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6 Out of 9 Best Picture Nominees Were Based On Novels (Where's My Octavia Butler Adaptation?)

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by Tambay A. Obenson
February 27, 2012 12:05 PM
77 Comments
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Last FridayFebruary 24th, 2012 marked the 6th year since Hugo and Nebula award winner, Octavia Butler, died from a stroke at just 58 years old (she died February 24th, 2006).

To celebrate Ms Butler, I thought I'd revisit a year-old post and survey, titled, Novels That Could/Should Be Movies (Your Take). I like doing this at least once every year, if only to see what others are reading, but also hoping that maybe we'd inspire someone to take on filmic adaptations of some of these literary works that would make for some really interesting films (in the right hands), but have otherwise been ignored.

A scan of any movie Hollywood box office chart will show that there are actually very few of what I would call *original* screenplays being produced. Most are sequels, or prequels, or they are based on old TV shows, or remakes of old movies, remakes of foreign titles, or they are based on comic books/graphic novels, or titles that are adaptations of books.

I recall THIS write-up on Slate last year, asking who the most adapted authors are in cinema, penned by Forrest Wickman. In it, he lists the top 25 authors who's works, as he's determined, are the most adapted; specifically, Mr Wickman's working list of the top 25 most film-adapted authors, and the number of times their works have been adapted, using IMDB as his source: 1. William Shakespeare (831); 2. Anton Chekhov (320); 3. Charles Dickens (300); 4. Edgar Allan Poe (240); 5. Robert Louis Stevenson (225); 6. Arthur Conan Doyle (220); 7. Hans Christian Andersen (217); 8. The Brothers Grimm (212); 9. Molière (208); 10. O. Henry (201); 11. Oscar Wilde (181); 12. Victor Hugo (150); 13. Jules Verne (143); 14. Stephen King (127); 15. Agatha Christie (126); 16. L. Frank Baum (124); 17. Mark Twain (121); 18. Cervantes (101); 19. H.P. Lovecraft (99); 20. J.M. Barrie (93); 21. Ian Fleming (88); 22. H.G. Wells (85); 23. Rudyard Kipling (78); 24. Tennessee Williams (74); 25. Stan Lee (73).

That Shakespeare's name is at the top of the list is absolutely no surprise! You'll also note the absence of, shall we say, *color*, in the above list. But that shouldn't be a surprise either - the "invisible" original screenwriter's dilemma. 

Hollywood loves book adaptations. It’s obvious! In fact, some of the most revered and financially successful films in cinema history were first in literary form before making the transition to celluloid.

As the title of this post states, 6 out of the 9 Best Picture Academy Award nominees this year were adaptations of books: The Help, Moneyball, The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Hugo, and War Horse.

I remembered reading an article some years ago in which Steven Spielberg actually encouraged writers to pursue careers as novelists, instead of screenwriters; stating that, at the time, his Dreamworks office was littered with stacks of novels he mined for source material, as he expressed his respect for them, over the original screenplay.

Practically all of Stanley Kubrick’s films, except his debut, were adaptations of novels or novellas.

Similarly, quite a few more of our most notable directors also have resumes that resemble Spielberg’s, in terms of a mix of original screenplays and adaptations of books. Although, unfortunately, books by and/or about people of African descent just don't get the same kind of attention.

Soooo... all this to say... or rather to ask you all: what yet-to-be adapted novels would you like to see made into movies, or that you think would make good films? Specifically, novels that center on a character (or characters) of African descent.

A few that immediately come to mind: I think several of Octavia Butler's novels are just begging for big screen treatment; and with so much interest in sci-fi, one would expect that at least one of her books would have gotten the green-light by now.

I recall an interview in which she stated that her debut novel, Kindred, had been optioned several times, but, unfortunately, the producers were unable to raise the necessary funds to go into production. I think Kindred is probably her most accessible, most commercial work. And if that novel can't attract financing, then, none of her more esoteric titles will.

In terms of contemporary fiction, I'd say works by names like Colson Whitehead (notably The Intuitionist & Apex Hides The Hurt amongst others) are ripe for adaptations; Mat Johnson's hilarious gentrification satire, Hunting In Harlem, would be near-perfect and quite topical; Victor LaValle's Big Machine, a fresh, dark, fantastical ride through America's "underclass," contains plenty of meat for the right filmmaker. In fact, if I were a producer, I'd be taking a close look at LaValle's entire oeuvre, including The Ecstatic, which actually inspired Mos Def's last album title of the same name.

Those are just a TINY few from a group of thousands upon thousands more; and I'm not even including writers from other parts of the Diaspora - continental African writers, Europe, Asia, South America, the Carribean, Canada, etc, etc, etc. Black/African people are everywhere after all, right?

But I'd like to hear what's on your list. So, drop some titles below. Who knows - maybe we could actually influence some minds reading this :) Yes, some of us will agree that books should remain as they are, in print, and films should rely on original content from original screenplays; but, as you can see, book adaptations are almost starting to become the norm in terms of source material for movies.

So indulge me... at worst, we all might learn about some titles that we were previously unaware of. And no, I'm not asking you to unload your entire library of book titles here, so PLEASE don't do that; name 2 or 3 that realistically, could be adapted... and that actually might have SOME commercial appeal.

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77 Comments

  • Donella | January 3, 2013 4:48 PMReply

    From a 2001 article: "EVEN though film rights to Octavia Butler's 1979 novel ''Kindred'' have been under option almost continuously since the book was published, a screen version will not be at the multiplex any time soon. ''They just can't raise the money'' for a film adaptation, says Ms. Butler, the only science fiction writer to win a MacArthur Foundation genius grant." http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/08/movies/film-a-genre-of-the-intellect-with-little-use-for-ideas.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

  • marc | July 3, 2012 12:20 PMReply

    African American novels that would make great movies: 1) Middle Passage, Charles Johnson, 2) The Known World, Edgar Jones, 3) The Living Blood, Tananarive Due, 4) Blood Brothers, Stephen Barnes, 5) Clay's Ark, Octavia Butler, 6) Kindred, Octavia Butler, and 7) Coyote Kings, Minister Faust

  • Lea, BLAK HLLYWD INSIDER | March 1, 2012 10:21 PMReply

    ...In all honesty, to get films made with African American story and decent(sometimes large) budget and distribution to the appropriate markets like major indies and features is to go to Canada. A majority of black filmmakers are going there the way earlier black filmmakers went to Europe. Some black films made through Canadian production : The Planet of Junior Brown, How She Move , Love Sex and Eating the Bones, Brother 2 Brother, Noah's Ark: Jumpin' The Broom, Poor Boy's Game. Shaka Zulu miniseries was through Britain/Sweden....see a pattern, the content is more varied, diverse yet all are African American. Maybe if we start going overseas to make movies then Hollywood will notice the increase in US money from black moviegoers in Europe, they'll start making our stuff...just a thought?

  • Haqi Jamison | March 1, 2012 3:12 PMReply

    I read Miles Makers comments on S&A...

    My question is when will we stop caring about rights? No one else does. Someone commented about her book Clay and how a couple of these huge box office movies used a name and some relatable storyline from her books. She's' gone and whoever this guy is who owns her rights doesn't care and if he does he probably collected his cut and kept quiet. The person did not mention the movies but I think they were "Push" and "Jumpers".

    Why cannot we see the opportunities blacks have to create a movement for themselves without intervention. Distribution is already here we're using it right now as I type to you.

    Also small budget BIG effects comes down to a little thing I'm using right now called a macbook pro. Adobe CS5 some cinema 4D, green screen and compositing. What more is needed.

    All it needs a small amount of organization and a grassroots movement to get it going. I have the plan already. If anyone wants to talk about it let's.

  • urbanauteur | March 7, 2012 1:32 PM

    @HAQI JAMISON, let's talk, i wrote a 6hr coming of age story a few years back[that i can only describe as, a cross between richard linklater's waking life and francios truffaults-400 blows] wanting to utilized bob sabitson's ROTOSCOPE TECHNIQUE,i would like to discuss it with u,will that be kool & the gang?

  • Cherish | March 1, 2012 12:05 AMReply

    Does anyone think J.J. Abrams can do justice to the PARABLE OF SOWER/TALENTS, or any of Ms. Butler's works? Reading about his new show REVOLUTION, I wonder would it be if there is PARABLE series on broadcast television (one can only dream).

  • Donella | March 4, 2012 3:31 PM

    I saw Kasi Lemmon's name further down. I believe she'd be great for both Kindred and the the Parable series. The greatest fear with a non-black director/producer would be the temptation to whitewash Butler's deliberate intent of featuring a Black female as protagonist/heroine in nearly every story.

  • CareyCarey | March 1, 2012 3:57 PM

    CHERISH! STOP RIGHT THERE! Do not pass go and don't even think about collecting $200. J.J. Abrams??!!! Ms. Cherish, we have to talk :-(

  • Donella | March 1, 2012 12:48 PM

    I do think either J.J. Abrams or Joss Whedon would be GREAT for Butler's works, all of them. A plus for Abrams is that he's collaborated with Spielberg in the past.

  • sonofbaldwin | February 28, 2012 7:36 PMReply

    Dear Universe:

    Please don't let Hollywood get its filthy, stinking, white supremacist hands on any of Octavia Butler's brilliant work.

    Thank you.

  • Stacey Muhammad | March 1, 2012 12:56 PM

    Echoing those sentiments!!!

  • urbanauteur | February 29, 2012 9:28 AM

    @SONOFBALDWIN, hope ZEUS,NEFFERTTI & HERCULES hear you..;-)

  • Geneva Girl | February 28, 2012 1:33 PMReply

    I've said this on this site before and I guess I'll keep saying it until somebody listens: the novels by Christopher Paul Curtis. Not every film has to be made for adults. His two most popular, award-winning books, Bud, Not Buddy and The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963 are standard fare for middle school readers so there's a built-in audience for them both. Every summer both books are on the summer reading list table in the white suburb where my parents live. They'd have cross-over appeal. Schools would bus in loads of kids.

    They're extremely well-written historical fiction. I'm surprised that Will Smith hasn't snapped up The Wastons for his family. Both are humorous books and there's no preaching.

    Trust me, I'd be at the theater on opening day with the entire family in tow.

  • Donella | February 28, 2012 1:09 PMReply

    I'm adding Barbara Neeley's Blanche series! Those books are laugh out loud funny.

  • Donella | February 28, 2012 7:05 PM

    Ah, I'm sure your wife and mother have PLENTY of funny stories to tell. :-)

  • CareyCarey | February 28, 2012 1:21 PM

    *LOL* Be careful Donella, you know some people will have a natural fit if and when another "maid" hits the big screen. I mean, I loved all of Barbara Neeley's books and my wife had a cleaning business and my mother worked in white folks homes, but when some folks hear the word "Maid" they break out in a cold sweat.

  • tmack | February 28, 2012 12:02 AMReply

    What a coincidence. I have just finished re-reading Kindred, appreciating the cinematic quality of her prose. Butler is such a strong writer--direct, active, character-driven. And what a great opening with Dana's arm part of a wall.

    One of my other favorite Butler novels is Dawn, the first book in her Xenogenesis series. More science fiction than Kindred, it would easily appeal to sci-fi fans and since it includes a diverse group of people, it should cross cultural lines with no problem. But who would play Lilith? I see Sophie Okenedo (?) in that role.

    I haven't liked much of the recent sci-fi movies (I did like Source Code) which seem more like adolescent fantasies than original, hardcore science fiction. Butler's material provides us with a gold mine of possibilities.

  • Lea, Blak HLLYWD Insider | February 27, 2012 11:29 PMReply

    Pt. 2: Also scifi is not a very expensive genre when you know how to execute well. When financing comes in for these types of movies, studios like to go with people that have held their own in that arena (Michael Bay, JJ Abrams, James Cameron) that's what happen in the case of Twilight #2, Octavia's work would take a smart filmmaker with a bag of tricks that would rival Stanley Kubrick by keeping the budget low and the style high. But what films always boil down to is there distribution, its the difference between make a cake or throw it out the window.Black films never go overseas based on the belief of no demographic to appeal to, like the film industry pretends there's no continent called Africa but what plays a factor is not the demographic but the wealth. Here's a little math for you at home:
    The film industry decides a director's next budget by this formula (Last 3 movies total box office/3) = budget for the next movie

    If a ticket to the movies is about $13 USD its a lot more overseas and in countries that may not be as wealthy, its hard right now to go to the movies with ticket prices so high.Jump to Europe which is one of a few wealthy nations on pare with the US (Japan) who go to the movies frquently. This tells movie studios who we have to appeal to, it all boils down to money so black filmmakers have to be more slick, try miniseries (Mildred Pierce, Peter Pan), try TV Movies (Recount, Grey Gardens) try PPV or VOD (video on demand) and straight to DVD.There's a ton of great work through Sheila Nevins and HBO Films: Deadly Voyage, Lackwana Blues, Life Support , Angel Rodriguez, The Josephine Baker Story and Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. Maybe if black filmmakers came up with a film treaty like Dogma 95 making film through 40 Acres and a Mule , Rainforest Films and HBO Films there would be such a film renaissance and then we wouldn't have to talk in terms of movies like this.

  • Donella | March 1, 2012 12:52 PM

    I keep forgetting the Patternist series. Butler has a wealth of work that would be well served by a visual interpretation either as a cable series or HBO film. Possibly silver screen.

  • Donella | February 28, 2012 1:07 PM

    With the work of Octavia Butler, Kindred and the Parable series would require little to no special effects. The advancement of computer technology would do great service to the Xenogenesis stories. Maybe done as HBO films (or even as a series) would be the best route. I like the ideas I'm seeing. Maybe it can finally be done!

  • Lea | February 27, 2012 10:14 PMReply

    If you notice the current things in the box office are devoid of originality because of the economy, the film industry only produces and makes things with a built in audience. They do not want to spend the money marketing, promoting and selling a movie to the audience whether its a blockbuster (John Carter), Oscar nominee(Hugo) or Indie (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), they want it already done for them. When we get into the realm of black literature, which already has a built in audience by particular authors and genre. The fan based of a Omar Tyree may not have the same support or size as the fan based of a Stephanie Meyer.The only way to get black adaptations on the screen of novels are the ones that cross over in fan base like Boondocks, black novels that are sci-fi(Walter Mosely), horror (LA Banks) and gay (E.Lynn Harris), we have to join together in otherness to get a group... an audience for the film industry.

  • Donella | February 28, 2012 1:02 PM

    I love Walter Moseley's Futureland. I do believe since it is cyberpunk, it would draw a large audience if translated to film.

  • LeonRaymond | February 27, 2012 9:47 PMReply

    @ Miles Maker -Excellent post , excellent question at the end!!!!

  • LeonRaymond | February 27, 2012 9:47 PMReply

    @ Miles Maker -Excellent post , excellent question at the end!!!!

  • Someone | February 27, 2012 6:53 PMReply

    Clearly it will happen when they find another black actress they CHOOSE.. Not who the black community chooses but who THEY choose.. Why have these conversations when you clearly know the obvious Tambay???

    U know by now it isnt a good idea until they come up with it!!!

  • urbanauteur | February 27, 2012 4:21 PMReply

    The Peter Pan Chronicles-Charles Frye
    The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing-M.T.Anderson
    Sister X and the Victums of Foul Play-Carlene Hatcher Polite
    From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate:Bedouin HornBook-Nathaniel Mackey(if u can find it)
    Mumbo Jumbo-The Last Days of Louisana Red-The Terrible Twos-Flight to Canada-Japanese by Spring and his delicously rad-Reckless Eyeballing-Ishmeal Reed
    Goodbye,Sweetwater(book of short stories and Toni Morrison's fave writer)- Henry Dumas
    The Screamers-Amiri Baraka
    Dhargren-Samuel Delany

  • Dean | February 27, 2012 4:05 PMReply

    The novel "Near Perfect" by Sharon Mitchell would make a great movie. It has love, sex, violence, sports and more. Ever After and Neva Hafta by Edwardo Jackson are good pics too.

  • Cherish | February 27, 2012 3:49 PMReply

    KINDRED definitely belongs on film, but the PARABLE series should be an HBO series, maybe 5 parts or longer. (If they can drag out that MILDRED PIECE snoozefest in 4 parts, then can defintely break out PARABLE into multiple episodes.) Imagine if it was on HBO, they won't have the same limitations as a feature film, and can go into greater detail on the character development and the story. Watching what HBO has accomplished with GAME OF THRONES, I can only dream and drool over what they can do with PARABLE OF THE SOWER.

  • silverpeg | February 28, 2012 5:04 AM

    So true about this book. Would be great if HBO worked.it.

  • tmack | February 28, 2012 12:05 AM

    Great suggestion re HBO Parable series. I could also see Dawn as a series--kinda like Lost with a scifi twist.

  • Miles Maker | February 27, 2012 3:37 PMReply

    There are 2 issues here.

    One is the issue of rights. I was pursuing screenplay rights to her first award-winning short film Speech Sounds in 2005 shortly before she passed, and I was informed by her publishing company Seven Stories Press that she had signed all her motion picture rights away to RJ Feldman and Pearl Pictures. Feldman's stance was a tough one as Octavia had expressed her lack of desire to have any of her works adapted to screen on several occasions publicly. I thought I might squeeze a short story option through in hopes of expanding it into a feature film but it simply didn't happen. Obtaining rights to her work may have become even more costly and altogether difficult since her untimely passing.

    The other issue is production budget and value. Sci-fi is one of the most challenging genres to produce, and in a financing environment where it is largely ill-believed that Black film doesn't sell overseas and the fact most filmmakers of color are barely finding financing for films with far less economic demands on their budget, the possibility is simply beyond the reach of most of us.

    This presents a question--what if a White producer got the greenlight to make an Octavia Butler movie? Would Butler fans and Black audiences be upset?

  • mina | February 27, 2012 2:06 PMReply

    I just finished reading Clays Ark last month which I read after Mind of My Mind, and before that WildSeed, all written by Octavia. Clays Ark is too uncanny almost identical to two movies that were huge box offices (I will not mention the names), however one character name is actually used in one of the box office movies. I would love love love to see WildSeed come to the big screen since it would require a tremendous amount of special affects and would also require historical research of ancient african culture(s) preceding ancient Egyptian civilization. Octavia's last book Fledgeling would be nice to see on the big screen which will give a different perspective of vampires. Of course I would love to see Kindred, that particular story is timeless and in a way echoes Kara Walkers work.

    I truly miss Octavia, fortunately I was able to meet her before her transition.

    Peace,

    mina <3

  • urbanauteur | February 27, 2012 3:36 PM

    @MINA, you stole my thunder that book{Clay's Ark} is among my all time favorite's, i read that along with another u`ber black post modernist/author by the name of Clarence Major, his 2nd novel"No" & his seminal piece that auteur Wendel b.Harris once toyed with it the idea of adapting it he said a few years back @ a film art house i attended, that novel was,"Reflex & Bone Structure".Mr.Major's 1st novel iswhat i can only say "off the freakin chain!"its definately not for the faint of heart -All Nite Visitors- i would love to adapt, its like Platoon meet's Last Tango in Paris, love it,love it;-}

  • CareyCarey | February 27, 2012 1:50 PMReply

    If Django Unchained is the next big thang on the horizon, I think Guy Johnson's ( Maya Angelou's son) book Standing At The Scratch Line, should soon follow. What, don't tell me y'all have not heard of or read THAT book? It's a well written must read about the baddest badass black central character in print. Check this: Raised in the steamy bayous of New Orleans in the early 1900s, LeRoi "King" Tremain, caught up in his family's ongoing feud with the rival DuMont family, learns to fight. But when the teenage King mistakenly kills two white deputies during a botched raid on the DuMonts, the Tremains' fear of reprisal forces King to flee Louisiana.

    King thus embarks on an adventure that first takes him to France, where he fights in World War I as a member of the segregated 369th Battalion—in the bigoted army he finds himself locked in combat with American soldiers as well as with Germans. When he returns to America, he battles the Mob in Jazz Age Harlem, the KKK in Louisiana, and crooked politicians trying to destroy a black township in Oklahoma.

    King Tremain is driven by two principal forces: He wants to be treated with respect, and he wants to create a family dynasty much like the one he left behind in Louisiana. This is a stunning debut by novelist Guy Johnson that provides a true depiction of the lives of African-Americans in the early decades of the twentieth century.

  • Niela | February 27, 2012 1:44 PMReply

    I'd also love to see Morrison's SONG OF SOLOMON adapted, too. I can't believe that one hasn't been successfully adapted, given that it came out around the same time as ROOTS did, and it seemed as though the country was transfixed on black generational sagas, or at least tolerant of them in the late '70s.

  • urbanauteur | February 28, 2012 2:04 PM

    @NIELA, yeah he(spike) talks about it briefly in 1 or 2 sentences in his pyrogenic tell all book[that's my story and i'm sticking with it] check it out, its some good stuff in it, one that sticks out for me, is his casting director-ruby reed's bitchfest with spike over casting, she wanted acotr - Don Cheadle for the "shorty" role, instead of spike himself , thatz what prompted Samuel l.Jackson to bunce on him when he accuse spike of goin to the money well 3&4 times over , but did`nt what to give him a pay raise, its here b-movie villian/actor-clifton powell has a point, when he was on radio host-russ parr show , but thatz another topic concerning bitterness disguise as player-hating.

  • Niela | February 28, 2012 1:34 PM

    Nice! Thanks for this tidbit. I had no idea Spike Lee was at one time involved with Song of Solomon and Sula. I love the Shadow and Act community! You guys know more than IMDB (especially where it counts for me, with black film)!

  • urbanautuer | February 27, 2012 3:44 PM

    @NIELA, spike lee toyed with that novel(Song Of Solomon) and had his -then-girlfriend-Lisa Jones(poet-amiri baraka's daugther)to write the adaptation of SULA-i'm curious if she ever finish it?, but shit hit the fan when her pop's clock on spike right before Malcohm X went into production and the rest is yada,yada...

  • Niela | February 27, 2012 1:41 PMReply

    Mat Johnson's PYM, Toni Cade Bambara's THE SALT EATERS, Percival Everett's ASSUMPTION, David Bradley's THE CHANEYSVILLE INCIDENT, and of course Lavalle's and Whitehead's first works would be awesome to see adapted.

  • urbanauteur | February 28, 2012 5:54 PM

    @NIELA, i can give you a handfull of directors[DEVOID of BIAS] who dont mind throwing celluloid hand granades, and could possibly give Gayl Jones novels some red light levity, here goe's...TAKASHI MIIKE-LARS VON TRIER-CHERYL DUNNE-HARMONY KORINE-WONG KAR WAI-PING BROTHERS-JAMAA FANAKA-JESS FRANCO-ALEX DE LA IGLESIA...thatz all i can think of right now;-)

  • CareyCarey | February 28, 2012 3:48 PM

    @ Niela, I'm off to order Caveman's Valentine (never seen it). I think I'll do a night of Samuel Jackson and Sidney Poitier's The Mark Of The Hawk (never seen it either but it's already in my queue). Yes sir, beans & rice, cornbread, hamhocks and Sidney & Samuel! I'm looking forward to a great evening. Thanks for the tip.

  • Niela | February 28, 2012 2:07 PM

    @Carey Carey,
    I think Kasi Lemmons would do an awesome job! I saw a trailer for Caveman's Valentine on VHS a while back and recently saw it online again a few weeks ago. I have to see this movie not only to support Kasi, but to add this one to the legion of films featuring Samuel L. Jackson sporting messed up wigs!

  • CareyCarey | February 28, 2012 1:13 PM

    @ Niela, I know exactly what you are saying, especially this ---> "and don't offer the same type of imaginative collaboration one gets when one conjures up images and scenes flavored by her or his own experiences. In a book there might be described a "chair, set against a wall." In a movie, you find that the chair is brown, when you might've been imagining a blue one. Books offer more time and detail to deal in trauma". In fact, I'd be hard pressed to champion any movie adapted from a book (that I've seen). Don't get me wrong, the movie or movies may have been "good" entertainment, but they've never moved me nearly as much as the book. I could list a few and what I thought about them, but I don't want the blog police to jump on me :-). So yeah Niela I am feeling you. RE: proper director. Yep, there's only a few in which I could see handling Gayl Jones. It would be a very short list. I don't know about Julie Dash or Kasi Lemmons. I am still scratching my head over Daughters Of The Dust. But wait, I love Kasi Lemmons acting. I will never forget her part as Cookie in The Five Heartbeats. Hold up, back track, I loved Eve's Bayou. It's one of my all time favorites. And I thoroughly enjoyed Talk To Me. So yeah, Kasi could most certainly handle Gayl Jones. She might even be my first pick if Steve Mc Queen was not available.

  • Niela | February 28, 2012 12:09 PM

    @UrbanAuteur and @CareyCarey, I don't mean to say that they shouldn't be adapted simply because it would be hard for me to watch. I suppose that's my issue. I just don't know if I want to be a voyeur like that to the truly wretched stuff the women (and men) in the Jones novels have to endure, and with film I think there's inherently more of an opportunity to be a voyeur since the images are all there for you, and don't offer the same type of imaginative collaboration one gets when one conjures up images and scenes flavored by her or his own experiences. In a book there might be described a "chair, set against a wall." In a movie, you find that the chair is brown, when you might've been imagining a blue one. Books offer more time and detail to deal in trauma. Films have a different magic. Just wanted to clarify that.

  • Niela | February 28, 2012 11:56 AM

    @UrbanAuteur, you read my mind! I have read White Rat, Corregidora, Eva's Man, and I got through one half of The Healing. I love Gayl Jones and I hope she's doing better now. I just don't know if her novels would make the best adaptations, given the horrifying stuff that happens in them. Don't know if I could stand to see the stuff in the books played out on screen, especially given my issues with "the Gaze" in all its forms. You'd need a sensitive, skilled director to handle Gayl Jones. I'd prefer a woman, too. Maybe Kasi Lemmons, Darnell Martin, or, one of my all-time faves, Julie Dash!

  • CareyCarey | February 27, 2012 4:49 PM

    @ Urbanauteur, only you would mention Gayl Jones. Man, her life story entwined with the books you mention would make a fantastic movie. For me, Eva's Man was a difficult read (I'm slow :-)), so I had to read it a couple of times, especially the last 2 chapters. But when I got it, it has stuck with me like peanut butter and jam smashed between 2 slices of dark wheat bread.

  • urbanauteur | February 27, 2012 3:51 PM

    @NIELA, if u love u some Toni Cade Bambara?, checkout her short stories-Gorilla,my love and her underrated compadre- Gayl Jones-White Rat, Eva's Man= this where a sister does a lorena bobbitt on her abusive boyfriend-whew!., also Andrienne Kennedy's1 act plays- funnyhouse of a negro & j.j.philips "Mojo Hand" i proably own the last copy,b/c its out of print.

  • Donella | February 27, 2012 1:11 PMReply

    Dreamworks (Spielberg's company) has sat on Octavia Butler's options for years. Neither Kindred (time travel/slave epic), nor the Parable series (post-apocalyptic), nor the Xenogenesis (post-apocalyptic/alien encounter) can be adapted to screen without the permission of Dreamworks. Not sure about Fledgling (vampires), although this work would be interesting because as Butler stated at a lecture I attended, the secret to UV resistence was melanin.

  • Nadine | February 27, 2012 4:28 PM

    Oh... I see Tambay's article from 2/24/11 - http://www.shadowandact.com/?p=40149

  • Nadine | February 27, 2012 4:26 PM

    Wow. That's not right. Did Butler mention this in her lecture?

  • jmac | February 27, 2012 1:43 PM

    Initiate a letter writing campaign perhaps?

  • Ayinde | February 27, 2012 12:51 PMReply

    Diane McKinney Whetstone - Tumbling and Blues Dancing

  • maurice | February 27, 2012 12:45 PMReply

    I'm surprised no ones tried to make THINGS FALL APART, INVISIBLE MAN (Ellison's) or COLDEST WINTER EVER. But i think Winter has been in talks w/ Will Smiths company for a while now, not sure about the status. But the other 2 are bonafied classics and would have built in audiences for education and entertainment.

  • HG | February 27, 2012 12:36 PMReply

    I'm a long-time lurker here at Shadow and Act, but this post needs a comment!

    What wouldn't I give to see an Octavia Butler film adaptation! Kindred is definitely the most accessible, but I think her Parable series would be amazing for the screen: both Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents.

    But we may have to look outside of Hollywood if we want to see a black sci-fi movie. From what I understand, the Kenyan filmmaker behind Pumzi, Wanuri Kahiu, is set to direct the film adaptation of Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death. Absolutely. cannot. wait!

    Also, I wonder how literate are our black filmmakers in the Hollywood industry. I gotta ask because it seems like, if they were readers of black literature, we would have already seen those movies made, instead of all that Tyler Perry and other black comedy fluff based on mediocre screenplays.

    Even Spike Lee has yet to adapt a black literary masterpiece into film (although, I had heard decades back that he once was interested in adapting Toni Morrison's Sula, which would have made more sense as a film than what Oprah Winfrey did to Beloved, although I personally would prefer to see Morrison's Song of Solomon become a film).

    But, yeah, where's the film adaptations for Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man or Jean Toomer's Cane or Paule Marshall's Brown Girls, Brownstone? Or what about other sci-fi novels, like Nalo Hopkinson's Brown Girl in the Ring?

    I just wish more filmmaking folks read more black fiction, as there are so many great stories out there.

  • BONDGIRL | March 3, 2012 3:53 PM

    @Carey, when Nadine's friend has completed her work, do forward it with any questions she might have. Thanks:)

  • Nadine | March 1, 2012 6:18 PM

    @ CHERISH - a wasted opportunity indeed. JYL, seriously, I need to go watch that again. Amazing movie. It's these squandered FCG and Red Tails opportunities that gives me a headache. When we know our potential and continue to get garbage. I don't even want to start. Sad.

  • Nadine | March 1, 2012 6:15 PM

    @Careycarey - Thank you, I have been warned... I know what's up! That's why I think that you'd be a great addition to a "focus" group type thing. She really wants to support "her target" market while also being accessible for everyone without alienation. I say, you'll never get anything done if you try to please everyone all the time. That's just me, but cool. I'll forward her your information. I think she will be looking for feedback around the weekend of the 16th (don't hold me to that). BE NICE! ;)

  • Cherish | February 28, 2012 7:45 PM

    Nadine, I basically supporting your comments. I loved the Joy Luck Club as well. Everytime I remember that movie I become more pissed at FOR COLORED GIRLS. That could have been a movie as transcendary (?) as JOY LUCK CLUB. What a wasted opportunity. Instead of non-black women feeling a bond or relating to the women as they did with JYL, I bet they walked out of FOR COLORED GIRLS thinking, "Damn, I'm glad I'm not Black. "

  • Cherish | February 28, 2012 7:42 PM

    Same to you Carey. Always forcin a sista to think. LOL. Gotta do it once in awhile.

  • CareyCarey | February 28, 2012 5:39 PM

    @ Nadine, you said---> "I'm putting myself on diatribe break so let's see how long that lasts... Be well". ME TOO :-). But before I go I have to address this---> You said, "I've been trying to get a good friend of mine to think about, when she is ready, having you and BONDGIRL critique some of the choices for her project (which she is busily working on), so know that I respect your P.O.V. (as I do most - but you know what I mean)". Well, that's a very good choice... BONDGIRL that is. She and I talk off the blog. She's mature, straight forward, and knows what she's talking about. It's very seldom that she will give her opinions without supporting data/references/and/or experiences to support them. But be careful, this thing we do is not for the weak of heart. I can't speak for her, however, if a person desires and request my honest opinion, I am going to give them just that. No shake and no fake. Here is my e-mail address careydarnell@yahoo.com. Btw, if you ring, I'll send you a copy (video) of the play I just finished. I think it's pretty good and pretty funny.

  • CareyCarey | February 28, 2012 2:25 PM

    Okay Cherish, I will agree, experience ALONE is not the teacher. Oh happy day, we have arrived! And to you Cherish, thank you for putting up with my "noise". I've always enjoyed our conversations and your courage to say what's on your mind.

  • Cherish | February 28, 2012 9:55 AM

    Carey, your quoting an African proverb proves my point. Experience alone is not the teacher. You have to have further knowledge and understanding in order for that experience to have meaning and add to your life (or put it into context so as not to damage you.) We are social animals. We learn from each other, and when we do, we learn about ourselves.

  • Nadine | February 28, 2012 7:51 AM

    ...please stop CC... you are not even a part-time fool and an opponent I am not, sir! I always respect the passion and the thought put behind your arguments even when we don't agree. I've been trying to get a good friend of mine to think about, when she is ready, having you and BONDGIRL critique some of the choices for her project (which she is busily working on), so know that I respect your P.O.V. (as I do most - but you know what I mean). I'm putting myself on diatribe break so let's see how long that lasts... Be well.

  • CareyCarey | February 28, 2012 6:39 AM

    Yes Nadine, OH HAPPY DAY, we are agreeing with each other. And look, you are a formidable "opponent"/ debator, so it would be a fool's errand on my part to try knocking you over :-). Yo daddy and mother taught you well. And, although I've done many foolish thangs (these bumps on my head will prove that), I am not a full time fool. Peace be with you... it's been an enjoyable exchange.

  • Nadine | February 28, 2012 2:42 AM

    It's always so interesting... "Now let me remind you that I am not referring to "the most knowledge or the best education", lets get that straight." - you, I NEVER SAID THAT WAS THE CASE, but that belief or assumption could explain the P.O.V. of some of your arguments because, for the portion of your comment where you are addressing me, Nadine, you are essentially agreeing with me. You described what it is to be human (emotional experiences, etc...). I have to say... I went to some pretty good schools, so they say, and to this day I tell my parents that I didn't learn sh!t. 90% of what I learned was self-taught (If something didn't sound logical I wasn't going to accept it simply because they had a job in a school, so I acquired my own data) or learned from family (my father taught me how to frame my arguments and write essays when I was in the second grade and my mother taught me empathy which is a powerful tool for any writer). My writing style hasn't changed (other than my losing a lot of vocabulary), so when I speak about "study", I speak of transcending the status quo and investigating life by getting as much knowledge of the experiences of others so one might be able to APPLY personal "past emotional experiences that are our instant portals to our memories." - you, to their writing. CAREYCAREY, I think you're a dude, so I'd like you to write about a girl getting her period for the first time in the middle of a class while sitting in a co-ed classroom (not a personal experience as mine was much worse). My question is... as a LEE DANIELS (for example), you know, would he even think to write about something like that as he appears to have a limited view of girl and womanhood? He might be able to write something that has to do with embarrassment if prompted, but would he even think to write about it? As a man, has Daniels studied what it is to be a girl/woman or has he only studied pathology and used his personal observations filtered through his own experiences to place his idea of a girl/woman on-screen (again, I am still haunted by Monster's Ball, have mercy). So this was our disconnect. I believe you equated my statements on "study"with a brick & mortar school. Don't get me wrong, school is very important, life skills and such can be gained, also learning "to know what we don't know" is also very valuable, but the human experience plus empathy (understanding and knowledge regarding the experiences of others) brings me back to my original thesis - "Quality is quality. Black Filmmakers can make an impact by selling pathology to Hollywood or, the road less traveled, can KNOW MORE THAN YOUR AVERAGE filmmaker to make a REAL difference and help build a strong, viable and worthy Black film industry in the U.S...." Black filmmakers/actors/insiders who can look OUTSIDE of themselves to better understand their OWN experiences would be better able to rise to the occasion of ANY piece of work in ANY capacity.

  • Nadine | February 27, 2012 7:21 PM

    ..oh dang CHERISH... you hit the nail on the head with your post. I wish I had seen it before posting my comments (I got lazy). Joy Luck Club is one of my all-time favorites (past and present). That is a movie I identify with most given my upbringing. What a wonderful example.

  • Cherish | February 27, 2012 6:27 PM

    @CareyCarey, I disagree with your statement that “wisdom is learned by going through.” You can have an experience, but if you don’t understand what it means, why it happened, and put it into context in your life and the world around you, then there is no wisdom gained. In that scenario, at best the experience is rendered meaningless, at worst it can kill your soul. Many people are walking around in pain and trauma because of their experiences. Some can’t even put into words and articulate what happened to them. They don’t know why it happened to them, and can’t overcome and move on from it, so definitely no wisdom can be found here. That is why you hear of people in pain emotional breakthrough and catharsis can be found in reading (say in PUSH where Precious reads Color Purple and breaks down) Here wisdom is gained. As for filmmaking, I don’t think you necessarily have to be of the same race and background to tell the story. Some people are able to translate the story and tell the story from the human experience, because while instances in life happen within a cultural and social context, all experiences are ultimately the human experience and we can at least understand and relate to some level. Like Joy Luck Club. I can’t think of woman of any race who saw that movie and didn’t see their mother-daughter experience in one of those stories. MLK Jr. was the great writer/philosopher because he wrote and spoke of African American experience as an American and human experience for all to relate. Very few people can do this. And we learn from those that can.

  • CareyCarey | February 27, 2012 5:22 PM

    @ Nadine and Cherish, both of you have made very interesting points. Nadine, I applaud your well written comment and your insight into this issue. Hat tipped your way. Cherish, yes reading should be fundamental for a filmmaker (as Nadine pointed out), however, I believe you hit something very important when you mentioned "life experiences". Okay, I am about to go somewhere. When I look at films and the actors in them, I sometimes wonder who's at fault when said film does not hit the right emotional keys? I am suggesting that even though a screen-writer, director or filmmaker may have read their history and several books on the topic at hand, experience is the key. In other words, some folks should not lay a hand on some subjects/stories. In reference to the actors, someone in another post mentioned that Mrs. Newton cannot or should not play certain roles because she has no experiences to draw from. Well, I tend to agree with the overall sentiments of that opinion, not necessarily Thandie Newton. Moving forward, Tambay and I once had a conversation concerning rather or not a white director should be at the head of telling a "African American" story. Well, I believe they can, BUT they shouldn't because they cannot reach certain levels of our emotional experiences, nor have they lived them. Consequently, they cannot pass them on to their actors nor the story. So, in short, I believe experience is the best teacher. Say what you will and read what you want, however, wisdom is learned by going through.

  • Cherish | February 27, 2012 4:00 PM

    My response was to Nadine.

  • Cherish | February 27, 2012 3:59 PM

    That is so interesting that you claim most Black filmmakers (or assume you mean fimmakers in general - correct me if I'm wrong) don't know literature. I would assume tht that reading literature and great works would be emphasized in film school. Where else do people get their inspiration? Life experience is importance, but how it shapes us, putting it into context, to gain a greater understanding of who and what we are - how can understand and tell the full story of that existence if one doesn't read? Damn. But then again, seeing the work that comes out, from RED TAILS or TODDLERZ - I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

  • Nadine | February 27, 2012 3:13 PM

    CAREYCAREY - A couple of decades ago that would not have been so true, but I'm speaking specifically about filmmakers, not your everyday person. Literature and "the script" go hand in hand. I don't expect the everyday person to know Immunology or even basic microbiology, but I would expect a doctor to. What we are all engaging in, those of us in the Arts, is this complex expression of ideas that though expressed in different mediums, are all informed by each other. Like playing a piece of music on a violin as opposed to a piano or with an orchestra. It's still the same song. There are time-tested ways to get an idea across that have not changed for ages. There are portions of the human experience that are universal truths thereby connecting the story with the audience, no matter who the audience. This is why a RED TAILS gets a fail from me and a lot of other people... because we understand that RED TAILS is a HUMAN story, but to make it "caricature" when it so clearly could have had the ability to reach the human spirit, so clearly - was offensive. It's that not knowing history and being doomed to repeat type scenario. Why should we have to keep re-inventing the wheel. We are creating literature with our "scripts" but we are and should also be well studied in the multiple formats of this expression of literature. It is very clear that this is lacking in a lot of scripts that come specifically out from Black players in Hollywood and Hollywood in general these days. Adding this lack of study to low self-esteem, is toxic. Strippers and guns, kidnappings and shady characters... it's all the same, but we are deeper than this, so Black filmmakers cannot just "watch" movies or simply reference movies they just happened to watch as a child or are just now getting into the modern film festival circuit and then complain about how we ain't got sh!t or we aren't in the game because it's is not fair. It is not fair, but quality is quality. Black Filmmakers can make an impact by selling pathology to Hollywood or, the road less traveled, can know more than your average filmmaker to make a REAL difference and help build a strong, viable and worthy Black film industry in the U.S.

  • CareyCarey | February 27, 2012 1:38 PM

    @ Nadine (below), to be fair, I do not believe ( I know) most people, black or white do not "know literature". Go out and ask the next person you see, or call a friend and ask them what's the last book they've read? Well, statistics will support my opinion. It's a fact that less than 5% of the population has read a book in the last 10 years. Reading literature (novels and such, past and present) is fast becoming an outdated custom. You've heard of starving artist? Well, there are quite a few starving writers. Those that are earning a living by writing novels are in the very small minority.

  • Nadine | February 27, 2012 12:56 PM

    You are 1000% on point. I don't believe a lot of Black filmmakers, who are in the system, know literature period, "let alone" Octavia's work.

  • Tamara | February 27, 2012 12:20 PMReply

    1) Night of Power - Spider Robinson, 2) The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad - Minister Faust, 3) Hyperion saga - Dan Simmons ...... those are ones that would have some-to-a lot of commercial appeal. Two more suggestions with less commercial appeal but would be viable choices for some good independent work 4) White Boy Shuffle - Paul Beatty, 5) Sula - Toni Morrison

  • Tamara | February 28, 2012 12:40 PM

    @ Monique, yes I remember Ryan and "White Boy Shuffle" from years back. I thought it was hilarious, too. Another funny book that was actually made into film, "Youth in Revolt". I haven't seen it yet. Don't know how it fared compared to the book. When a book makes me laugh out loud there's something good there. "White Boy Shuffle" would have to be handled by someone good with directing comedy. I can't even begin to imagine which director would suffice. Hmm...

  • Monique | February 27, 2012 1:53 PM

    White Boy Shuffle is one of the most hilarious books I've ever read. Great Satire. Yep, is right it was optioned by none other than Ryan Phillipe...Here's a quote from him about it:

    "To me, White Boy Shuffle is sort of like Catcher in the Rye, the story is so universal."

    Why it hasn't gone anywhere or what held up the project, who knows? It's unfortunate.

  • Yep | February 27, 2012 12:47 PM

    White Boy Shuffle was optioned and developed but ultimately never went anywhere

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