I’ve been asked to choose a story of mine to talk about at the Gimli Film Festival. I’m supposed to choose a story that I think would make a good movie and why I think so. I’m going to talk about my short story, “Bloodflowers.”
I’m choosing “Bloodflowers” because a large number of film makers have expressed interest in turning it into a film. I’ve turned them all down, not because I doubt their ability to make a decent movie from it but because they never have any money. It’s Canada, right? The role of writers and artists is to starve. Not me.
I’ve had a number of movies made from my short stories and novels. “The Pedlar” was made from “A Place of One’s Own”. Gentle Sinners was made from the novel of the same name. “God Is Not A Fish Inspector” was made from the same-named short story. Al Kroeker produced and directed it along with a documentary “Waiting for Morning” that featured my father and people around Gimli being interviewed. There are a couple of others. Gentle Sinners paid decently but only because of a legal battle over foreign rights that left me with 4% of the producer’s gross.
Gross is an important word in film making. People in the film business use “net” returns in contracts to rip off writers. There are never any net returns. It doesn’t matter how many multi-millions a film makes, so many expenses are charged against a film that it is impossible to ever “net” anything. You want a piece of the action, you’ve got to get a piece of the gross.
When I started out being involved with film, I was so naïve and so thrilled that I didn’t know enough to say, I own this property, you can’t have it to raise money with unless you cut me in for a slice of the gross. I also want a decent upfront payment that is finalized by the time production starts. The viewer in front of the screen is watching art or entertainment but behind the scenes, it’s all about money and everyone is out to grab as much as possible. No writer can afford to be naïve. The price is too high. Every writer has to ask one question when approached by a film maker or would be film maker, “What’s in it for me?”
When I had a meeting with a film maker who wanted to turn The Girl With The Botticelli Face into a movie, we were discussing appropriate payments for options for three years. We were disagreeing about the last payment when the would be producer said, “I’ll give you percentage of the net.” That was the end of the conversation. I walked out. I don’t like being insulted and I don’t like someone trying to rip me off.
(to be continued)