Tinsel And Carbon Paper
It never gets any easier. I am now in the middle of my career, thirty five published books and an uncountable number of unmade film scripts in, and nothing changes; writers complain that the genre is disrespected, there are no great new stories, films are terrible, good novels fail to be published while trash sells millions, (have you tried reading ‘The Lost Symbol’? There are more intriguingly written boiler manuals), publishers are idiots and so on. I’ve never met a writer without some kind of complaint. I try not to do it too much.
However, there’s one area that still bugs me. Screenplays. I suppose in the last twenty years I’ve written about a hundred including rewrites – for mates, for first-time directors, for would-be and wannabe producers, and not one has been made into a film, mainly because of the insanely complex financial set-up of British productions, and the Machiavellian manoeuvering of Hollywood studios (and, to be fair, I probably don’t have the right mindset now).
Paramount produced about fifteen screenplays of my novel ‘Rune’ before binning it. The ‘Roofworld’s script passed through the hands of at least twenty different directors and exists in dozens of script versions, but remains in limbo. ‘Psychoville’ collapsed at the start of production. ‘Spanky’ folded when director Guillermo Del Toro pulled out. When it comes to a film version, each novel has its own peculiar history of mishap and heartbreak. Michael Marshall Smith, a writer I admire, entered his own personal hell when he sold his novel ‘Spares’ to Steven Spielberg’s production company. The film was never made, but it was ripped off (although not by Mr Spielberg).
Because, although it’s something nobody speaks about, Hollywood is very good at catching trends on the rebound. Remember ‘Fungus the Bogeyman’? Did you think of him when ‘Shrek’ appeared? How about Roger Dean’s ‘Yes’ album covers? Have you seen ‘Avatar’? How about ‘Adam Link’ and ‘I, Robot’?
Well, it’s probably not conscious copying and it probably doesn’t matter. Perhaps one should accept homages gracefully. All we can do as writers is try to be as original as possible – and wait for someone to pay tribute, even if they don’t pay cash.