Watching Your Book Become a Movie
So what’s it like to watch your book finally become a movie? The answer that first pops into my mind is slow—very slow. The one thing that became clear immediately is that this is a long and careful process. It all started five years ago when I signed the option for Warner Bros. to make a film from the first three books of the series. Signing an option is nice but even with a big movie studio, there is no guarantee that a movie will result. I had signed many in the past that came to nought. However, by then end of the first 18 month option period, the film was still very much alive and Warner Bros. had hired a an A-list screenwriter, John Orloff, and a renowned director, Zack Snyder, to work on it. When the option was renewed, and I tried not to get too excited even with the wonderful Australian animation company, Animal Logic (who made “Happy Feet”) which was involved.
I made myself adopt a zen-like attitude to endure the course of this slow process, and tried so hard to maintain my calm when I was flown out to Los Angeles to meet with the producers on the Warner lot. It was all quite dazzling but I felt it could still all disappear like dew on a sunny morning. My mantra was keep calm, keep calm and live in the moment. It was fun being on the Warner lot. Maybe I’ll see a movie star, I thought. I bought myself two baseball caps with the Warner Bros. logo at their store thinking –this might be all I get out of the whole deal—two hats. That’s fine, Kathryn, that’s fine, I repeated. You have a good marriage, healthy kids, on and on. You’re getting the picture: I hoped mightily this would happen but recognized all of the reasons it might not.
I finally allowed myself to get excited right before the second option was about to expire and the scale and budget of the film had increased considerably. In short, it was promoted to the major leagues and viewed in the lingo of movies as a “tent pole” production. I knew then that it was going to be a big deal.
I made two more trips out to Los Angeles. The first to meet with John Orloff the screenwriter. John and I really hit it off and after that he would call me quite often to consult on the story and characters as he wrote the screenplay. Then last month I traveled out to see the rough cut of the film. I can only say that I was blown away. It is the most spectacular animation I have ever seen. The actors’ voices are really great. How can you go wrong with Helen Mirren, Ryan Kwanten, Jim Sturgess, Geoffrey Rush, Sam Neill, Hugo Weaving, Abby Cornish and Anthony LaPaglia? I could see that it was all coming together.
To be honest, like all authors, I did go into this with some trepidation but what I have seen exceeds my expectations. In fact there are things the writers, animators, and director have added to the film that I wished I had figured out to do in the books. And I became even more aware of the hugely talented ‘movie village’ it takes to create such an exciting, impressive movie.
Another delightful surprise is what they have done with my character little Eglantine. Honestly she nearly steals the show. I keep asking myself why didn’t I make her more adorable in the books? Maybe this is where the limitations of a writer versus a filmmaker come in. I could go on ad nauseam about the brilliant treatment of the owl eyes by the animators but Eglantine is a case in point. I think it’s the addition of eyelashes that does it. My husband and I both think she looks like our two year old granddaughter Lulu.
Now we are less than a month out from the opening. This cosmos I created all in my head is being realized and I feel as if I am entering a dream. A dream I sketched but one that people with enormous talent have made come true. Of course there are some necessary changes – a book is not a movie. But Zack Snyder, Warner Bros. and Animal Logic, have remained very faithful to the spirit of the books and the characters. And that was the most important thing for me. The movie has the same integrity that I tried very hard to maintain in the books.
Find out more about Kathryn, her amazing series, the upcoming movie, Legend of the Guardians, at: