Post image for Adaptations Sweep 2016 Oscar Nominations

The long-trending dominance of adaptations is now complete. In a
near-total sweep of the top Academy Award nominations (39 of 43 noms), 7 of the 8 Best Picture noms are based on a book or true-life story (or both)—and number 8 is a reboot of an earlier movie (making it an adaptation as well).

Details on the works that spawned all but 4 of this year’s major Oscar nominations (Best Picture, Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, and Director) follow. Read more…


Box Office Page

Adaptation madness continues unabated as we move into 2016. The newly-updated Box Office page now lists the 100 biggest film adaptations—of novels, nonfiction books, historic events, faery tales, comic books, short stories, toys, children’s books, theme park rides, songs, poetry, and more. Click here to see the newly updated Box Office page


Post image for Read the Book (Free Chapters and Contributor Bios)

Free book chapters—plus credits list for contributors (authors, screenwriters, producers, directors, publishers, entertainment attorneys and more) whose films have collectively earned over $50 billion worldwide. Click here to visit the Book Page.

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Post image for The 8-Minute Book Query (That Landed an Agent in 8 Minutes Flat)

In the last post, I wrote about How I Got an Agent in 8 Minutes, Over the Christmas Holiday, Without Asking to be Represented. What follows is the nonfiction book query that made that happen.

    Dear Agent X,

    Make Your Book a Movie
    Adapting Your Book or Story for Hollywood


    Humans have always been storytellers. Whether gathered around a campfire, painting on cave walls or, later, writing words on dead trees—it’s in our blood. A book is a noble undertaking, capable of reaching tens, even hundreds of thousands of people.

    But movies are the global campfires of our time. They reach millions, sometimes hundreds of millions of people, all over the world. On those few occasions where book sales reach this level, they do so with the aid of movies based on the books.

    For characters to truly come to life, for stories to touch the greatest number of people—that takes a movie. And every movie starts with a blueprint: the screenplay.

    This book will explain what Hollywood looks for in source material (stories to be adapted for film) and adapted screenplays, and how to think ahead by crafting your book or other story in a way that renders it more cinematic and, thus, more likely to attract film-side interest. For those with screenwriting aspirations, it will also offer advice on transforming your story (fiction or nonfiction) into a screenplay. (Booklist‘s review of my own first novel says, in part: “Reads like a big-budget summer blockbuster.”) Read more…


Post image for How I Got an Agent in 8 Minutes, Over the Christmas Holiday, Without Asking to be Represented

In the interests of full disclosure, it might be fair to say the entire process took 48 hours—but the most important part took 8 minutes. (Besides, “How I Got an Agent in 8 Minutes” reads better.) Onward…


Breaking into Fortress Hollywood keeps you busy. There are archers and catapults to be avoided, boiling oil, barred gates—the works. It kept me so busy I hadn’t written a book for a few years. By the time I decided to writer another—nonfiction this time—I had no agent to help sell it. I’ll explain the reasons I wanted an agent (and why you should, too) in another post—but for now, suffice to say that agents generally sell things faster, and for more money.

I will get into one reason, though. My first book—Nano—had been a novel. This time I’d be writing nonfiction. And while I’d written scads of magazine and online articles in the past, I’d never done a book. When you “go out with” (try to sell) a novel, you write the whole thing up front, send the first chapter or three, and if they like it they read the rest and make an offer.

Nonfiction is different: generally, you write a few chapters, outline the rest of the book, include some additional material—and send a book proposal. So, really, you sell the book before most of it has been written… Read more…


Post image for Screenwriter / Producer Terry Rossio (Extreme Interview)

TERRY ROSSIO is probably the highest-paid screenwriter in the history of the medium. He prefers to write with a partner, which is almost invariably Ted Elliott. Together, they’ve written the screenplay and/or story for films such as: Aladdin; Godzilla; The Lone Ranger, Shrek; the Pirates of the Caribbean, Zorro, and National Treasure movies; and far too many others to mention here. Terry also co-wrote (with Bill Marsilii) the record-breaking Deja Vu spec script—which sold for $5 million–and Lightspeed, which sold for $3.5 million. Terry is also a producer.

I interviewed him for the book, Make Your Story a Movie: Adapting Your Book or Idea for Hollywood. And while much of Terry’s adaptation-specific advice appears there, it just wasn’t possible or appropriate to include (in that format) the wisdom he was kind enough to share on other topics. And so you find it here…

JRM: How did you break in, and how did you come to be where you are now?

Terry Rossio: I’m going to try to not give the usual boilerplate answers in this interview, and that means not going along with false presumptions, no matter how seemingly benign. The question about breaking in seems perfectly legit, but really it’s not. A writer must create compelling work, and then try to sell it. Once sold, the writer has to do the same thing again. It’s really not true that the writer ‘breaks in’—that’s an artifact of the belief that the person is being judged, not the work, and also of the belief that there is an inside and an outside, which I don’t think exists. There are too many screenwriters out there with only a single credit for there to be an inside, and too many writers on the outside making sales, to too many markets which are either new, changing, or undefined.

In truth buyers are just not that organized, your buyer is not my buyer, or in some cases, you can become your own buyer. Courtney Hunt was nominated for an Academy Award for best screenplay for Frozen River, and she’s never sold a screenplay. Is she on the inside or the outside? In truth, anyone, at any time, can come up with South Park or Superman or Sandman, and that’s all that matters.

I know writers want to think it’s all about access… Read more…


Script Sales page

Though selling prices are often kept under wraps, details tend to leak over time. As of late November, over a hundred spec scripts have sold in 2012, many by newcomers. This page lists those specs known to have sold for $1 million or more in 2012. Three of them sold in the same 48-hour period. [...]


Screenplays: Where to Find Them Free, and Where to Buy Them (Page Update)

by John Robert Marlow
Thumbnail image for Screenplays: Where to Find Them Free, and Where to Buy Them (Page Update)

Whether you’re interested in adapting your own story, getting help, or having someone else do it for you—reading scripts will help to familiarize you with screenplay format, which can seem strange to the uninitiated. And while you can pay $10-$20 for a hard copy or for scripts “officially” published in book form, you can also [...]

Chapter 3: Adapting vs Selling Film Rights (MYSAM Book Excerpt)

by John Robert Marlow
Make your Story a Movie -- The Book

If you haven’t already, you might want to read the book’s Introduction: The Power of Hollywood, Chapter One: Why Adapt?, and Chapter Two: What Can—and Can’t—Be Adapted before reading this chapter. Onward…


There’s a Difference

Most books and other properties are not movies. Some never will be. Many, however—including most books—could be movies, if skillfully adapted. And therein lies the rub: when Hollywood people (agents, managers, producers, directors, actors, studio execs and investors) look at a book, even a very good book, they see…a book. And the business of Hollywood is making movies, not books. As Paul Haggis says, “You need to be able to picture the film.”


The purpose of a book is to be a book, to be enjoyed and appreciated for what it is. There is no next step, except perhaps to read the author’s next book. The purpose of a screenplay is to roll a movie in the reader’s head, and get them to take the next step: to help turn that screenplay into the movie they saw as they read it. The script’s purpose is to be a blueprint. “The screenplay isn’t the final version of anything,” says screenwriter John August. “It’s a plan for making a movie…” Read more…

Chapter 2: What Can—and Can’t—Be Adapted (MYSAM Book Excerpt)

by John Robert Marlow
Make your Story a Movie -- The Book

If you haven’t already, you might want to read the book’s Introduction: The Power of Hollywood and Chapter One: Why Adapt? before reading this chapter. Onward…


Get the Rights, or Get Out

Once upon a time, Hollywood adaptations were limited to films based on what might be termed “traditional” sources—books, plays, historical events, the occasional true-life story. No longer. Today, almost anything can be—and currently is being—adapted by Hollywood. Though novels still lead the pack in terms of overall box office success, script purchases and worldwide grosses reflect a broadening of categories.

What follows is a list of the Top 30 highest-grossing adaptations, as of the time of this writing (figures rounded to the nearest million). Remember that DVD sales alone are likely triple or quadruple the figures shown below—and that neither figure accounts for merchandising and other rights exploitation… Read more…