It’s a big weekend for novelists-turned-screenwriters.
There's "Gone Girl" from writer Gillian Flynn.
"The Drop," a crime drama from author Dennis Lehane.
And "This Is Where I Leave You," a star-studded story about a dysfunctional family, from author Jonathan Tropper.
"Adapting your own book for a film is kind of like doing surgery on your own child,” says Tropper. He says adapting his novel for the screen was a long and painful process. But one, he says, he wanted to do himself. “You get really protective of these characters, these stories,” says Tropper, “Even with good writers you don’t want to see them take your stuff apart.”
Authors often want the job. They know the story best, and there can be big money in writing the screenplay if the movie is a hit.
But, Hollywood typically shrugs them off.
“The studio or the production company will frequently prefer to have it adapted by a well known, proven screenwriter,” says Robert Zipser, a Hollywood entertainment attorney. He says writing for print is a different skill than writing for the screen. Also, says Zipser, with a known writer there’s a better chance the movie will actually get made.
“The involvement of an A-list screen screenwriter can also help attract cast and director to the movie.”
If authors still want to elbow their way onto the set, literary agent Rebecca Friedman says it helps to write a best-seller or several. “The more successful the book is the more likely it is that the author will get to write the screenplay,” says Friedman.
It also doesn’t hurt if you know your way around a script. Tropper and Lehane both have TV credits.
But at the end of the day, studios want to minimize risk. And the success of a few movies using authors as screenwriters isn’t going to change that script.