Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d be writing before I even published my first novel:
This week I met with a film producer who has approached me about adapting my novels for the screen.
But before I go into that, let me take you a few steps back so that you can appreciate the bigger picture here.
When I first read about the Garden of Allah, I was surprised I’d never heard of the place. I’ve been reading about Hollywood since I was a teenager and here was a hotel where Errol Flynn stayed when he first came to L.A. So did Sinatra. And F. Scott Fitzgerald. Bogie was there while he was wooing Bacall. And it was the hotel-of-choice for Algonquin Round Table members, Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley. The list went on and on. How did I not know about this place??? So I started researching it, and the thing that immediately struck me about the Garden of Allah was that it opened in 1927, the year the talkies hit Hollywood, and it closed in 1959, the year the studio system fell apart. So the Garden of Allah Hotel witnessed the entire golden years of Hollywood.
PING! An idea was born: I could tell the story of the heyday of Hollywood through the eyes of the hotel that was there to see it all. From the advent of the talkies to the onslaught of television, there was a terrific story to be told and I’d found a great angle from which to tell it. Egads! This story virtually sells itself.
Or so I thought.
So I went ahead, researched the era, plotted out all nine books covering all 32 years that the Garden was open, and wrote the first book. Then I drew up a list of 46 literary agents who were likely to be interested and, as detailed on this blog, I approached each one of them. I didn’t really worry about the rejections–it comes with the territory and all I needed was one yes. I saw this as a strong idea with broad commercial appeal and it was a series. In case you haven’t noticed, everything’s a series nowadays. So when every last agent told me to, in effect, get lost, I was left thinking, Really…? You don’t see the appeal here…? REALLY??? (Mind you, these are the same people who said “NO!” to The Help–60 times–before someone said, “HELL, YES!” and now the book’s sold something like five million copies.)
So I went the self-published route and have been very happy with the whole experience. But through this whole process, from Big Idea Day until about a month ago, it was really just me and my laptop creating this world, or more accurately re-creating it, tapping away hoping somebody else would see the potential in this story. And the whole time, I kept thinking, Wow, this would make a great mini-series. It has a definite start–the day the hotel opened, and a definite end–the day it closes. You could have all sorts of modern-day stars cameoing the likes of Garbo, Crawford, Cukor, deMille, Parker, Flynn. It could be great!
Then an email arrived about a month ago from someone saying he was a film producer, had just learned about the Garden of Allah, googled it to find my website, and asked me where he could find my books. It’s a wonder I didn’t leap for joy while simultaneously peeing my pants and choking on a snickerdoodle, but I didn’t. But when it arrived, I was deeply in Final Edit Mode, and that’s such an ass-kicking, mother-humper of a process that I didn’t pay much attention beyond, Oh really? You’re a…ahem…“film producer”…? Aren’t we all, man. Whatever. He seemed nice, though, so I emailed him back and told him that the first one would be out at the end of December, and then sort of forgot about him.
I posted my first chapter online and he emailed to say that he was very interested and keen to see an advance copy, if that were possible, and when can we meet? It look us a while to find a mutually-convenient date but we agreed on Tuesday of this week. That’s when I realized I’d finally met someone who saw the potential of this story and I haven’t just been deluding myself that this could make a great…something-or-other.
So, my first big, fat Hollywood meeting was really just a cup of coffee at the café around the corner, but it went very well. I told him how I’d researched the whole thing, plotted out nine books covering the golden years of Hollywood, telling the history of Hollywood through the eyes of the people who lived through it all. He totally got it, totally loved it, totally dug it.
We talked, too, about Boardwalk Empire (an HBO show set in 1920s Prohibition era Atlantic City) and the parallels between the two stories. He said that it has been a success across the board – commercially, critically, creatively, ratingsly (is that a word?), especially with the 21-to-34 demographic, which surprised me. I wouldn’t have thought that that generation would have cared about what happened in the far distant past.
So I asked him where do we go from here. He told me he’d be very happy to receive as much as I cared to show him whenever I was ready to show him. He didn’t pressure me but let me know that he’s keen to see my work. So yesterday I sent him the final draft.
This is all rather exciting…potentially. I imagine the sort of conversation we had goes on in this town 100 times a day, and at least 98 of them go nowhere. And of the two that do, one of them gets totally ripped off. Of course, the history of this town is the history of people ripping off other people, stealing their stories and ideas, and gypping them out of what’s their due. I don’t know that I’m smart enough to be the 1 in 100 who skates through unscathed, but it does happen so we’ll see. With any luck, not to mention canny legal maneuvering and blatant sucking up (do they have casting couches for writers?) The Garden of Allah might be coming to a screen near you.
Read the first chapter of The Garden on Sunset now!
~~~ www.MartinTurnbull.com ~~~