In the sixth in his series of blog posts about Room For Love, ILYA talks about the book nearly became a film.
ALMOST A MOVIE (ER, YES!)
So that was the 1990s. I continued to develop the story idea that eventually became Room For Love over the intervening years.
Around the start of the year 2000, and initially with the working title of Wild Class, it became the frontrunner out of many ideas that I had pitched to Platinum Studios in Los Angeles. You might possibly have heard of them – a company founded in 1997 by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, probably because of the successful transition from comics to film of The Men in Black while he was head of Malibu Comics. Ervin Rustemagić (he of Fax From Sarajevo, with Joe Kubert) was also somehow involved.
During all of this, a low budget independent movie had been the surprise hit of the previous summer and now suddenly every studio wanted one. Negotiations around Wild Class, The Movie – essentially the exact plotline of Room For Love – suddenly escalated as far as serious talks with a partnered movie production house, In Hollywood! Nobody really got my original title, which originated with a nonsense braggadocio rhyme (the drunken extemporised song survives within the present graphic novel, page 36). We toyed with others…
Wild at Hearth
My Empty Place (which is what I thought Mi Vida Loca meant, which tells you how bad my Spanish was!)
The Homeless Heart
Take Me Home
…before settling on, yes, Room For Love as the preferred option.
The movie producers circling the storyline decided that they wanted a couple of crucial changes that were hard to reconcile (bringing forward the age of the underage component in the core relationship, which was somewhat neutralising the point of it all: plus, more reasonably perhaps, everybody felt that the attack of appendicitis read too much like a plot contrivance. I dutifully read up on the condition but it did still seem like something that most often struck like a bolt from the blue, without foreshadowing of any sort or anything remotely resembling a, cough, redemptive arc). And then the comic-book side of the operation presented me with a contract that I simply couldn’t agree to. I originally wrote “laughable” here, but they might still be watching, so I won’t. It was a work-for-hire contract surrendering all copyright – the bugbear demon of the comic book industry almost since it began, a stumbling horror that just won’t die. This would have been bad enough by itself (although, I was informed, movie-business standard issue, since the studios require absolutism in rights and ownership. Take note though, kids, other parties can become involved in a solo creation of yours as licensors, but even if it means remaining penniless it’s you that should – as I do – retain copyright). What made things worse, however – indeed, yes, laughable – was that there wasn’t any actual “hire” offered as a part of this work-for-hire arrangement. I was expected to work for free, gambling everything on a share of any back end, should any movie magically result. Allegedly. So I withdrew. I’m not bitter. Platinum Studio’s only notable movie product ever since, which took a great many years to come to fruition, was last year’s Cowboys vs Aliens! Errr…sounded great on paper. I’ll leave it there.
By now I knew that I had something. Around the year 2000, in between projects, I concentrated on developing the storyline up further with a long form comic or “graphic novel” very much in mind (the Platinum incarnation would have been as a 3- or 4-issue mini-series of standard floppy US format comic book pamphlets, pretty much redundant as economic units ever since the 1970s).
In 2004 I approached a major publisher with a fully developed proposal package: full synopsis, a script sample based on ‘By The Way’, and character studies. The one-sheet from 2000 (above) by now seemed rendered too clean and antiseptic, a little stiff, so I got out my brushes and favourite cartridge pen and took another run at it (below). I don’t think the outcome was that much better…!
The response was mild interest. Which presented me with a conundrum – one that, at the time, I was unable to resolve. Basically I would then have been obliged to work up a sequence of fully finished pages whilst still on spec and, unfortunately, I simply couldn’t afford to do this, especially if the book itself were then not taken up. I still can’t afford to do this, really, but it is pretty much the only realistic option left open to most graphic novelists working today. It has become an industry standard – the reasonable expectation, when publishing itself has become such a gamble – requiring investment from both parties; but you, the creator, first. To lodge any book-length project with a prospective publisher, the onus is on the graphic novelist to take or buy the time out sufficient to work up a completed sample of up to 20-30 pages, if not to go ahead and build the whole damn thing, in order that “they will come” (a sneaky nod to Costner movie Field of Dreams there…).
It’s 2013. I was lucky this time, after over 20 years of development, redevelopment, hard graft, countless near misses – almost a manga, almost a DC comic book, almost a movie – and ultimately at my third and final dry-run attempt at an Original Graphic Novel with SelfMadeHero during this last year alone. I guess the lesson here is, Perseverance Pays Off. Sometimes. Potentially. Success not being the same thing as Achievement.
You have to believe in yourself to the max, and invest beyond your limits, in order to tell the stories you want to tell and in the way that you want to tell them. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hard going, nigh on impossible…but when you gamble, invest yourself, time and energy, and through blind luck and timing as much as any skill or craft you finally arrive at your very own book publication? Well then, hopefully it will have all been worth it. Get cape, wear cape, fly…
If only your precious creation can garner reviews of any sort, be they paeans or brickbats. If only, in a very hard market, it gets ordered in, distributed adequately, and then sells…fingers crossed, eyes shut, pray, pray, pray…
All goes white. Silence.
Wait, is that The End? No, the Fat Lady has yet to approach the mike. More, next…