Friday, June 23, 2017

Sarah Azaransky's "This Worldwide Struggle"

Sarah Azaransky is Assistant Professor of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary. She is the author of The Dream is Freedom: Pauli Murray and American Democratic Faith and the editor of Religion and Politics in America's Borderlands.

Here she shares her take on adapting her new book, This Worldwide Struggle: Religion and the International Roots of the Civil Rights Movement, for the screen:
A crackerjack production team is necessary for This Worldwide Struggle, a movie about a group of black American Christians who looked abroad, even in other religious traditions, for ideas and resources to transform American democracy.

The location manager needs to have extensive contacts in South Asia to chart Howard and Sue Bailey Thurman’s five-month journey in 1935-1936 through what is now Sri Lanka, Burma, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and throughout India, when they met many activists and intellectuals, including Rabindranath Tagore and Mohandas Gandhi. After meeting with the Thurmans, Gandhi proclaimed it may be through black Americans “that the unadulterated message of non-violence will be delivered to the world.”

A skilled lighting team is necessary to capture William Stuart Nelson’s awe of an Indian dawn. Nelson and his wife Blanche spent a year in India, working with the American Friends Service Committee in 1947-1948. On a visit to the largest Christian meeting in the world in southeastern India, Nelson wrote that “few sights more beautiful than dawn in Travancore… Slowly many objects and events take shape; bullock carts carrying their loads of cocoanut hulls to market, a great work elephant lumbering toward you… workers already in the fields. The rising sun, lighting up the green fields and tinting the flowering trees.”

Only an expert sound mixer could capture layers of joyous celebration on independence day in Calcutta, when, according to Blanche Nelson, “hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children…rushed through the streets on foot, by rickshaw, by bus, by tram, by automobiles, in lorries but always shouting ‘Jai Hind! Jai Hind!’ They shouted until their voices completely disappeared and then they painted their throats with lime and started all over again.”

The director will need to have an eye for the pageantry of world historical events, such as Ghana’s independence, and the deftness to portray crackling exchanges between powerful men. Coretta Scott King, who was on Accra’s polo grounds that night in March 1957, recalls how the crowd listened with rapt attention as Kwame Nkrumah called for moments of silence to mark the transition to independence; then, as Nkrumah raised his hand in celebration, fifty thousand roared in unison “Ghana is free!” Earlier that evening, her husband had his first high level encounter with the American executive. Eisenhower had not responded to Martin Luther King’s entreaties for a meeting. When King met Nixon, the Vice President leading the official American delegation, King reportedly said, “I’m very glad to meet you here, but I want you to come visit us down in Alabama where we are seeking the same kind of freedom the Gold Coast is celebrating.”

Certainly the casting director has her work cut out for her to find actors to portray identity-defying Pauli Murray, brilliant Bayard Rustin, and charismatic Benjamin Mays. As well as an international cast of characters, including Gandhi, Nehru, Nkrumah and many others, for This Worldwide Struggle is indeed a sweeping historical narrative, showing how the greatest American social movement had significant roots in many other parts of the world.
Learn more about This Worldwide Struggle at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Mitchell Stephens's "The Voice of America"

Mitchell Stephens is a long-time professor of Journalism at New York University and the author of A History of News, a New York Times “notable book of the year.” Stephens also has written several other books on journalism and media, including Beyond News: The Future of Journalism and the rise of the image the fall of the word. He also published Imagine There’s No Heaven: How Atheism Helped Create the Modern World.

Here Stephens dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, The Voice of America: Lowell Thomas and the Invention of 20th-Century Journalism:
A compact, confident 27-year-old American walks onto the stage of the Royal Opera House in London in August of 1919. There is to be no opera. There will be no one else on stage. Lowell Thomas will be entertaining this audience merely with a collection of images he has shot and his voice.

He is played, let us say, by Alden Ehrenreich, who is currently 27 and also comely without being aggressively handsome; who has the right air of self-possession and, of most importance, a commanding voice.

“I would like to have you close your eyes for a moment,” Thomas intones, “and try and forget that you are here in this theater, and come with me on a magic carpet out to the land of history, mystery and romance.” Somewhere in front of him out in the darkened hall his cameraman – wearing an asbestos suit and holed up in a “big walk-in steel booth,” in case the film catches fire – is madly feeding and alternating projectors. We can see the desert; a blond, beardless man in Arab robes; some charging camels.

Lowell Thomas had set out to fill the hero vacuum left by the First World War’s sluggish and brutal trench warfare with an appreciation of “a mysterious young Englishman who freed Holy Arabia from the Turks.” His hero’s name is T. E. Lawrence. Thomas has dubbed him “Lawrence of Arabia.”

In the most over-the-top of the uniformly ecstatic reviews of Thomas’ show, the Daily Telegraph, concludes that “what is modestly and prosaically described as ‘an illustrated travelogue’ of the British campaigns in Palestine and Arabia is in reality an heroic epic capable of inspiring a dozen modern emulators of Homer or Plutarch.”

More than 2 million people around the world will eventually see Thomas’ “heroic epic,” including, in London, the Queen and the British and French prime ministers. But from the presenter’s perspective the most important individual to show up in his audience is the man with a hat pulled tightly over his head who is stumbling, apologetically to a seat in the Royal Opera House on that night in August of 1919 just as Thomas is introducing his “blue-eyed poet” hero.

In 1962 Peter O’Toole was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of T. E. Lawrence in David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia, which won Best Picture. O’Toole was much too tall for the role, but well captured Lawrence’s manifold tangles, as does my choice for the role Shia LaBeouf. LaBeouf is closer in height but will require contact lenses.

Lawrence watches the show, sneaks out at the end and then, Thomas’ wife Frances reports, “a note came from Col. Lawrence, the hero man.”
*   *   *
T. E. Lawrence has been the subject of a few dozen biographies. Mine is the first of Lowell Thomas. But from a 21st-century perspective the tale of the storyteller is as interesting as that of the hero he created. Lowell Thomas would go on to become a great adventurer in his own right and the best known journalist of his day – often credited as the father of broadcast journalism, as a prime inventor of what is now disparagingly or reverently referred to as “traditional journalism.”

This film would be built around encounters between Lowell Thomas and T. E. Lawrence – in Jerusalem, in Arabia, and then in London during the Thomas show. It would not slight the complexities of that troubled Englishman. But its focus would be on the American journalist – and the journalism he was creating.
Visit Mitchell Stephens's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 19, 2017

William C. Dietz's "Seek and Destroy"

New York Times bestselling author William C. Dietz has published more than fifty novels some of which have been translated into German, French, Russian, Korean and Japanese. Dietz also wrote the script for the Legion of the Damned game (i-Phone, i-Touch, & i-Pad) based on his book of the same name--and co-wrote SONY's Resistance: Burning Skies game for the PS Vita.

He grew up in the Seattle area, spent time with the Navy and Marine Corps as a medic, graduated from the University of Washington, lived in Africa for half a year, and has traveled to six continents. He has been employed as a surgical technician, college instructor, news writer, television producer and Director of Public Relations and Marketing for an international telephone company.

Dietz is a member of the Writer’s Guild and the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. He and his wife live near Gig Harbor in Washington State where they enjoy traveling, kayaking, and reading books.

Here Dietz dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Seek and Destroy:
On May Day, 2018, sixty meteors enter Earth’s atmosphere and explode around the globe. Earthquakes and tsunamis follow. Then China attacks Europe, Asia, and the United States in the mistaken belief that the disaster is an act of war.

One of the objects strikes Washington D.C. and decimates the federal government. Surviving elements of the armed forces attempt to restore order even as American society begins to crumble. And as citizens battle each other and the military for scarce resources, a group of oligarchs create a new government, which is structured to run like a corporation. They call it The New Confederacy.

Seek And Destroy is the second volume in the America Rising trilogy, and picks up where Into The Guns left off. Both books follow a young army officer named Robin Macintyre (Mac), and Secretary of Energy Samuel T. Sloan, who is elevated to the presidency after Washington D.C. is destroyed by a meteor. Together with other freedom fighters Mac and Sloan battle to restore the country’s rightful government and defeat the New Confederacy.

When Into The Guns came out I chose Kristen Stewart to play Mac, and I still think she would be perfect for the part. Kristen has a long list of screen credits as well as a demonstrated ability to play action roles. I think there’s a great hard/soft aspect to Stewart’s persona which would be perfect for the role of Robin Macintyre.

And for the role of Samuel T. Sloan I chose actor Chris Pine, who has a proven capacity to handle action roles (three Star Trek movies plus Shadow Recruit) not to mention his role as Steve Trevor in the smash hit Wonder Woman. I hope he’s available when the call goes out. And it will, right?
Visit William C. Dietz's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Into the Guns.

My Book, The Movie: Into the Guns.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 16, 2017

Jean R. Freedman's "Peggy Seeger"

Jean R. Freedman is a folklorist and author whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Journal of American Folklore, and the Fast Folk Musical Magazine, among other publications. Her first book, Whistling in the Dark: Memory and Culture in Wartime London, analyzes popular culture and political ideology in London during World War II. She teaches at Montgomery College and George Washington University and lives in the Washington, DC area with her family.

Here, Freedman dreamcasts an adaptation of her recent biography, Peggy Seeger: A Life of Music, Love, and Politics:
Very few biographies are made into movies, which is odd, because documentaries about famous people and fictionalized “docu-dramas” are very popular. I think a biography could be a gift to a director: the biographer has written the story and done all the research, so the director can get down to the business of providing visual elements and sound. My book is the first full-length biography of an extraordinary woman, musician and activist Peggy Seeger. The title gives the three things that should be emphasized in the movie: music, love, and politics. Music should be both background and foreground. There should be scenes of Peggy singing and playing, and songs can also create mood, ease transitions between scenes, and indicate the time period in which the scenes take place. Since love and politics are two of the most exciting and dramatic things in life, the movie will focus on Peggy’s personal life intertwined with her political life. There should be elements of documentary, such as personal photographs, and perhaps newsreels of events that Peggy has written about: apartheid, the Vietnam War, the 1984-85 British miners’ strike, the Women’s Peace Camp at Greenham Common, and so forth. The viewer should leave the film singing and wanting to change the world, simultaneously.

The director should be an experienced political filmmaker who understands how to use music effectively. Top choices are Costa-Gavras and Gregory Nava. Without question, the mature Peggy should be played by Angela Lansbury. They have the same mannerisms, the same cheekbones, and the same precise manner of speaking, a legacy of having lived both in England and the United States. Lansbury is also an excellent singer. I’m not sure who should play the younger Peggy; the story could be told in retrospect and use footage of Peggy herself in her younger days. If the director does decide to cast a younger Peggy, it should be someone like Natalie Portman, pretty and intelligent-looking, with light brown hair. Peggy’s brother Pete should be played by a musician who has the same charisma and passion for social justice – Bruce Springsteen, perhaps, or Billy Bragg, if he can do an American accent. Casting her husband, Ewan MacColl, is surprisingly difficult, which is ironic because he was himself an actor. The person who plays Ewan will have to sing beautifully, speak with an English accent and occasionally a Scots accent, and look good in a beard. I suggest one of those actors who are such chameleons that you’ve seen them in three films before you realize you’ve watched the same person three times: people like Sean Penn, Eddie Redmayne, and Daniel Day-Lewis. As actors, they can do anything. But can any of them sing?
Visit Jean R. Freedman’s website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Gail Godwin's "Grief Cottage"

Gail Godwin is a three-time National Book Award finalist and the bestselling author of twelve critically acclaimed novels, including Violet Clay, Father Melancholy's Daughter, Evensong, The Good Husband and Evenings at Five. She is also the author of The Making of a Writer, her journal in two volumes (ed. Rob Neufeld). She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts grants for both fiction and libretto writing, and the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Here Godwin dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Grief Cottage:
Though I write this in a playful spirit, I want Grief Cottage to be made into a movie, and am going to try to squeeze myself into someone's elevator to make my pitch.

All you need is a rather small, un-touristy island, preferably in South Carolina where they are serious about their loggerhead turtle hatchings. There has to be the "night of the boil-up" scene. Those hundreds of little creatures just out of their eggs racing like mad to get into the ocean before something eats them: you will find yourself laughing and crying. Check out a loggerhead hatching on YouTube.

You need an eleven year old boy, perhaps an unknown actor, who has Marcus's gravity, his sadness, and his slight weirdness. And you need his great aunt Charlotte, his last relative, who takes him in after his mother dies. Aunt Charlotte is 57. She is a hermit artist, with a haunted past, and the last thing she wanted was to share her solitude. But, among other virtues, she is an honorable person. I visualize the actress Charlotte Rampling. I may have been thinking of Charlotte Rampling when I named my character. Aunt Charlotte lives every day under layers and layers of past wounds. Oh, and she is what they call "a working alcoholic." She paints all day, she paints the ocean and the dunes, and she paints version after version of her "best seller,"an old abandoned cottage, known as Grief Cottage, where a family disappeared during a hurricane 50 years before. She herself is drawn to the cottage because it seems to mirror the ruin if her life, and because her first sight of it started her career as a painter when she moved to this island. She paints and sips wine and doesn't say a whole lot to Marcus, but his seriousness and his loneliness reflect her own. Yes, I would love to have Charlotte Rampling, or someone like her, taciturn, frowning, wise with secret hurts, elegant in a don't give a damn way, and able to show concern fir someone without saying much.

And, finally, there is Marcus's ghost, a boy a little older than himself, whom Marcus discovers in Grief Cottage, and who shows himself to Marcus twice. The ghost will have to be done subtly.

Oh, is this your floor? Well, thanks for listening to my pitch. Do you mind if I send you a copy of the book?
Visit Gail Godwin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 12, 2017

Howard Jones's "My Lai: Vietnam, 1968, and the Descent into Darkness"

Howard Jones is University Research Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Alabama.

Here he shares his vision for a big screen adaptation of his latest book, My Lai: Vietnam, 1968, and the Descent into Darkness:
On December 13, 2016, Larry Colburn, a Vietnam veteran, died of cancer, the last living member of a three-man helicopter crew who participated in the My Lai operation on March 16, 1968, along with twenty-five-year-old Chief Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson (died in 2006) and twenty-year-old Crew Chief Glenn Andreotta (died in combat three weeks after My Lai). Colburn was the youngest of the three, an eighteen-year-old door gunner on a small OH-23 helicopter assigned the task of drawing enemy fire that would expose the Viet Cong’s location to American ground forces.

I was fortunate to interview Larry numerous times while writing my account of the My Lai massacre. He was always generous with his time, detailed in his explanations, and passionate about telling the story accurately and fairly. He was also self-effacing and modest, though the more he told me about what had happened at My Lai, the more humbled I felt in the face of someone who never lost his moral compass in the midst of horrific wrongdoing while enduring far greater personal challenges in life than I could ever imagine.

Early in the morning of that day at My Lai, Thompson saw more than 100 bodies in a ditch and angrily set down his helicopter to talk to the American officer in charge. That officer was 2nd Lieutenant William Calley, who outranked Thompson and made clear that he needed no advice from anyone. Shortly after leaving the scene, the three airmen spotted a squad of American soldiers in pursuit of a small number of Vietnamese villagers—an elderly man and some women and children—fleeing toward an earthen bunker. Once more Thompson landed his craft, this time between the two groups to save the Vietnamese, and ordered Colburn and Andreotta to stay behind with machine guns and shoot any soldiers who fired on him or the Vietnamese. No one interfered. On a final swipe over that same ditch, Andreotta saw life below and, after a hurried landing, waded through the bloody water filled with dead and dying Vietnamese to rescue a young boy who was in shock and clinging to his dead mother. Thompson reported the mass killings to superiors of what turned out to be the deaths of 504 unarmed Vietnamese civilians in less than four hours and brought about a cease-fire that likely saved the lives of hundreds more noncombatants.

Thompson and Colburn’s ordeal continued in the years that followed, when they testified before congressional committees about what had happened in My Lai, often to those who vehemently rejected their charges of a massacre. When badgered by committee members determined to discredit both men for their account of that day, Colburn, by then barely in his twenties, and Thompson not much older, maintained their composure. They adamantly denied being mere whistleblowers, asserting that they had directly confronted those soldiers; they also denied being pacifists, insisting that they would fight only a “legitimate enemy.” For years afterward, both men were accused of treason and received death threats.

The U.S. Army at first tried to cover up the massacre but finally gave in to public pressure and launched an investigation that, combined with the investigative work of journalist Seymour Hersh and others, exposed the reality of My Lai. As the years passed, the army came to recognize the heroism of all three men. In 1998 it awarded each of them (Andreotta’s posthumously) the Soldier’s Medal, the highest honor for bravery in a noncombat situation.

Colburn repeatedly told me that he and his two companions had acted out of ordinary decency in doing what anyone would have done. Yet it was clear to all who knew them—and knew of the horrors of My Lai—that this was not so. Their decency that day was not ordinary. In my mind, and in the minds of those who knew what they had done, their actions embodied the essence of heroism—a story of courage that needs telling everywhere, including on the big screen.

A movie?

Many friends have insisted that the My Lai story deserves telling by Hollywood. Follow-up conversations have almost always led to questions about who should be the director? The cast? My first choice for director would be Michael Mann, who has recently agreed to direct a TV mini-series based on Mark Bowden’s new book, Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam. Who should play the three main characters in a movie on My Lai? As Hugh Thompson, I would recommend Liam Hemsworth or Nicholas Hoult. For Larry Colburn, I would support either Brenton Thwaites or Alden Ehrenreich. And as Glenn Andreotta, I would choose either Aaron Taylor-Johnson or Will Poulter. All these actors have played important parts in movies and are on lists of the top Hollywood males under thirty years of age.
Learn more about My Lai: Vietnam, 1968, and the Descent into Darkness at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 9, 2017

Sarah Creech's "The Whole Way Home"

Sarah Creech is the author of two novels, Season of the Dragonflies and The Whole Way Home.

Here she dreamcasts the leads for an adaptation of The Whole Way Home:
I’m not the kind of writer who thinks of actors and actresses while I’m writing a novel (maybe I should try that in my next book).

If I could choose a totally unknown, untrained actress to play my main character, Joanne Lover, I would choose Margo Price, who recently signed with Jack White’s label Third Man Records. Her album’s title song “Hands of Time” follows Jo’s life trajectory so closely that it spooked me the first time I listened to the song. And to see Margo Price perform in person is to know what country music star power and greatness really looks like, especially when she wears her hot pink fringe dress. She emits a golden light. Also, Kacey Musgraves would be a perfect fit for Jo!

As for my male protagonist, J.D. Gunn, I think I’d choose Colin Farrell, with one caveat: he’d have to wear bright blue contacts. Otherwise, he has the perfect stature and presence to play J.D. If he turned down the role, I’m sure Jake Gyllenhaal would be a great fit too! But if we go back in time, Dolly Parton and Elvis would know exactly what to do with characters like mine.
Visit Sarah Creech's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Tessa Harris's "The Sixth Victim"

Tessa Harris is the award-winning author of The Anatomist’s Apprentice, the first of her Dr. Thomas Silkstone series. The Sixth Victim is the first book in her new Constance Piper Mystery series. Harris is based near London, England.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of The Sixth Victim:
I’m a great fan of the TV series Ripper Street. In fact anything on the small screen, or silver, that evokes the dark, tawdry and slightly supernatural world of late Victorian London draws me like the proverbial moth to a flame.

The Sixth Victim tells the story of Whitechapel flower girl Constance Piper, whose close friendship with her high-born mentor, Emily Tindall, leads her to discover she can communicate with the dead. It’s set against the backdrop of the Jack the Ripper murders and I loved conjuring up the murky underworld of the East End of the time.

Although in the audio book (Blackstone) Constance and Emily are played by two different actors – the uber-talented Fiona Hardingham and Gemma Dawson – I had the idea that, in my dreamcast - both characters could be played by the same person. That’s because, although the story is written from two viewpoints, I leave it to the reader to judge whether Constance is really psychic or psychologically challenged. For both roles the amazing Emma Watson would be perfect: an impoverished girl who wants to better herself – as in her recent Belle in Beauty and the Beast – and a well-educated, intelligent young woman, as in Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series.

As for the male lead, Detective Inspector Thaddeus Hawkins – whom we meet at greater length in the second book in my series - that role would go to the wonderful Eddie Redmayne. I adored him when I first saw him in My Week With Marilyn and of course he was magnificent as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything.

As for my chosen director – that would have to be Tim Burton. He’s known for making films with quirky, Gothic twists such as Sleepy Hollow, Sweeney Todd and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I’m sure he’d bring the wicked streets of Whitechapel in the 1880s to life in his own, unique style.
Visit Tessa Harris's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Devil's Breath.

The Page 69 Test: The Lazarus Curse.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 5, 2017

J.M. Opal's "Avenging the People"

J.M. Opal is Associate Professor of History at McGill University. He is the author of Beyond the Farm: National Ambitions in Rural New England and the editor of Common Sense and Other Writings by Thomas Paine.

Here Opal dreamcasts the lead role for an adaptation of his new book, Avenging the People: Andrew Jackson, the Rule of Law, and the American Nation:
Andrew Jackson was a man of terrible passions. He tried to keep them in check, to show the world that he was a man of duty and honor, a soldier and statesman, a God-fearing son and husband of pious women. And when his passions boiled over, as they so often did, he could only blame a corrupt world for not seeing how hard he had tried. He never forgot insults, because he saw them as attacks not on him alone but on all that was good and innocent, brave and pure, virtuous and vulnerable.

In other words, he took himself very seriously, and he was ready to die—preferably to kill—to make sure that everyone else did as well.

The actor who plays such a man would have to prepare himself by dwelling on the bad things that happen to good people. He would need to picture such injustices, to turn them over in his mind, to torture himself with his imagination. Alone in a room, our would-be Jackson would have to pace around for hours on end, recounting how more powerful men had once slighted him, how they were still laughing at him, how they smirked and chortled and went on with their too-important lives. Our actor would then need to think of the cruelties, real or imagined, that had been done to his loved ones. He would behold a quiet child, bullied and beaten by thugs and dandies. He would see his dutiful wife, slandered and scorned by degenerates and Pharisees. Indeed, our method actor would have to think of the unspeakable: little boys with their scalps torn off, pregnant women with spears in their bellies, and the final, glorious moment when the guilty ones were all gathered in one spot, ripe for annihilation.

My choice for that role would be Christoph Waltz, the multilingual star of Inglourious Basterds, among other blockbusters.

In the opening scene of that film, Waltz’s character, Col. Hans Landa of the Nazi SS, questions a French countrymen who was sheltering a Jewish family. After some friendly musings about hawks, rats, and other symbols of “national character,” Landa turns deadly serious. His emotions drain from his face as he tells the Frenchmen: “You are sheltering enemies of the state, are you not?” His eyes, at once cold and smoldering, go straight through his victim, who breaks down and confesses. “You are sheltering them underneath your floorboards, aren’t you?” Landa continues. “Point out to me the areas where they are hiding.” Whereupon Landa, switching from English to French, directs his men to machine-gun the trembling family.

I do not mean to suggest that Andrew Jackson was an early republican version of a Nazi sociopath. (I am skeptical of all Nazi comparisons, and even wonder if the word should be retired so that it only refers to the specific form of German fascism that rose in the 1930s and was destroyed by the United States, the Soviet Union, and the other Allies in 1945.) I go to great pains in Avenging the People to understand why Jackson felt so aggrieved, to take seriously his claims to innocence as well as those of the American people who so fiercely loved him.

What I mean is that Waltz can portray someone who is dignified, formal, and polite in appearance, yet who also harbors terrible desires and violent urges—and who has the will and power to inflict them. That’s the Jackson I have come to know.
Learn more about Avenging the People at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Paul Shaw's "Revival Type"

Paul Shaw is an award-winning designer, typographer, and design historian based in New York City. He teaches at Parsons School of Design and the School of Visual Arts, and is the designer or co-designer of eighteen typefaces.

Here Shaw shares his thinking on a movie inspired by his new book, Revival Type: Digital Typefaces Inspired by the Past, which was written in collaboration with Abby Goldstein:
This is concept that seems ill-suited to a non-fiction book, especially one about typefaces. Although there are plenty of individuals in the book, it is their creations (the typefaces) that take precedence over their lives. So, instead of a role for Gutenberg, there would be one for B-42 in the movie. But which typeface would be the lead? Is it the first one in the book, the last one, or one in between? I don’t know how to decide. In terms of general fame it would probably be Helvetica, but it is not the most important typeface historically. That nod might go to Nicolaus Jenson’s roman or Garamont’s roman. If so then the lead typeface would be Adobe Jenson or Adobe Garamond Premier Pro. I think Gregory Peck could play Adobe Jenson. And perhaps Paul Newman could play Adobe Garamond Premier Pro. (Helvetica or Neue Haas Grotesk can be played by John Wayne—sometimes a great actor, often not.)
Visit Paul Shaw's website and Abby Goldstein's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 2, 2017

Alan Drew's "Shadow Man"

Alan Drew’s critically acclaimed debut novel, Gardens of Water, has been translated into ten languages and published in nearly two-dozen countries. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he was awarded a Teaching/Writing Fellowship. An Associate Professor of English at Villanova University where he directs the creative writing program, he lives near Philadelphia with his wife and two children.

Here Drew dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Shadow Man:
My wife and I sometimes sit around and talk about the fancy things we’ll buy when the movie rights sell. For example, “When the movie rights sell, we’ll buy a beach house on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey.” So this is a nice little fantasy (delusion?).

The novel is told from three different points of view: Detective Benjamin Wade, medical examiner Natasha Betencourt, and serial killer Ricardo Martinez.

For Ben, I’d need an actor who can play the classic American male stoic tough-guy, but one who can also express real vulnerability. The book is set in Southern California in 1986, and Ben is the son of the last cowboy of a small south Orange County town, Rancho Santa Elena (the fictionalized Irvine, CA), that is now being devoured by development. Detectives are the new cowboys in American pop culture, and the male archetypes in these fictions often celebrate, to my mind, problematic constructed ideas of masculinity. With Ben, I wanted to play on that archetype and then undermine it a bit too. My neighbor says Aaron Eckhart is perfect, but I think he’s a little too clean cut preppy. My wife thinks Viggo Mortensen, but I think that’s because she’s had a crush on him since the Lord of the Rings films. For me, a younger Chris Cooper would be ideal or Ed Harris in his prime. But since we cannot turn back time, I think someone like Matt Damon would work. Damon is about the right age for Ben and has the kind of rugged good looks that would work for a weathered detective. Damon also has the emotional range and vulnerability that would be ideal for a protagonist like Ben Wade who is hiding a dark secret he’s frightened will be revealed.

While this novel is really Ben’s, Natasha Betencourt is the hero of the book. She is also a sort of love interest for Ben, though his enigmatic nature is a constant source of frustration for her. Natasha is tough. She’s a woman working in a man’s world before most men were ready to accept women into their ranks. She’s also extremely perceptive and knows something’s off about Ben. Later in the novel, she begins to investigate Ben and starts to unravel his secret. To do this, she has to break rules, go behind his back, and ultimately confront him. I think Jessica Chastain would be a good fit for Natasha. As an actor, she has a toughness and intelligence that would work well. She’s also able to express a fierce tenacity that verges on obsession. I think she’d kill it as Natasha. If she’s not available? Then I think we’d have to get in touch with Claire Danes’s agent.

Ricardo Martinez, the serial killer. Hmm… I have no clue. Martinez is a sort of monster—though a very human one—stunted emotionally and physically by a horrifically abusive childhood. Couldn’t be a big star actor, some kind of character actor or stage actor, I think.
Visit Alan Drew's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Heather Gudenkauf's "Not A Sound"

Heather Gudenkauf is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Not A Sound:
It’s always fun to dream about one of my books being made into a movie. Not A Sound – the story of Amelia Winn, a nurse who loses her hearing, career and family due to a tragic accident. Two years later, with the help of her service dog, Stitch, she is finally getting her life back together when she discovers a body in the river near her home. Amelia is swept into the investigation and finds she is inextricably connected to the crime and in danger of being the next victim.

Dreaming big these are the actors that I envision in the roles of the main characters of Not A Sound.

Marlee Matlin as Amelia Winn, a former nurse, alcoholic, deafened as the result of a suspicious accident.

She would absolutely be my top pick. It would be an absolute honor to have Ms. Matlin play the character of Amelia. I would also love to see Marlee Matlin direct the movie.

Diego Lattenhoff, best known as Mike Faber from Homeland as Jake, police detective and Amelia’s best friend.

Alec Baldwin as David Winn, Amelia’s long suffering ex-husband.

Stanley Tucci as Dr. Huntley, Amelia’s new boss.

Starring as himself - Stitch, Amelia’s service dog and loyal sidekick.

Naomi Watts as Gwen Locke, a nurse and former co-worker to Amelia.

John Turturro, as Peter, a quirky and odd bookseller who is obsessed with Gwen Locke.
Visit Heather Gudenkauf's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Heather Gudenkauf & Lolo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 29, 2017

Joel Dinerstein's "The Origins of Cool in Postwar America"

Joel Dinerstein is the author of The Origins of Cool in Postwar America (2017), American Cool (2014), Coach: A Story of NY Cool (2016), and Swinging the Machine (2003). He is a Professor of English at Tulane University and has taught a course on "The History of Cool" for 20 years.

Here Dinerstein shares a treatment, complete with dreamcasting, for an adaptation of The Origins of Cool in Postwar America:
Plot: A college junior studying popular culture goes back in time to early-50s New York to find out how and when Americans first started using the word "cool" to understand its mythic hold on global society.

The Origins of Cool focuses on the intersections of iconic figures of film, music, and literature in post-World War II New York (1945-1965). We start out at a jazz club called The Three Deuces where legendary saxophonist Lester "Pres" Young (Terence Howard) is playing with a quintet that includes a young Dizzy Gillespie. Young first invoked "cool" as a word, concept, and style, wore shades at night and on stage, spoke a poetic, coded slang, and developed a bluesy urbane romantic sound along with his musical soulmate, Billie Holiday (Taraji P. Henson). Howard and Henson replay their hiphop romance from Empire here in key of film noir, that is to say, in black-and-white. Their friend Frank Sinatra (Rufus Wainwright) then drops by the club to drink in the corner with his Rat-Pack friends, the couple Humphrey Bogart (Colin Farrell) and Lauren Bacall; Sinatra and Bogart are the avatars of Hollywood and Vegas cool. From these swing beginnings, we follow cool as it crosses over from jazz culture and Hollywood noir into a younger generation through the Beat Generation writers.

Also in the crowd that night at The Three Deuces are Jack Kerouac (Shia LeBoeuf) and Neal Cassady (Garrett Hedlund) – they worshiped Lester Young – and we follow them downtown to the Village on the subway. They get out at Christopher Street and we walk with them to the basement club, The Village Vanguard, to watch The Miles Davis Quintet (David Oyewlo) with John Coltrane (Michael B. Jordan). The Vanguard is a hangout for writers and celebrities often came to see their quintet. There we find key literary figures such as the self-proclaimed "Philosopher of Hip" Norman Mailer (Jesse Eisenberg), the playwright Lorraine Hansberry (Janelle Monae), and the hipster interracial couple, poet Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka (Anthony Mackie) and his wife Hettie Jones (Jamie-Lynn Sigler). An unknown James Dean (Chris Pine) is drunk there, chasing after his idol Marlon Brando (Mark Ruffalo), who sits at a table with his escort, the iconic French existential actress Juliette Greco (Natalie Portman). We leave the club with Paul Newman (Aaron Paul) and his wife Joanne Woodward (Jennifer Lawrence) to go drinking all night at the White Horse Tavern, where anyone might show up.

The film proceeds with the protagonist using his future knowledge to ask questions about the meanings of cool of all the figures and attending a range of parties in the Village and Harlem with jazz musicians, Method actors, Beat writers and poets, and Andy Warhol's garage.

This period of New York's jazzy noir ends with Bob Dylan (Daniel Radcliffe) walking off into Washington Square Park at sunrise with Edie Sedgwick (Emilia Clarke).

That's how it works in my $100 million imagination, anyway.
Visit Joel Dinerstein's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Jennifer Jaynes's "The Stranger Inside"

USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Jaynes has always had a passion for writing, even if it took her a while to turn her passion into a career. After graduating from Old Dominion University with a bachelor’s degree in health sciences and a minor in management, she made her living as a content manager, webmaster, news publisher, editor, and copywriter. Then everything changed in 2014 when her first novel, Never Smile at Strangers, topped bestseller lists at USA Today, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. At that point, there was no going back.

Since her debut, Jaynes has added two more novels to the Strangers Series. Her new novel is the stand-alone thriller, The Stranger Inside.

Here Jaynes dreamcasts the lead in an adaptation of The Stranger Inside:
I would love for Diane Lane to play my protagonist, Diane Christie. Lane is who I envisioned when constructing Christie physically. She has dark hair and classical features. Diane Lane is a bit older, but I’m sure with the right makeup artist she could pull off the younger Christie.
Visit Jennifer Jaynes's website.

Writers Read: Jennifer Jaynes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 26, 2017

Andrew Pyper's "The Only Child"

Andrew Pyper is the author of eight novels, including The Only Child and The Demonologist, which won the International Thriller Writers award for Best Hardcover Novel and was selected for the Globe and Mail’s Best 100 Books of 2013 and Amazon’s 20 Best Books of 2013. Among his previous books, Lost Girls won the Arthur Ellis Award and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and The Killing Circle was a New York Times Best Crime Novel of the Year. Three of Pyper’s novels, including The Demonologist and The Damned, are in active development for feature film.

Here Pyper dreamcasts an adaptation of The Only Child:
The Only Child is a gothic thriller, which is to say it requires the casting of a monster. The monster of my novel isn't outwardly disfigured in any way, his troublesome aspects lying within him - and therefore startling when they appear. This co-lead part in The Only Child movie would require a man capable of charm and threat, and the ability to pass between the two smoothly, even compellingly. So who would I pin to the casting board for The Only Child's monster? How about Tom Hardy? Or Michael Fassbender?

But this isn't only the story of a monster. It's a two-hander, as they say, and the other hand in this case belongs to Dr. Lily Dominick, a forensic psychiatrist who may, or may not, be a blood relation to the monster. In the novel, Lily is described as physically small, severe, professional, intense. But also, over the course of the story, she's revealed to be possessed of surprising (to her) strength, passions, resourcefulness. Could I ask for a Rooney Mara? Kate Mara also, for that matter? To be sure, we should consider all the Maras.
Visit Andrew Pyper's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Wildfire Season.

The Page 69 Test: The Wildfire Season.

The Page 69 Test: The Killing Circle.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Helene Stapinski's "Murder in Matera"

Helene Stapinski began her career at her hometown newspaper, The Jersey Journal. She is the author of the memoirs Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History and Baby Plays Around: A Love Affair, with Music. Her essays have appeared in several anthologies, most recently, Drinking Diaries: Women Serve Their Stories Straight Up. Stapinski has also written extensively for The New York Times, for Travel & Leisure, Food & Wine, Salon, Real Simple, New York magazine and dozens of other newspapers, magazines and blogs. She’s been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, The Today Show and as a performer with The Moth main stage.

Here Stapinski dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, Murder In Matera: A True Story of Passion, Family, and Forgiveness in Southern Italy:
There are two killer (pun intended) roles for women in Murder in Matera. Marisa Tomei would have to play me, the crazy mom traveling back and forth to Southern Italy to uncover the family murder. And Isabella Rossellini would play Vita, my great great grandmother, who escaped to America from the town of Bernalda after the murder in the 1800s, leaving her husband, Francesco behind.

Oscar Isaac, with his sad, dark eyes, would have to play the young Francesco because I love Oscar Isaac and want to meet him and have dinner with him. If Sophia Loren were a little younger, she'd be perfect to play Vita. She's one of my favorite actresses and her films were actually an inspiration when writing Murder in Matera, particularly Gold of Naples. A must see if you have any interest in Southern Italy.

Someone from the Coppola clan would direct since most of the story takes place in their ancestral village of Bernalda, where Francis recently opened a luxury hotel. And it would be filmed on site. Bernalda is achingly beautiful and in desperate need of a film industry cash infusion. Its neighbor, Matera, has been used as a stand in for countless Biblical films because it resembles Jerusalem. (Ben Hur, The Omen, Passion of the Christ).
Visit Helene Stapinski's website.

Writers Read: Helene Stapinski.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 22, 2017

Wendy Webb's "The End of Temperance Dare"

Wendy Webb's novels include The Vanishing, The Fate of Mercy Alban, and The Tale of Halcyon Crane.

Here Webb dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The End of Temperance Dare:
Oh, this is fun. I imagine how my characters look when I’m writing my books, sometimes imagining real life actors. So here goes, for the main characters from The End of Temperance Dare.

Miss Penny: Maggie Smith
Miss Penny is the departing director of Cliffside Manor, daughter of Chester Dare, the philanthropist who build Cliffside as a tuberculosis sanatorium back in the day and turned it into a retreat for artists and writers when TB was cured. She hires Eleanor and sets in motion the events of the story.

Eleanor (Norrie): Sandra Bullock or Amy Adams
Norrie, the new director of Cliffside, is coming off of years on the crime beat at the local newspaper. She’s burned out and wants a less stressful life, but finds anything but. She is vulnerable and a bit damaged by her years of immersing herself in horrible crimes, but she is also funny and strong and smart.

Nate: Nathan Fillion.
Coincidence? No! Nate is funny, a wisecracker, handsome and completely adorable, with sandy brown hair he can’t keep out of his eyes. Just like Mr. Fillion. Yeah. I’m a fan.

Richard: Idris Elba
Richard, a photographer who comes to Cliffside for a retreat, is brooding and thoughtful and Norrie’s partner in trying to solve the mystery of what’s going on at Cliffside. He’s also a total badass when the situation warrants it. I had been imagining a Colin Farrell-esque man when I wrote the book but, hey, it’s my movie so I’m calling it for Idris Elba.
Learn more about the book and author at Wendy Webb's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Tale of Halcyon Crane.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 19, 2017

Ryan Lobo's "Mr. Iyer Goes to War"

Ryan Lobo is an award-winning photographer and filmmaker based in Bangalore.

His work has appeared in National Geographic, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Boston Review, The Caravan, and Bidoun Magazine.

Here Lobo dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Mr. Iyer Goes to War:
I initially wrote this book as a screenplay.

When I wrote the book I had in mind an actor like Sir Ben Kingsley as Lalgudi Iyer . His gangster character in the movie Sexy Beast was inspiring in some regards, especially the intensity.

I imagined Bencho to be played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui, an excellent Indian actor who was great in the movie Lunchbox. He came across as a very identifiable and likeable character.

Iyer was inspired by Don Quixote, a conservative iconoclast of sorts who lived by the values of an older time, at odds with the modern world. A bit of insanity would essential to his character and Sir Ben Kingsley's acting in Sexy Beast certainly fits the bill.
Visit Ryan Lobo's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Lucinda Riley's "The Shadow Sister"

Lucinda Riley is the New York Times bestselling author of The Orchid House, The Girl on the Cliff, The Lavender Garden, The Midnight Rose, and The Seven Sisters. Her books have sold more than five million copies in thirty languages She lives in London and the English countryside with her husband and four children.

Here Riley dreamcasts an adaptation of The Shadow Sister, the third installment in the seven book series, The Seven Sisters:
When I dream-cast The Storm Sister last year for this blog, little did I know that my dreams would turn to reality: the Seven Sisters series has been optioned for a multi-season television adaptation by a Hollywood production company. I had a surreal experience when I went to Hollywood and discussed casting – and realised that I wasn’t ‘dream-casting’ anymore. While the project is still in its very early stages, working with the production team has given me a fascinating glimpse of what happens behind the scenes. I will have a lot of input in the casting process, so I am looking forward to meeting the talented actors and actresses who will bring my characters to life.

For the main character Star in The Shadow Sister, I have imagined the lovely French actress Léa Seydoux, who would be able to portray her vulnerability as well as her strength. Star’s life becomes entangled in that of two brothers: Orlando, the owner of an antique bookshop in London, who would be played by Rupert Grint (of Harry Potter fame) and his older brother, the mysterious Mouse, would be perfectly portrayed by Tom Hiddleston (I loved him in The Night Manager).

In the historical sections of The Shadow Sister set in Edwardian England, Flora McNichol, Star’s great-great grandmother, would be played by Léa Seydoux as well, as the plan is to double-cast each sister and her ancestor. Archie Vaughan would be played by Robert Pattinson (from the Twilight series). King Edward VII could be played by the British actor Brian Blessed, famed for his booming voice, and the king’s mistress, Alice Keppel, could be played by the beautiful Kate Winslet.

CeCe, Star’s dominating younger sister, would be played by the Australian Aboriginal actress Jessica Mauboy. CeCe’s story continues straight on from Star’s, and you can read her book The Pearl Sister in the US next spring 2018.
Visit Lucinda Riley's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Storm Sister.

My Book, The Movie: The Storm Sister.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 15, 2017

Sam Wiebe's "Invisible Dead"

Sam Wiebe's novel Last of the Independents won the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize and an Arthur Ellis Award, and was nominated for a Shamus award. His second novel, Invisible Dead, was published by Random House Canada and Quercus USA. His short stories have appeared in Thuglit, Spinetingler, and subTerrain, and he was the 2016 Vancouver Public Library Writer in Residence. He lives in Vancouver.

Here Wiebe shares some insights about adapting Invisible Dead for the big screen:
Most MBTM entries focus on casting, but before I get there I’d like to talk about location.

Vancouver is known as Hollywood North due to the number of movies and TV shows filmed here. From X-Files to Deadpool to Jason Takes Manhattan, Vancouver is visually familiar to everyone…but not as itself.

So how do you film a story set here?

In some ways this overfamiliarity is an advantage, because Invisible Dead is a book about what lies beneath the surface of the city.

Invisible Dead’s Vancouver is a city where troubled young women go missing all too often. The main character, David Wakeland, sets out to find a missing sex worker, and must eventually confront some painful truths about life in his city.

Filming in Vancouver would offer a chance to show the city streets and tourist sights we all recognize…and then send the camera down the alleys and dark places that haven’t been captured on film. There is poverty and desperation in Vancouver, particularly downtown, which is known as the poorest neighbourhood in the country. But what’s so striking is how close those streets are to the very wealthiest areas.

An Invisible Dead film would capture that connection, between what we think we know about a place and its dark reality.

And my casting for Wakeland? Tom Hardy all the way.
Visit Sam Wiebe's website.

Writers Read: Sam Wiebe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 12, 2017

Jenni L. Walsh's "Becoming Bonnie"

Jenni L. Walsh spent her early years chasing around cats, dogs, and chickens in Philadelphia's countryside, before dividing time between a soccer field and a classroom at Villanova University. She put her marketing degree to good use as an advertising copywriter, zip-code hopping with her husband to DC, NYC, NJ, and not surprisingly, back to Philly. There, Walsh's passion for words continued, adding author to her resume.

Becoming Bonnie, her debut novel, tells the untold story of how church-going Bonnelyn Parker becomes half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo during the 1920s. The sequel Being Bonnie will be released in the summer of 2018.

Here Walsh dreamcasts the lead for an adaptation of Becoming Bonnie:
This is especially fun to dream about because the film/tv rights for Becoming Bonnie, which tells the untold story of how Bonnelyn Parker becomes half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo, were optioned by a production company. Of course, authors don’t typically have much say in the development or casting of the show (unless you are someone like JK Rowling), but I’ve done my fair share of imagining on my end. And I’ve narrowed down whom I’d be eager to see as my version of Bonnie Parker to three wonderful actors, based on two main attributes.

First, it'd have to be someone with a similar 5-foot-nothing stature, and, second, I’d want a gal with a great singing voice, because my novel includes original lyrics that my Bonnie and Clyde pen together.

That leaves me dreamcasting Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect), Aubrey Peeples (Nashville), or Darcy Rose Byrnes (Sofia the First, Y&R) as half of my Bonnie and Clyde.
Visit Jenni L. Walsh's website.

Writers Read: Jenni L. Walsh.

The Page 69 Test: Becoming Bonnie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

William Christie's "A Single Spy"

William Christie is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and a former Marine Corps infantry officer. He is well into middle age, and is the author of eight novels, five under his own name and the latest two under the pen name F.J. Chase, which was basically a publisher’s marketing ploy. He also wrote SEAL Team Seven: Direct Action, for Berkley Books, under the name Keith Douglass, because he needed a new car at the time.

Here Christie dreamcasts the lead for an adaptation of his new novel, A Single Spy:
Ah, now here we have the classic clash between art and commerce. Because I should say that if they make A Single Spy into a movie I would like Brad Pitt to play Alexsi. Or Matt Damon, or whoever Clint Eastwood would prefer, or any figure of Hollywood power who can get a movie made by simply agreeing to participate in it. The reality, of course, is that I would simply be flattered if anyone were polite enough to ask. Though now that we've covered commerce perhaps we should consider art. The actor would have to be in his 20's, and be able to project the feral quality of a born survivor of both Stalin's Soviet Union and Hitler's Germany. Yet also be able to lay claim to the audience's sympathy. If I hadn't seen Mad Max Fury Road I never would have considered Nicholas Hoult, but I think he's my man. As the single spy in my novel you would look into his eyes and believe him when he was lying to you, and you would never see him coming until it was too late.
Visit William Christie's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 8, 2017

Richard E. Ocejo's "Masters of Craft"

Richard E. Ocejo is associate professor of sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY. He is the editor of Ethnography and the City: Readings on Doing Urban Fieldwork and author of Upscaling Downtown: From Bowery Saloons to Cocktail Bars in New York City.

Here he shares some ideas about adapting his new book, Masters of Craft: Old Jobs in the New Urban Economy, into a mini-series:
While my book is about people working in fun jobs, it would be rather difficult to turn it into a single movie, but it’d make a great television mini-series. My book looks at the transformation of traditionally low-status manual labor jobs into “cool” taste-making occupations that many young people want to do as careers. I studied cocktail bartenders, craft distillers, upscale men’s barbers, and whole-animal butchers. I divide the book into two parts, each with four chapters. In Part I, I devote a chapter to each of these jobs, describing their history and renaissance. In Part II, I bring them all together in each chapter, based on particular themes: how these people pursue these jobs, how they apply a sense of craft to their work, how they teach taste to their consumers, and how their work constitutes a performance. So we’d have to break up the people and action in Part II and combine them into the chapters in Part I.

Episode 1 would be about the cocktail bartenders. Costume and set designers will have fun with this one. Most of the people I studied wear fancy attire (think Boardwalk Empire) and the bars often model themselves on swanky speakeasies (again, think Boardwalk Empire). I like “day in the life” stories, so it’d focus on a Saturday night: the prep, the growing crowd, the busy period, and the comedown. A busy bar provides plenty of drama. I can see Robert Altman-style filmmakers having fun with it.

Episode 2 would be about the craft distillers. For them, I think it would be cool to show them as mad scientists working tirelessly on a recipe over many months. Distilleries have big machines with all sorts of tubes and wires going everywhere making hissing and whirring sounds. The ones I studied, with copper pot stills, could be out of a Jules Verne story. The distiller would be on a mission to make the essential rye whiskey. It could be somewhat humorous.

Episode 3 would be about the barbers. For them, we’d have to focus on relationships, between the barbers and between some barbers and their clients, especially over time. I observed a lot of men show some insecurity toward their bodies while in the chair, and I often saw the barbers try to set them at ease. (“Your hair moves really well!”) After a few visits they’d seem much more comfortable. Barbers also talk so much shit to each other on a daily basis that we’d have to just show them talking. For this one I wouldn’t mind if we used documentary footage.

Finally, Episode 4 would focus on the butchers. I’d want this episode to be the philosophical one. The dialogue would revolve around ethical themes related to life, death, and moral culpability in eating animals and participating in the food industry. It can’t be preachy. It’ll just raise a lot of questions for the audience to ponder. All the while butchers will be breaking down whole animals.

I’ll leave casting to someone else. They all kind of come from similar backgrounds and look alike. Someone with a better eye for such distinctions would have to determine what makes an actor more “barber-like” than “butcher-like.” I’m sure people like Adam Driver and James Franco will be asked, though.
Learn more about Masters of Craft at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Upscaling Downtown.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 5, 2017

Michael Cannell's "Incendiary"

Michael Cannell is the author of three non-fiction books, most recently Incendiary: The Psychiatrist, the Mad Bomber and the Invention of Criminal Profiling. The Limit: Life and Death on the 1961 Grand Prix Circuit was published in 2012. The Sundance Channel/AMC has optioned The Limit to be made into a television series. I.M. Pei: Mandarin of Modernism was published in 1995. Cannell was editor of the New York Times House & Home section for seven years.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of Incendiary:
In the pages of Incendiary: The Psychiatrist, the Mad Bomber and the Invention of Criminal Profiling lives a real-life roster of big personalities befitting the glory days of 1950s New York. Here’s my wish list for leading actors:

George Metesky: A paranoid schizophrenic who planted some thirty-two bombs in New York’s most crowded public places — trains stations, a library, movie theaters. He was a perfectly nondescript middle-aged man with a homicidal rage burning inside. He was placid, but deadly. My pick for actor: Kevin Spacey.

Dr. James Brussel: In desperation, detectives solicited Dr. Brussel’s help in catching the George Metesky, the serial bomber who terrorized New York for more than a decade: Dr. Brussel was almost as crazy as the bomber, but brilliant. My pick for actor: Michael Keaton.

Seymour Berkson: When the New York Journal-American began losing advertising to television, its handsome and worldy publisher, Seymour Berkson, knew that he would have to do something to keep his newspaper alive. His solution was to engage the Mad Bomber in a secret correspondence. My pick for actor: Colin Firth.
Learn more about the book and author at Michael T. Cannell's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Limit.

The Page 99 Test: The Limit.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Stephen Kiernan's "The Baker's Secret"

As a journalist and novelist, Stephen P. Kiernan has published nearly four million words. His newspaper work has garnered more than forty awards — including the George Polk Award and the Scripps Howard Award for Distinguished Service to the First Amendment.

Kiernan is the author of the novels The Hummingbird, The Curiosity, and the newly released The Baker's Secret.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of the new novel:
Kyle Chandler is so macho, he would make an excellent Guillaume.

Leo DiCaprio is my heartless Captain Thalheim.

Natalie Portman plays Emma, if she's willing to have dirty hair for the entire shoot. Otherwise I want Emma Watson for that role, because a guy is allowed to dream, right?

Louanne Stephens is my ideal Meme, with a bearded Alan Arkin to play Pierre.

Mainly I want to know what new fresh face Hollywood would find to cast as Fleur -- a fourteen year old whom everyone agrees is the most beautiful girl in all of France.
Learn more about the book and author at Stephen Kiernan's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Curiosity.

The Page 69 Test: The Curiosity.

Writers Read: Stephen P. Kiernan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 1, 2017

Avery Duff's "Beach Lawyer"

Avery Duff was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he attended Baylor School and graduated summa cum laude. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he earned a JD from Georgetown University Law Center. He then joined a prestigious Tennessee law firm, becoming a partner in five years, before moving to Los Angeles. His screenwriting credits include the 2010 heist drama Takers, starring Matt Dillon, Idris Elba, Paul Walker, and Hayden Christensen. Duff lives at the beach in Los Angeles and spends his time writing fiction.

Here Duff dreamcasts an adaptation of Beach Lawyer, his first published novel:
Something about Beach Lawyer—compressed time, place, a specific problem—sets up okay for a movie. Or a series for that matter. Whether by intent or accident or years of screenwriting habits, good and bad, having a character in mind always helped me.

More and more these days, though, I think about an actor’s vibe rather the actor him/her/self. I mean, Cliff, the associate who takes Robert’s job, reminds me a lot of young Peter Gallagher—handsome beyond what most men like to hang out with, and The Player smarmy.

But I digress at the outset—usually I wait until later. Starting with the two female leads, Gia Marquez and Leslie DeRider.

Gia should come off like Rosario Dawson, part Latina, part Chinese or part anything else as long as it’s sultry, sexual, smart—and cool. Someone who materializes inside a room instead of entering it. If Ms. Dawson and Gong Li had a female child—forget the mechanics for a moment—you’d get Gia Marquez. Ms. Li: no one ever broke my heart in an action movie, unless you count Lassie and Old Yeller, but Gong Li broke mine twice in Miami Vice.

Leslie DeRider, the banker. With all that OC in her DNA, Leslie’s going to need whatever inheres in Blake Lively—not, though, Ms. Lively’s laid-back hedonist in Savages. She’ll need to appear a little slow on the uptake, eager to please, and up for anything in the world outside the office.

Then we have Robert Worth and Jack Pierce. Both need to be physical. Alpha males capable of mixing it up if pushed too far. Each has a line you don’t want to cross. Robert’s line is rational; Jack’s line, not at all. For these two, I can picture the Producer saying—shouting actually: “Get me the next Matthew McConaughey to play this Worth kid and be quick about it! Who? Never heard of him! And while you’re at it, bring me the next Richard Gere to play Jack Pierce! No, not Pretty Woman Gere, Internal Affairs Gere! Hop to it! We’re shooting this piece of crap in four months. Where’s my script? What? Then get me new writers!”
Learn more about Beach Lawyer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 28, 2017

Alexis L. Boylan's "Ashcan Art, Whiteness, and the Unspectacular Man"

Alexis L. Boylan is an Associate Professor of Art History with a joint appointment in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Program at the University of Connecticut. Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, Ashcan Art, Whiteness, and the Unspectacular Man:
Movie pitch: Six men, all artists, find their way to New York City at the turn-of-the-twentieth century and find friendship and love. They are also crushed emotionally and creatively by capitalism.

On the one hand, this book would be super tricky to adapt into a movie because so much of what I argue is happening in the paintings, which is not very cinematic. It is also part of the point of the book that in this historical moment, we need to remember that different media (painting, illustration, film, and photography) are vying for cultural dominance. Photographers want to prove their work can be fine art, illustrators are trying to not be edged out by photographers, and painters are going to silent films and trying to reimagine what they could add to narrative now that pictures move. So perhaps it is blasphemous to make these painters and their attempts to stay modern and relevant into a movie.

On the other hand, I think this could be a very interesting story about male friendship and competition. In movies male friendships tend to be highlighted through some kind competition over a woman, a love triangle. Or, we are introduced to men as friends but then the story turns one into a villain and one into the hero. But these six Ashcan artists were friends in ways that were less overtly dramatic, but definitely complex. They competed for work and visibility, but they also helped each other. They shared studios, swapped teaching gigs, gossiped, wrote about art, and went drinking and carousing together. They got good reviews and bad reviews. They wanted to be rich and famous and have followers, and they struggled and hustled to make that happen. Some were luckier than others. I guess the crux of this tale would be about men, friendship, ambition, and aging. It would also be a different kind of representation of artists; not as super emotive and raging but as people with jobs. People who had to keep working for money. In that way, maybe this could be a great film, both in terms of giving complexity to men and their friendships and to explore the limitations of those friendships.

Cast:

Robert Henri: He is often called the “leader” of the Ashcan Circle, but I argue against this in my book. He’s got vision and he’s a supportive friend. He’s a young widower and has a deep restlessness. Henri was not the traditional “good-looking” guy, but he was handsome. Erza Miller is young for the role, but he has the look and sad undercurrent.

Everett Shinn: He’s the jerk of the group. And super good looking. But basically an ass of a person. Armie Hammer.

John Sloan: I think art historically he gets to play the hero of the Ashcan Circle, but not in my story. No heroes here. He is tall, wears glasses, is a bit nerdy. Drinks too much. Insecure. Andrew Garfield.

George Luks: So again, art historically he is typically remembered as a big drinker, party guy, fighter. The “fun” one. I say take a look at the photograph Alvin Langdon Coburn took of him (page 60) and rethink this image. He is a sad man trapped in his body. Jonah Hill.

William Glackens: Sort of a cream puff of a person. Nice. Boring. Chris Evans.

George Bellows: He is the youngest of the artists. And I think he is the most ambitious. Nicholas Hoult.
Learn more about Ashcan Art, Whiteness, and the Unspectacular Man.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Jane Corry's "My Husband's Wife"

Jane Corry is a writer and journalist and has spent time as the writer in residence of a high-security prison for men–an experience that helped inspire My Husband’s Wife, her suspense debut.

Here Corry dreamcasts an adaptation of My Husband’s Wife:
If they make my book into a film, here’s who I’d like to play the lead role.

I actually had a variation of Cate Blanchett in my head when I wrote Lily who is one of my two main characters. But the other day I spotted a picture of the actress Rose Byrne and thought - that’s my Lily! She has exactly the same bone structure. Strangely, I don’t have a particular actress for Carla (my other main character). In my head, I see her as a feisty, fairly tousle-haired little Italian girl who then grows into any of those amazingly beautiful chic Italian women who you see in the street. I only wish I had their poise!

Rather than name a particular director, I’d rather say that I would like someone who understands my characters as much as my publisher did. It’s a wonderful feeling when the people you have created are taken seriously by others.

I can’t tell you how excited I would be if My Husband's Wife became a film. There are some ‘irons in the fire’ as we speak. In other words, my agent is in discussions with a big production company so I am keeping my fingers crossed. My second husband and I live near a wonderful little cinema in our seaside town in the UK. If my book did hit the big screen, I would invite everyone I know to come along. It makes me tingle just to think of it!
Learn more about My Husband's Wife. Follow Jane Corry on Twitter and Facebook.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 24, 2017

Tobin Miller Shearer's "Two Weeks Every Summer"

Tobin Miller Shearer is Associate Professor of History and African-American Studies Director at the University of Montana.

Here Shearer shares his idea for a film based on his new book, Two Weeks Every Summer: Fresh Air Children and the Problem of Race in America:
So, here’s the pitch.

Two Weeks Every Summer is not about children. It is not about the city. It’s not even about fresh air. The book is about sex and violence and mystery. Those three themes will make this movie sizzle.

First, the sex. In the movie, we will dramatize the sexual tensions present in white families hosting children of color as they approach dating age. We show a white middle class family at dinner – father, mother, daughter, son – discussing the sleeping arrangements after their long-time Fresh Air guest – an African-American twelve-year old from the Bronx – arrives the following day. The tension is understated but palpable when the twelve-year-old daughter notes how handsome their guest is and that she can hardly wait to see him.

A second major scene will dramatize the violence associated with the programs. The camera will pan across the aftermath of one of the hundreds of rebellions that broke out after Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in 1968. Switch to a press conference where the director of the Fresh Air Fund, played by Meryl Streep, declares how sending children to the country for two-week summer stays will forestall future urban unrest. Fade to a sylvan scene as reporters call out questions.

Finally, the mystery. The narrative arc of the film will turn on the mystery of why hundreds of thousands – indeed more than a million by mid-twentieth century – of urban children travelled in some cases hundreds of miles away from home communities where they were known and loved to visit strange suburban and rural families who had never before set eyes on them. Over the course of the 115 minute story line viewers will receive clues to the answer: a chance to travel, the host’s desire to be viewed as racially progress, white perceptions of the country as morally superior, the children’s love of swimming, multi-million dollar endowments. Only at the end, when an intrepid, superficially cynical but ultimately compassionate reporter, played by Forest Whitaker, sits down with a Fresh Air Alum, played by Lupita Nyong'o, does the full story of courageous civil rights action, joyful independence, and conflicted relationship come to a complete and satisfying conclusion.

Two Weeks Every Summer – coming to a theater near you.
Learn more about Two Weeks Every Summer at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Allen Steele's "Avengers of the Moon"

Allen Steele worked as a freelance journalist before becoming a prolific, award-winning science fiction writer.

Here Steele shares some ideas about adapting his new novel, Avengers of the Moon, for the big screen:
Generations of SF fans have been waiting to see a Captain Future movie. In fact, he's one of the few major pulp heroes of the 30's and 40's who didn't get a feature film, a movie serial, or at least a radio show. But Curt Newton and the Futuremen didn't follow his contemporaries Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon to the screen; his adventures ended in the early 50's, just as the Saturday afternoon serials were being replaced by TV.

Well, not quite. In 1978, the Japanese anime series Captain Future came out. Produced during the post-Star Wars space opera craze, it was a two-season adaptation of Edmond Hamilton's classic pulp novels. It's crude by today's animation standards, and clearly meant for kids, but nonetheless it was a big hit at the time ... everywhere except the U.S, that is. In France it was called Capitaine Flam, in Spain it was Capitan Futuro, in Saudi Arabia it was Space Knights, but in the country where Captain Future was created it was, "Who?" A couple of badly edited and translated VHS tapes eventually appeared in the U.S., but otherwise the series -- a mainstay for kids in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, generating countless graphic novels, toys, games, pajamas, and so forth -- remained obscure in America.

So now I've published the first new Captain Future novel since 1946, and of course I'd love to see Avengers of the Moon made into a movie ... but I think it ought to be done as anime. I'd like to see Japan's Toei Studios do an updated Captain Future series that would adapt my novel as its source of inspiration. The current state of the art of anime is light-years away from where it was decades ago, so a more realistic look is possible.

They also could get the characters closer to Hamilton's original creations. Greg would no longer be dumb, Otho wouldn't look like Popeye's second cousin, the Brain wouldn't talk like a robot, and Joan would be neither blonde nor helpless. And as for Captain Future himself, he would no longer be infallible, but instead would occasionally make mistakes, a character trait that made Curt Newton stand out among pulp heroes of the time.

If all went well, perhaps this time kids (and adults) in the U.S. would get to enjoy what kids (and adults) elsewhere in the world grew up watching. It's really a shame that Captain Future was forgotten in the country where he was created. Perhaps a new anime series would change that.
Learn more about the book and author at Allen Steele's website.

My Book, The Movie: V-S Day.

--Marshal Zeringue