Source: @seanbhood at Genrehacks
#screenwriting #film #screenplay
“Sometimes I do interviews on this blog in order to reach out to writers and filmmakers I admire. This is certainly the case with Ed Brubaker, author of the award winning graphic novel series Criminal, as well as Incognito and the recent series Fatale. He’s one of those comic book writers who, as the cliche goes, “transcends the genre” and get’s reviewed in the New York times. If you are a fan of hard-boiled crime fiction and loved the movie ”Drive,” you should click on the links above and check out his work.
Hollywood has noticed him too, and much of his original work has been bought or optioned. This is pretty common for popular novels and comics, but what interests me is that Ed himself has been hired to do the screenplay adaptation for one of his most outstanding stories Criminal: Coward.
Readers of Genre Hacks know that I’m obsessed with finding ways for storytellers to get their original work up on the screen. Ed graciously agreed to answer some questions about the advantages and challenges of adapting ones own work from one medium to another.
SH: When you started writing your Criminal series, did you think of the possibility of any of the stories eventually becoming films?
EB: Coward actually started as a screenplay idea. But I could never find the time to work on it, and I kept having other ideas for the character and other ideas for crime stories, and really wanting to do a crime comic series. So I ended up taking the basic germ of it, and using that when we launched CRIMINAL at Icon. When I wrote it, finally, like most writers, I hoped someone might like it enough to make it into a movie. But I didn’t write it as a “movie pitch on paper” like you often see in comics these past few years. I was building a world and exploring characters, and trying to make the best comic story, issue by issue, that I could.
SH: In my own career I been frustrated by the industry’s focus on “pre-branded” material (sequels, remakes, and adaptations.) Many writers are now writing original books or graphic novels rather than original spec scripts. I’m thinking of David Guggenheim (Safe House) made a deal to co-write his first novel, and Andrew Pyper, who just sold his unpublished book manuscript for The Demonologist to Universal. Would you recommend that writers with original story should try to prove their concepts in another medium in order to build a following and prove that the story works?
EB: Boy, I couldn’t say, really. I’ve been writing stories and comics for most of my life, so it’s kind of all I know how to do. I always envied guys like Shane Black or Scott Frank, who got to write all these cool crime movies. I just always did comics, from when I was a kid, and always wrote fiction. When I was in my 20s, I wrote movie reviews and articles for a living, while writing and drawing my own comics on the side, because it was just something I had to do.
It’s odd that we’ve ended up in a place where comics, which is a fairly low-paying field (compared to film or tv writing) have become part of the larger pop culture in Hollywood, and I feel fortunate now that pretty much every studio or production company has a few executives that are into comics. But that’s a real recent thing. I was coming down here 10 years ago, and that wasn’t the case. Back then it would be someone’s assistant, now it’s the head of the company, sometimes.
But I’ve always thought, write the story in whatever medium you want to see it in. I did a pilot for Fox a year or so ago, and that was just an original idea I had for a TV show, not a comic idea or a novel idea. I think that’s important, to respect the audience and the material. If you do a book or a comic that’s just a movie pitch, its unlikely you’ll end up with say a Megan Abbott or Joe Hill novel, or a Neil Gaiman comic. You know what I mean?
So I would say, if you have an idea, make sure it makes sense as a comic, or a novel, or a web-series, whatever. Don’t just take your spec script idea and shove it into another medium. Novels and comics and movies have totally different languages, that make them all better at different things.
SH: Do you think we are reaching a time when it is common for the original writer of a book or graphic novel to also write the screenplay adaptation? (I’m thinking of Suzanne Collins are her involvement in the Hunger Games film.)
EB: I don’t know. I think I would’ve sold some of my books a few years earlier if I didn’t want to write the adaptations. INCOGNITO sold fairly quickly, and there’s been not even a hint of anyone wanting me involved in the scripting. Which on that one, I was fine with. But with Coward, and most of the Criminal books, I either didn’t want them adapted, or wanted to be involved, so I insisted. But I still get the sense, outside of independent producers, that screenwriting is this club that novelists and comic writers have to break into, through force of will. It’s certainly not something most producers or studios will suggest. They’d always rather have their own people or a writer they know, doing that adaptation.
But you look at someone like Will Beall, who got his start as a cop writing a novel, then adapting that book - LA Rex - and then got hired on Castle, and now is a fairly hot screenwriter just a few years later. So it…….”