I was recently asked to participate in a private panel at Sundance Film Festival hosted by John Templeton Foundation and Walden Media about “Staying True in Film Adaptation.” Being with Dupree/Miller client Lani Netter (associate producer of The Shack) and industry icons such as Kathryn Stockett (author of The Help), Randall Wallace (author and director of Braveheart), Nikki Silver (producer of The Giver), Ralph Winter (producer of X-Men), Michael Flaherty (co-founder Walden Media), and Bob Berney (CEO of Picturehouse) was incredibly inspiring, as was soaking up genius in the halls of the film lodge and stealing glances at empty snowcapped mountains. There are no skyscrapers in Park City, only a skyline of mountaintops, and it has the effect of dwarfing everyone and putting them on the same level so that there is less room for individual ego and more room for meaningful conversation. Overall, being in creation made me think about the power and beauty of being a creator. Sometimes (like with Nikki Silver, Jeff Bridges, and The Giver) it takes over ten years to get a studio, sometimes (like with Kathryn Stockett and The Help) it takes sixty rejections before you get an agent, sometimes (like Bob Berney) it takes going against convention and creating your own audience to get Momento or the two highest grossing independent films The Passion or My Big Fat Greek Wedding out into the world, and sometimes (like Randall Wallace) you have to become broke and broken before you understand the driving force behind a character like William Wallace in order to tell a story like Braveheart. Sometimes the hardest stories, are the ones worth telling.
Here is a picture of myself with Lani and Kathryn, along with some quick and meaningful sound bites from our discussion:
- If you want to send a message, use Western Union
- If you take words out of the definition of failure, you form the definition of convention
- If I go down, let me go down with my flag flying-doing what I came to do
- Sometimes the best work is born out of desperation and commitment, not perseverance
- My challenge was my lesson
- If you don’t write down those freaky voices in your head, you’ll go insane
- It took me 60 rejections to get an agent, what if I had stopped at 59?
- The great question isn’t how to answer all the details, but how to become the person who can translate an honest spirit into what they do
- There is a big difference between a faithful adaptation and a literal adaptation
- Oftentimes it isn’t love and hate, its love and faith–writing is one of the greatest acts of faith
- Art has nothing to do with being correct, it’s about having the courage to be incorrect
- The scariest thought of all is what if I could have faith?
- Sometimes you can’t be afraid to tell the truth. If you really piss them off they will think about that a lot longer than if you try to make them happy
- There are no bad stories, only bad storytellers
“I can’t tell you how to succeed. But I can tell you how not to: Give in to the shame of being rejected and put your manuscript—or painting, song, voice, dance moves, [insert passion here]—in the coffin that is your bedside drawer and close it for good. I guarantee you that it won’t take you anywhere. Or you could do what this writer did: Give in to your obsession instead.” – Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help