Prequels Always Suck (Unless They Stick to One Golden Rule)

From CNET:

We live in a world of sequels, reboots and spinoffs. But the absolute worst of a world where nothing is original? Prequels. Prequels suck.

Unless…

From Lord of the Rings to Game of Thrones, from Obi-Wan Kenobi to Andor, a prequel has to follow one golden rule to justify its existence.

A prequel has to tell us something we don’t already know.

What is a prequel? It’s a story that delves back into an earlier point in the backstory of a fictional series. The term was apparently first used in 1958 by sci-fi author Anthony Boucher, though creators have stepped back in time to explore the history of their characters since ancient Greek epic poem The Cypria filled in events before The Iliad, or ol’ Bill Shakespeare followedeth Richard III by rewinding to Richard II. As franchises and cinematic universes have become the dominant force in media, we’ve seen a glut of such tales, including 2022’s biggest TV shows: Game of Thrones spin-off House of the Dragon, Lord of the Rings story The Rings of Power and Star Wars series Andor — which is technically a prequel to a prequel!

It was Star Wars that brought the term “prequel” into the forefront of the modern media industry. In the late 1990s, I wasn’t alone in getting excited about the Star Wars prequels. George Lucas telling new Star Wars stories? Yes please! A bunch of cool stars, including the pitch-perfect casting of indie darling Ewan MacGregor as a young Obi-Wan Kenobi? Sign me up! And the Force was strong with the Phantom Menace trailer, which marked a significant moment in the early history of the nascent Internet.

The excitement didn’t last.

I’m not going to rehash every criticism of the Star Wars prequels — which actually weren’t all bad — and I’m not here to single out George Lucas, who after all did give us the original trilogy. I refer to the infamous Star Wars films because they’re the first modern prequels, and in some ways they’re the apotheosis of the problem with prequel stories.

The pleasure of a prequel — or sequel or reboot or remake — is obvious. Any opportunity to spend more time with a beloved character is welcome. And if, as with Star Wars or Breaking Bad, the story has come to a natural end, a simple way to dip into that world again is to go back to an earlier point in the story. See the start of the Empire, or the origin of Saul Goodman in Better Call Saul. And it’s always fun to re-create a beloved story on new terms — basically, playing “Who would you cast in a remake of…?”, the fun game my friends and I used to play at school because we didn’t have girlfriends.

. . . .

And look at The Hobbit movies, a prequel trilogy to the Lord of the Rings series. OK, I know plenty of people love those movies and relish the return to Middle-earth. But that’s one movie’s worth of story stretched into three overlong epics. Do we really need these multiple movies, or could directors like Peter Jackson, Jon Watts (Spider-Man) and Taika Waititi (Thor) spend those years doing something new and original instead?

At least The Hobbit doesn’t actively contradict the beloved original films, another potential danger of a prequel. When a prequel messes with the continuity and canon of a series, it runs the risk of rendering the original nonsensical. Star Trek prequel TV shows Enterprise and Discovery both found themselves stuck in such a continuity cul-de-sac that they had to resort to time travel silliness to make it work (the same nonsense that hamstrung the big-screen JJ Abrams reboot). And once again, we can go back to Star Wars: When various characters meet each other in the prequels, it actually contradicts the original films.

But when it all comes down to it, the fundamental flaw with prequels is that all too often, all they tell us is what we already know. Ultimately, nine hours of prequel movies explaining Anakin Skywalker’s family history don’t have the emotional impact of the single line “No… I am your father.”

Link to the rest at CNET and thanks to F. for the tip.

How Are Books Adapted for the Screen? Two Agents Demystify the Process

From Jane Friedman:

Over the last couple of years, it’s been tough not to notice the increase in dramatic rights deals in the book industry. A quick search on Publishers Marketplace reveals a new film or television deal almost every week. Publishers Weekly’s “page-to-screen” news feed is equally active, and The Hollywood Reporter recently ran a piece on How the Publishing World Is Muscling In on Hollywood Deals.

These deals don’t appear to be limited to a particular genre or category. Streaming services and film producers are expressing an interest in a wide range of book properties—fiction and nonfiction for both adult and children’s audiences. And from the outset, it looks as though they are inviting authors—bestselling and debut—to take part in the adaptation process, at least to an extent.

During a PEN America event I attended a few months ago, Your Option on Options, one of the speakers noted that the rise in streaming companies, coupled with the pandemic, has made today a golden age for IP content. Curious to find out if this is true, I reached out to Allison Hunter of Trellis Literary Management and Jennifer Weltz of Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, both of whom represent authors whose work has been or is being adapted for the screen. As with all my literary agent Q&As, neither knew the other’s identity until after they provided their answers to my questions below.

Why don’t we start by defining what a book-to-screen option is. Is it correct to say that this is an agreement whereby a producer is granted the rights to adapt an author’s book for television or film?

Is there a standard fee, term, or renewal process for options, or do these vary widely in the same way that book advances vary?

How does an option differ from a shopping agreement, and what is more common today?

Allison Hunter: Yes, an option is an exclusive right to shop the book to producers, studios, directors, writers, and actors to see if anyone is interested in turning the book into a movie, TV show or limited series. Pre-pandemic, options were usually for a 12-month period, but now we’re seeing more 18- and 24-month options, as it’s taking longer to get projects made. Option fees do vary widely, from the very low (a few thousand dollars) to the high (hundreds of thousands).

A shopping agreement similarly asks for exclusivity but doesn’t offer any payment in exchange. It’s a way to test the waters to see if there is any interest in the property without a financial commitment. Shopping agreements are generally for a shorter time period than option agreements (often six months), because there is no money offered. They are becoming more and more common, especially when it’s not a competitive situation.

Jennifer Weltz: Yes, that is correct, and there are no standard fees, terms, or renewal processes for options. These vary even more than book advances. But I would say that terms usually aren’t shorter than three or six months and aren’t longer than 24 months; they can be 6 months, 9 months, 12 months, 18 months. It’s more important to ask: How new is the book? How desired is the book? And if a producer wants to have it for a long period of time, how is the author getting compensated for that exclusive time with the book?

A shopping agreement has become more and more popular with producers because this involves no or little money. Also, the producer is already attached to the project, which gives them the safety of knowing you can’t cut them out of the deal. If you’re doing a shopping agreement, I would encourage you to do it for as short a period of time as possible. It’s basically saying that the producer has limited time to make the magic happen, and if not, you both part ways.

Does your agency partner with television and film co-agents, or do you pitch books directly to producers, production companies, studios, or streaming services?

Do you attempt to sell dramatic rights for all the books your agency represents, or only those that seem well suited for adaptation? In what cases, if any, would the publisher retain and exploit these rights?

AH: We partner with co-agents, who have the relationships in Hollywood that we do not. Our goal is to find co-agents for all narrative projects, fiction and nonfiction. We never allow the publisher to retain film rights. We consider those rights extremely valuable, and only in very rare cases can a publisher make a better deal for film rights than our co-agents can. We want to give our authors as much input and control in potential film adaptations as possible, which is why we always prefer to handle those rights.

JW: We do both. We work with some amazing co-agents, but we are an agency that’s almost 45 years old with a huge list of books, and not all co-agents are aware of some of our books. For example, just today, I had somebody contact me about a series of books from the late eighties or early nineties that had reverted, and they wanted to know if rights were available for film. We deal directly with producers who contact us directly, and we negotiate our deals in-house. But if we’re pitching them a book, we have wonderful co-agents we refer them to.

The publisher does not retain film rights. If a publisher is attempting to obtain film rights, question whether you should be doing a deal with that publisher. Sometimes that’s your only option and they have you over a barrel. Obviously, there are exceptions to every rule, such as publishers who have a first-look deal with a studio; there’s nothing wrong with this if it doesn’t bind you to the terms. But we retain film rights for almost all the books we have ever done in 45 years.

We sell dramatic rights for all our books, but not all books lend them themselves to film. The ones that we actively go out and try and sell tend to be ones that might lead to a series or to a film documentary. This means fiction as well as nonfiction books work well for the screen.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

Young People Discover Hot New Writer—Agatha Christie

From The Wall Street Journal:

Agatha Christie became famous in the 1920s as a mystery writer.

For younger generations, she’s the next hot thing.

Shashwata Roy, a 17-year-old fan of space and computers, tweeted in March that Ms. Christie’s 1926 novel “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” is an “absolute must read…review coming up.”

The student in Kolkata said he planned to read all her novels. “The unique way of storytelling is something I think is very rare nowadays,” he said.

The British author may be long gone, but her fictional whodunits—often solved by an elderly British lady or a fussy Belgian detective—have made her a star with fans more used to streaming Marvel movies or scrolling through TikTok—where videos labeled with the tag #AgathaChristie have racked up more than 26 million views.

“Agatha is sparking with younger readers, and I don’t see that with any other writer from her period,” said Devin Abraham, owner of the Once Upon A Crime mystery bookstore in Minneapolis. Customers who ask for books by Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett—both contemporaries of Ms. Christie—are generally in their 50s or 60s, said Ms. Abraham.

. . . .

“Who’s that? I have never heard of Raymond Chandler,” said Ari DiDomenico, a 17-year-old Christie fan in San Diego. She said classic novelists, such as Jane Austen, didn’t hold her attention since the “language was too old-timey.”

“Agatha Christie’s writing style is more to the point, and the pacing works really well,” she said.

The jump in interest can be traced to the 2017 movie version of “Murder on the Orient Express,” featuring Kenneth Branagh as the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. It “was game changing,” said James Prichard, the chief executive officer of Agatha Christie Ltd., which manages the literary and media rights to the author’s works. “Sales went up for all the books.” (There was also a spike in popularity following the 1974 movie version of “Murder on the Orient Express,” said Mr. Prichard, who is Ms. Christie’s great-grandson.)

“Death on the Nile,” which also starred Mr. Branagh as Poirot and an ensemble of young movie stars in a sexy tale of double-cross and murder, came out this year and has grossed more than $137 million globally, according to Box Office Mojo.

. . . .

Sales of Agatha Christie books in the U.S. rose 39% in the first quarter from last year’s period, according to book tracker NPD BookScan.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

Demand for TV rights ‘never been higher’

From The Bookseller:

In an overcrowded market with the proliferation of streaming platforms alongside the traditional broadcaster, creating content based on previous IP is an ever-growing trend . . . Not that it wasn’t a trend before, it’s just that IP generation (writing a book, creating a podcast, a YouTube series) has never been as accessible or opportunity-filled as it is today. Books still have the lion’s share of the source material market for TV and cinema adaptation. But not all books are created equal when it comes to adaptability. 

Some genres are more easily transferrable to the screen and tend to create a better connection between the source audience and the series viewers. Classics of world literature still retain the trophy when it comes to literary adaptations. 

Across genres, from Jane Austen to Bram Stoker, these stories have been revisited time and time again in the visual medium, allowing younger generations to discover them anew.

Every time a new “Dracula”, a new “Pride and Prejudice”, a new “Frankenstein” or “Sherlock” hit the screen, the original texts are looked at with fresh eyes, as curiosity around the source material is reinvigorated, and audiences revisit the original books to discover those nuances that can only exist in the written form. It is definitely true that you can make one book from a series, but a thousand series from a book.

When it comes to new titles, thrillers reliably make promising adaptation fuel. The booming of new authors in the thriller space and the insatiable global appetite for crime stories that has always characterized fans of television series are a match made in heaven. From the most established and well-recognised IP to the newcomers, content providers have always been eager to turn a “page-turner” into a bingeable series. From HBO’s “Sharp Objects” (Gillian Flynn) or “Big Little Lies” (Liane Moriarty), to “The Haunting of Hill House” (Shirley Jackson), from “Hannibal” (Thomas Harris) to “The Alienist” (Caleb Carr), watching a series based on a thriller novel has never been so satisfying. 

Fantasy, however, is probably the genre that benefits the most when it comes to screen adaptation. From the gothic saga of “The Originals” to the modern tale of “Discovery of Witches”, from the epic battles of “Game of Thrones” to the generational conflicts of “His Dark Materials, thanks to the evolving world of CGI and special effects, it’s become increasingly possible to bring to life with staggering precision and realism the worlds we imagined in the page. But the bigger the book, the bigger the responsibility of those who adapt it: for if a book has managed to captivate thousands of fans around the world, one needs to be very cautious and respectful when it comes to translating onto the screen, so as not to lose the connection that the readers have with the original story. It also of course comes with the unique opportunity of attracting a completely new pool of fans, and producers should be equal parts thrilled and humbled by the prospect of transforming a beloved fantasy book into something that can grace screens the world over.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

PG says this trend is all the more reason for authors to hold on to their subsidiary rights or, if traditionally-published, bump the royalty rates up for subrights or negotiate for an increasing percentage of subsidiary rights as gross income to the publisher from subrights hits certain revenue levels.

Most books, indie or traditional, aren’t adapted for motion pictures or televisions, but if lightning strikes with a big subrights deal, it will almost certainly because the author did a great job of writing the book instead of the publisher doing better than usual in selling print and ebook rights.

Hollywood Loves Books

From Marie Claire:

When author and illustrator Ariella Elovic drafted her book proposal for Cheeky: A Head-to-Toe Memoir, she never considered that the graphic memoir about body acceptance might one day become a television series. Growing up, her biggest insecurities were her visibly hairy arms, sideburns, unibrow, and upper lip hair; as a young adult, she created an illustrated alter-ego to help her process all of the ways her body was changing. When she signed with literary agent Meredith Kaffel Simonoff of DeFiore and Company, the agent offhandedly noted that she could see the world of Cheeky expanding on a streaming service such as Netflix or Hulu. After the book was finished, Simonoff’s coagent at United Talent Agency (UTA)—one of the four major Hollywood talent agencies—presented Cheeky at a general meeting where talent agents brainstorm creative partnerships between their clients. Throughout the summer of 2020, Elovic, 30, took the resulting one-on-one phone calls with actors, directors, and showrunners looking for a partner with whom she clicked creatively. She hit it off with an established comedian. “It basically felt like what we would create together would be a really strong combination of our two brains,” Elovic says. Though the partnership has yet to be announced, the pair are working with a production company on a “mini-pilot” to pitch to streaming services. A few weeks ago, the author quit her day job as a project manager at Paperless Post. It’s a big commitment, she says, but “I figured at some point, I [would] have to quit my job to help prep material. I’m going to want to give it my all.”

Cheeky was not a bestseller, celebrity book club pick, or runaway hit at launch. It received positive reviews and a decent amount of attention. Its Hollywood prospects are not noteworthy because of being extraordinary, but rather, increasingly ordinary. In 2020 alone, streamers produced 532 new television shows. Their appetite for content is fueling a golden age of adaptations, according to Michelle Weiner, head of the books department at Creative Artists Agency (CAA), which includes the book-to-film department and the publishing group. “The volume of film and television being produced has increased dramatically,” she says. “A book is one of the greatest story bibles”—what TV producers use to track details about characters, plots, and more—“that a television show or a film can have. It has a fully-fleshed-out plot, highly sophisticated characters, and, often, a very inventive world.” As a result, there is more opportunity than ever for authors who wish to adapt their work for the big (or small, or even pocket-sized) screen.

Every year, the streaming industry becomes even hungrier for intellectual property to adapt. “What Hollywood needs is more and more content because of all the outlets,” says Knopf editor-at-large Peter Gethers, who previously ran Penguin Random House’s book-to-film department and now co-produces projects for Universal Studios, STUDIOCANAL, and Food Network. But in many cases, before studios buy the rights to a book, they “need some form of validation, so they know something is good.”

Of course, production companies, like readers, can make judgements via reviews and The New York Times bestseller list. But increasingly, producers look to celebrity book clubs to help figure out which titles could become blockbuster streaming hits. CAA—an agency that represents not only authors but also screenwriters, directors, and some of Hollywood’s top actors—has worked with clients such as Reese Witherspoon and Emma Roberts to create those book clubs. Weiner calls the platforms “a win for every aspect of our business,” because the featured authors increase their audience sizes, while their projects become attractive to film and television buyers who then feel like they’re investing in a project that has a larger, built-in viewership. (It sounds like a circular system because it is.)

Link to the rest at Marie Claire

How Hollywood’s biggest stars lost their clout

From The Economist:

HOLLYWOOD LABOUR disputes have a certain theatrical flair. When Scarlett Johansson sued Disney in July, claiming she had been underpaid for her role in “Black Widow”, the studio launched an Oscar-worthy broadside against the actress’s “callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the covid-19 pandemic”. In September film crews marched to demand better conditions, brandishing placards designed by America’s finest prop-makers. And when WarnerMedia decided to release “Dune” on its streaming service on the same day it hit cinemas on October 21st, the movie’s director, Denis Villeneuve, huffed magnificently that “to watch ‘Dune’ on a television… is to drive a speedboat in your bathtub.”

The streaming revolution has sent money gushing into Hollywood as studios vie to attract subscribers. Netflix boasts its content slate in the fourth quarter will be its strongest yet, with new titles such as “Don’t Look Up”, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and the final season of “Money Heist”, a Spanish bank-robbing saga. On November 12th Disney will announce its latest commissioning blitz, with new shows for Disney+ expected to include “Star Wars” and Marvel spin-offs. In total streaming firms’ content spending could reach $50bn this year, according to Bloomberg.

Yet despite the largesse it is a turbulent time in Tinseltown, as everyone from A-list stars to the crew who style their hair goes to war with the film studios. Some of the disputes have arisen from the pandemic, which has upended production and release schedules. But the tension has a deeper cause. As streaming disrupts the TV and movie business, the way that talent is compensated is changing. Most workers are better off, but megastars’ power is fading.

Start with the pandemic. As cinemas closed, studios scrambled to find screens for their movies. Some, like MGM’s latest James Bond flick, were delayed by more than a year. Others were sent to streaming platforms—sometimes without the agreement of actors or directors. Those whose pay was linked to box-office revenues were compensated, either behind the scenes (as WarnerMedia did in the case of “Dune”) or after very public spats (as with Disney and Ms Johansson).

Yet even before covid, streaming was changing the balance of power between studios and creatives. First, there is more cash around. “There’s an overwhelming demand and need for talent, driven by the streaming platforms and the amount of money that they’re spending,” says Patrick Whitesell, executive chairman of Endeavour, whose WME talent agency counted Charlie Chaplin among its clients. Three years ago there were six main bidders for new movie projects, in the form of Netflix and the five major Hollywood studios. Now, with the arrival of Amazon, Apple and others, there are nearer a dozen. Streamers pay 10-50% more than the rest, estimates another agent.

Below-the-line workers, such as cameramen and sound engineers, are also busier. Competition among studios has created a “sellers’ market”, says Spencer MacDonald of Bectu, a union in Britain, where Netflix makes more shows than anywhere outside North America. In the United States the number of jobs in acting, filming and editing will grow by a third in the ten years to 2030, four times America’s total job-growth rate, estimates the Bureau of Labour Statistics.

The streamers’ hunger for variety means their seasons have half as many episodes as broadcast shows, and are less frequently renewed. That means “people are having to hustle for work more often,” says one script supervisor. A fatal accident on the set of “Rust”, a movie starring Alec Baldwin, has stirred a debate about safety amid the frantic pace of production. But the streamers’ short, well-paid seasons allow more time for CV-burnishing side-projects, and the work is more creatively rewarding. “Netflix and Apple both nominate every role, in every category they can” for awards, reports one set-designer—who adds that the price of that can be 90-hour weeks. IATSE, a union which represents 60,000 below-the-line workers in America, has reached an agreement with studios for better pay and conditions; its members will begin voting on the deal on November 12th.

More controversial is the streamers’ payment model, which is creating new winners and losers. Creative stars used to get an upfront fee and a “back end” deal that promised a share of the project’s future earnings. For streamers, a show’s value is harder to calculate, lying in its ability to recruit and retain subscribers rather than draw punters to the box office. Studios also want the freedom to send their content straight to streaming without wrangling with a star like Ms Johansson whose pay is linked to box-office takings. The upshot is that studios are following Netflix’s lead in “buying out” talent with big upfront fees, followed by minimal if any bonuses if a project does well.

That suits most creatives just fine. “Buy-outs have been very good for talent,” says Mr Whitesell. “You’re negotiating what success would be… for that piece of content, and then you’re getting it guaranteed to you.” Plus, instead of waiting up to ten years for your money, “you’re getting it the day the show drops”. America’s 50,000 actors made an average of just $22 per hour last year, when they weren’t parking cars and pumping gas, so most are happy to take the money up front and let the studio bear the risk. Another agent confides that some famous clients prefer the streamers’ secrecy around ratings to the public dissection of box-office flops.

For the top actors and writers, however, the new system is proving costly. “People are being underpaid for success and overpaid for failure,” says John Berlinski, a lawyer at Kasowitz Benson Torres who represents A-listers. The old contracts were like a “lottery ticket”, he says. Create a hit show that ran for six or seven seasons and you might earn $100m on the back end; make a phenomenon like “Seinfeld” and you could clear $1bn.

A few star showrunners such as Shonda Rhimes, a producer of repeat TV hits currently at Netflix, can still swing nine-figure deals. But creators of successful shows are more likely to end up with bonuses of a couple of million dollars a year. And though actors are receiving what sound like huge payments for streamers’ movies—Dwayne Johnson is reportedly getting $50m from Amazon for “Red One”, for example—in the past they could make double that from a back-end deal.

. . . .

But their unwillingness to venerate A-listers also has an economic rationale. The star system, in which actors like Archibald Leach were transformed into idols like Cary Grant, was created by studios to de-risk the financially perilous business of movie-making. A blockbuster, which today might cost $200m to shoot plus the same in marketing, has one fleeting chance to break even at the box office. The gamble is less risky if a star guarantees an audience.

Today, studios are de-risking their movies not with stars but with intellectual property. Disney, which dominates the box office, relies on franchises such as Marvel, whose success does not turn on which actors are squeezed into the spandex leotards. Amazon’s priciest project so far is a $465m “Lord of the Rings” spin-off with no megastar attached. Netflix’s biggest acquisition is the back-catalogue of Roald Dahl, a children’s author, which it bought in September for around $700m.

Link to the rest at The Economist

PG suggests filing this item under “Disruptive Technology Innovation.”

From the viewers’ standpoint, in the old days, if you wanted to see a new movie, you had to make certain you made it to the theater during the film’s first run. If you missed that, you were relegated to watching it on a 27-inch television set with a speaker that cost the manufacturer $3.00.

Once in a blue moon, a giant hit would have a second run so those who missed the first release and those who hated how the videocassette version looked on the small screen could see it on a bit screen with great sound.

Appointments are no longer necessary to watch big-time movies on a big screen with great sound.

Large-screen LED, a soundbar with woofer (or surround sound if you’re really picky) and a reasonably fast internet connection and you can have a better experience than you can at a ten (maybe twenty) year-old theater. And you can have it exactly when you want to see it and watch it all over again with great image and sound quality whenever you want to.

For those who say, “PG, the screen in a theater is much larger than any megabuck LED TV,” PG says, “You’re absolutely right, but how far away is the theater screen from you compared to how far the LED TV is from you?”

Per PG’s quick and dirty online research, the average human has a field of vision of about 120 degrees. However, much of that span is peripheral vision, which is not how you want to watch a movie. Peripheral vision is mostly sensitive to movements and, to a lesser extent, color. You see something out of the corner of your eye, but you have to look at it directly to understand what it is.

If you want to read some text on your computer screen or in a book, you’ll realize that your visual span for reading is much less than 120 degrees.

PG is typing this on a 27-inch computer monitor. As he reads over the text, his eyes are going back and forth because he can’t perceive and process all the words in a single line of text on this monitor at the same time. Given the distance PG is sitting from his monitor, he has to move his eyes about 30 degrees back and forth to read and process the text.

Seeing and understanding an image requires less processing, so you have a larger field of vision, but, depending upon what the image is, you’ll still be moving your eyes around to fully understand the image.

Here’s a familiar image:

Depending on the size of your screen, you looked at the image in a different way. If you saw the image on a small screen (like a smart phone), you took in most of the image without moving your eyes a great deal. If you were looking at the image on a larger screen, you’ll likely notice that your eyes start by rapidly moving from place to face on the image in order to assess what it is.

For PG, his first perception was of the eyes, then the face, then down across the clothing and back and forth from the hands to the forearms.

After a second or two, if the image had disappeared and PG was asked to provide a detailed description of the background at various apparent distances behind the subject, PG could provide only a general sense of what was there.

As a matter of fact, while he was viewing the background, he discovered for the first time that there is a winding road at the left shoulder of the subject and a stone bridge spanning a river over the right shoulder.

Back to his original point – you can make the image or a streaming movie as perceptually large as you like by moving closer or farther aways from the from the screen.

For PG a maximum width of a screen that he could use for viewing a motion picture is about 60 degrees and he would definitely prefer a narrower angle if there was a lot of detailed visual information on the screen. If the information was moving and changing, a much narrower angle would be preferable.

He just checked with his home television and he sits where the screen occupies about 45 degrees of vision, pretty close to the degree of vision that his computer monitor when he is working.

Stillwater: Amanda Knox Reaction & Murder Case Controversy Explained

From ScreenRant:

It’s not strange for filmmakers to take inspiration from real-life people and events, but sometimes, the way these are handled in fiction does more harm to the people they are based on – such is the case of Stillwater, based on the Amanda Knox case and who has called out those involved for profiting off her controversial and complex case. The coronavirus pandemic forced studios to delay their releases and reorganize their schedules, and one of those movies that went through a couple of date changes is Stillwater, directed by Tom McCarthy and starring Matt Damon. Stillwater is finally out, but not without a lot of controversy.

. . . .

Stillwater tells the story of Bill Baker (Damon), an unemployed oil rig worker from Oklahoma who sets out alongside a French woman called Virginie (Camille Cottin) to prove his convicted daughter’s, Allison (Abigail Breslin), innocence, who had spent four years in prison for the murder of her roommate. Stillwater premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in July 2021 and was released in theaters at the end of the month, but instead of making headlines for its quality, the movie has been involved in controversy for using Amanda Knox’s case as inspiration without her consent, with her calling out Damon and McCarthy on social media.

. . . .

Amanda Knox took Twitter to call out those behind Stillwater for using her story for profit and dragging her name into it for the sake of marketing. Knox explains that Stillwater has been marketed as being “inspired by the Amanda Knox saga”, focusing on the sensationalist side of what happened to her rather than on facts. Knox also explains how authorities and thus the media focused on building a specific image of her, even though she’s innocent and wasn’t involved in the murder she was accused of and continues to be linked to by the media. Of course, there’s also the fact that her story was used without her consent and fictionalized, once again painting her under the wrong light, with the movie “reinforcing an image of her as a guilty and untrustworthy person”. Knox also invited McCarthy and Damon to her podcast so they can clear all this up, but there hasn’t been a response from them yet.

. . . .

In 2009, Amanda Knox was wrongfully convicted for the murder of Meredith Kercher, her roommate in Perugia, Italy. What led to that and what followed for years was a messy investigation by Italian authorities in which Knox and her boyfriend at the time, Raffaele Sollecito, were portrayed in a negative light, leading to a lot of controversy as the interrogations and the overall investigation was put into question by U.S. lawyers and forensic experts. After a long and tiring legal process, during which Knox points out she had “near-zero agency” and no control over the image the media was building around her, Italy’s highest court exonerated Knox and Sollecito in 2015, but she had already spent almost four years in prison. Knox returned to the US, completed her degree, and wrote the book Waiting to Be Heard: A Memoir, and has worked as a journalist and activist ever since.

. . . .

Stillwater isn’t the first movie to take “inspiration” from Amanda Knox’s story, such as Lifetime’s Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy, for which Knox actually sued them over.

Link to the rest at ScreenRant

The Rise of Must-Read TV

From The Atlantic:

If you want a preview of next year’s Emmy Awards, just take a walk past your local bookstore. According to data drawn from Publishers Marketplace, the industry’s clearinghouse for news and self-reported book deals, literary adaptations to television have been on a steady climb. The site has listed nearly 4,000 film and television deals since it launched in 2000, and both the number and proportion of TV deals have increased dramatically in that same period. Last year, reported TV adaptations exceeded film adaptations for the first time ever.

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Literary adaptations are big business. For streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, they provide a reliable source of content for limited or multiseason series; Publisher’s Weekly reported in 2019 that Netflix was on a “book-buying spree,” and the company has shown no sign of slowing. Rotten Tomatoes cites 125 literary adaptations in development right now.

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All of this has had a profound effect on the literary world. As you might expect, becoming a TV show increases a novel’s popularity enormously. Adaptations can drive book sales, as in the case of this winter’s breakout hit Bridgerton. The Regency-era bodice-ripper is not alone: A number of backlist titles, such as The Queen’s Gambit, have enjoyed a late-in-life revival thanks to Netflix’s attention.

We see evidence of the adaptation effect in other measures of literary success as well. We compiled a list of about 400 21st-century novels that met certain criteria—inclusion in top-10 best-seller lists, critics’ picks, publishers’ comp titles, and so on. Within this group, a novel that becomes a show will receive about four times as many ratings on Goodreads.com as a novel that has never been adapted to TV or film. (Film still has a bigger effect, boosting a novel’s Goodreads ratings more than 1000 percent; TV nonetheless dramatically improves the fortunes of a novel.

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Television adaptations are influencing every stage of a book’s life, including how it’s acquired in the first place. Scouts from networks and streaming services are talking more and more with publishers about big- and small-screen options at earlier stages of negotiations, in many cases before the ink on a book deal is even dry. Production companies such as Anonymous Content are bringing publishing-industry veterans on staff, and agencies and scouting firms are hiring specialists in literary development. Clare Richardson, a senior scout for film and TV at Maria B. Campbell Associates, one of the firms that works with Netflix, told us, “An important part of my job is having long-standing connections with literary agents and editors—what they’re reading, what they’re liking, what’s working. I’m trying to dive deep and find things as early as possible.” Richardson adds that simultaneous submission—that is, when a book deal and a screen option are negotiated at the same time—is common. Writers, agents, and editors have more incentive than ever to craft novels with TV in mind. The system rewards the adaptable.

So we wondered what kinds of novels were most likely to end up on screen. What qualities—of genre, structure, or style—make a novel seem most adaptable? We coded our sample of contemporary fiction not only for what has been successfully brought to TV, but also for what producers and scouts have optioned in the belief that it could be.

Reviewing that larger sample, we noticed several common features that unite texts as seemingly disparate as A Visit from the Goon Squad (which Jennifer Egan herself said she modeled on The Sopranos),N. K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season, Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings, and Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer (all of which have been optioned for television). Although not every novel under contract for potential adaptation shares all of these features, they do seem to possess a consistent set of what we call “option aesthetics”: episodic plots, ensemble casts, and intricate world-building. These are the characteristics of contemporary fiction that invite a move from the printed page to the viewing queue.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic