheads out with the bathwater. (Her bi-monthly essays are published under the banner 98% Straight, for those of you bloggers who don't know her for the impish and carefree troublemaker she is.) She doesn't really want to put the knock on all romance novels...just the bad ones.

Anonymous said...

Hello, John! I'm not into blogging but just wanted to say that, although I enjoyed Crazyhead and Headslap very much, Tinsel Wilderness was such a personal, soul-searching, introspective and revealing book that it is now on my favored bookshelf with other books I plan to reread (something I don't often do!). Thanks for the honest, firsthand, intimate view of the writing, publishing and movie world. I look forward to listening to the jingles---such a unique touch! However, from what I've been hearing about Foul, I may have to read that murder mystery first! Thanks for all your clever, entertaining books, all written with a new twist that thrills!

Anonymous said...

Hey, John! It most clearly seems as though you've got some sort of insight here on romance and its derivations . . . What on earth would a man know about romance, anyway??? You must have some fabulous woman in your life feeding you all these ideas! How could they possibly be your own, sir? I guess anything's possible. We now have an African American President-Elect! Now here's your next book idea: The romance of Barack and Michelle Obama! Be the first in Hollywood to jump at the chance!

John Klawitter said...

Somebody is going to make a fortune doing the biography, and then there will be a bio-pic. The problem with chasing the great and famous is you're in a group of 10,000 other authors. You'd hate that too, right?

As far as how do men fare as writers of romance novels, you bring up a good point. I asked that on an author's website a few weeks ago, and was soundly thumped with several names of men 'who wrote under women's names'. That's nice but I still think (and, judging from your email, you probably agree,) if you look at the numbers they do suggest women do seem to know at least twenty times more about relationships than men. On the other hand, I don't know any lady who can tell me what an "M-1 thumb" is or why the AR15 was selected as a firearm in Vietnam over the M-14.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi John,
I hail from Australia and am a published writer of historical romance. Your blog came up on one of the groups I belong to. Very interesting article. I didn't realize it would take so long to adapt a book for the "big screen".I am sure you are a romantic at heart, many men are but don't like to admit it.
Regards
Margaret

John Klawitter said...

mHi Margaret
Most writers will tell you it takes from three to six months to adapt a novel to screenplay format. If some producer, director, indy company, studio presence, etc, hires you to adapt, that's really all there is to it. But if you're a writer, on the other end of the stick, so to speak, then your moves are not clear. It really depends on what you want. Life is short, and writing any one novel can take a chunk of it. I know writers who want nothing to do with adapting their own work. Yes, they would love to see it on the screen as a 'major motion picture' as they say. But they are already on to the next project and willing to let their last baby go.

Pauline B Jones said...

Fascinating interview! Star crossed always has the most interesting visitors!

I dabbled in screenplays and have to say dittos to everything. It's a crazy business, but fun, too. I adapted some of my early novels and it was an interesting and challenging experience. I think it helped me up the visuals on my later novels.

Reading this gives me the itch and not sure I want it back! **vbg**

Savanna Kougar said...

Hi John, utterly fascinating. I would never make it in that Hollywood world. However, I would love to adapt some of my novels into screenplays. In the current climate I doubt I'd have any luck at actually selling, and truthfully, I'm not sure I would want to, for reasons I won't go into.
Also, since my current published novels are erotic romance...well, nothing the big screen would do, and if they did, they wouldn't do it right, in terms of mood and emotion. Plus, I can't get into the whole skinny-minny actress thing.
My dream would be to make my own film, my way. As I've always wanted to do. If the tech gets to my low level of ability, then, I might have a shot at it one day.
Thanks again, John!

And hey to B ~ if you want to dump on romance novels, join the club with everyone else out there who can't write them. And, so what, what do you know? Actually. Beyond what anyone who uses their brain and their heart, already knows.

John Klawitter said...

Pauline -
I find that when I adapt something of my own to screenplay format, it often forces me to rewrite the novel...lately I've been reading my own work in mp3 format "as narrated by the author". My publisher, Double Dragon Publishing has been enterprising and clever enough to hook up with Audible Books, so it's a good thing...but before I get off the track, the reason I mention it is that adapting to audio book has the same effect...you end up hearing your characters out loud, and sometimes you can't help but 'fix' or 'enrich' something. And, one more thing...I wrote a short story, then adapted it to a video script--and was so embarrassed by the preproduction readings that I went back and rewrote it...and then I wasn't finished...as we were shooting the video, further enrichments came to mind, and so we had to do those...AND THEN, in editing, we had still more ideas, and so we went with those...after looking at the finished video, I saw how different (and in my own mind, better) the final product was. So I went back yet one more time and rewrote the short story. I guess that's crazy, huh.
best,
John Klawitter

John Klawitter said...

Pauline -
I find that when I adapt something of my own to screenplay format, it often forces me to rewrite the novel...lately I've been reading my own work in mp3 format "as narrated by the author". My publisher, Double Dragon Publishing has been enterprising and clever enough to hook up with Audible Books, so it's a good thing...but before I get off the track, the reason I mention it is that adapting to audio book has the same effect...you end up hearing your characters out loud, and sometimes you can't help but 'fix' or 'enrich' something. And, one more thing...I wrote a short story, then adapted it to a video script--and was so embarrassed by the preproduction readings that I went back and rewrote it...and then I wasn't finished...as we were shooting the video, further enrichments came to mind, and so we had to do those...AND THEN, in editing, we had still more ideas, and so we went with those...after looking at the finished video, I saw how different (and in my own mind, better) the final product was. So I went back yet one more time and rewrote the short story. I guess that's crazy, huh.
best,
John Klawitter

John Klawitter said...

Savanna - I would encourage you to give it a try. With the new digital video cameras, one can create a very high quality story for relatively little money.

I'm a director member of the Director's Guild of America. About 15 years ago, I took a "Master Director's Class" at the guild. It was run by Teddy Post (you can imdb him) and over the course of ten weeks anybody could prep any scene, hire actors and play it before the class at the guild. Well, lots of the class was too busy or chickened out (the commentary by classmates was brutal, and Teddy himself didn't like me)but I ended up doing six scenes, and it was enormously instructive. I mention this experience, because writers don't realize...any of you can form a small group, meet once a week or so and block out scenes so you can get some idea of what your work feels like in the light of day. And it doesn't cost you any cash. I swear, after that experience, I was a changed writer. I'm still just a journeyman writer, striving to please the muse...but that was a great way to learn some important lessons about my work and how others see it.

At that time, I'd just left Disney, and I'd optioned screenplay rights to STYX, a thriller by Canadian writer Chris Hyde. Well, I'd done a first draft adaptation, and so I plucked a scene from that for my 1st "Masters Class" scene. I remember my characters were trapped in a cave, and it's a difficult scene. They all think they are going to die, and the antagonist decides to force sex on the separated girlfriend of one of the other doomed souls. Once we got in front of Teddy Post, the actors that I had hand selected and coached realized it was my 1st dramatic scene and, sensing blood in the water, literally tore me to shreds. And, Savanna, looking back I realize I'd deserved it.

Savanna Kougar said...

John, thanks for all the info and ideas!
Doing audio books has been something I've thought about for a long time, ever since a creative writing professor I had, enjoyed listening to me read my writing. It's often on the poetic and prose side. And I always hear my words in my mind, as I'm writing the story, which has gotten me into trouble, since then, my writing style isn't considered 'simplistic' enough. I've had to alter some of that, still, the story has to sound right to my ear.

I'm struck by how diligent you are in re-creating your story into it's best form. Kudos.

John Klawitter said...

Savanna
As an example of how real life changed what I was doing: In my video, based on my short story, "Extinction", an ecology-minded lady hopes to save a small patch of the Mojave Desert from developers who intend to build condos. The lady enlists the help of Harley, a desert tortoise, to help find an endangered species (plant or animal) and so bring an end to the development.

Well, my original vision of what the turtle might be like was the voice of "Carlton" who played on Rhoda (I think) some decades ago...a laid back, laconic sort of fellow. I figured desert tortoises, who had to be out in the sun and heat, would be that sort of creature...well, when I actually met a desert tortoise (we had 3, actually), I found they were gruff, brusk, and 'in their shell' so to speak. No wasted motion. They didn't chew, they chomped one chomp and that was it for any lettuce leaf unlucky to be near their beak. This created enormous problems, as I needed chewing to be able to lip sync. Worse, the creature's features were anything but mild-mannered. So I had to completely rewrite Harley to a selfish, self-centered little brute of a fellow. Now, if you consider how creatures survive in nature, they all are self-centered. It's simply a matter of survival. So, once I knew that, my revisions strengthened my central theme, which was, simply stated, It's foolish to tamper with Mother Nature.

John Klawitter said...

Savanna -
Addendum:
Once I had the video finished, I decided I liked the lead character so much that I developed a full length motion picture screenplay that incorporated the video in it. I'm currently shopping that around town...and retro-ing the screenplay into a 40,000 word novella.

So the madness continues.

About doing your own audio. If you don't have a friend who has a recording room, you can purchase your own equipment for under a thousand U.S. dollars. Mike Stewart (The Internet Audio Guy) offers a rig for $750. The key to it is a good mike and an audio interface. You don't need a soundproof room...there's a nifty program called SoundSoap 1 that 'scrubs out' humms and clicks, though if the neighbor's dog barks or a plane flies overhead it's wise to re-record that bit before moving on.

John Klawitter said...

error: it's SoundSoap2, not SoundSoap 1 sorry

Savanna Kougar said...

John, that's a scream about the desert tortoise. Yeah, don't trump Mother Nature. Never wise.

I write paranormal, sci fi, fantasy subgenres -- so, if I make my own world, that kind of reality isn't usually a problem. The creature has to be logical to the type of world(s) it's in, though.

Thanks again, for all the great advice!!!

Lynda K. Scott said...

John, Thanks for being a guest here this week. We've enjoyed having you and I, for one, have learned a lot from your article and responses to the readers comments.

Again, thanks for being our guest.

Lynda

John Klawitter said...

Lynda
Thanks for inviting me. You have attracted a great bunch of intelligent and thought provoking bloggers to your site.
best,
John Klawitter

Lynda K. Scott said...

Congrats Minnette! John has selected you as the winner of his contest. Please send a PDF of the story you want him to work up. As he explained, it will take him until the end of January (because that's how long it takes in his normal workflow). Thanks for visiting Star-Crossed Romance!

john.klaw@sbcglobal.net

Minnette Meador said...

Thank, Lynda - I'm so thrilled. I'll get the PDF over to him today. This was really fun...I hope you do more of these. M:)