How does a book turn into a film?
This is what all writers dream of: the film for their own book. “It's like an accolade,” said a colleague. "The icing on the cake", another, "the coronation". Keep dreaming. I am very fortunate to have arrived at reality. And I mean the word happiness literally. I was just lucky, not the better book, not the better material, but the right reader in the right place at the right time. And then began a journey into a world that is so completely different from the world of novelists.
After the first great joy that a production company is interested in your film, comes the most important decision. For me there were several film productions that wanted to acquire rights to “The 7th Day”. If you have the choice, you are spoiled for choice, because the decision wasn't just for or against a producer (how good that some of them were there who even I knew by name), but also for the type of film. Cinema or television? I preferred well-made Lerchenberg to Hollywood, because if in doubt, it would reach more people in Germany.
So I choose Oliver Berben and Moovie - The Art of Entertainment (Constantinfilm) decided. Because I like the films that Oliver Berben produced for ZDF, really liked it. It is these decisions that are particularly delicate because they lie in front of you like a fork in your life path, but you do not know where the paths really lead you.
Then comes what authors hate most: haggling over fees, small print, contracts, all the stuff that creative people usually have trouble with. So I turned to my colleague for help Sebastian Fitzek eloquently: “Do you know a good lawyer in Berlin?” I thought I remembered that he once had a doctorate in copyright law. Of course he knew and recommended them to me Hertin law firm. It is only when you read all the comments that a good copyright lawyer writes on a contract that you become aware of what you do not understand, what the consequences are and how many pitfalls there are in such a document. The most important thing I learned: a film contract is far from being a film.
"How nice," said my publisher Oliver Kuhn"That you have an option contract, but you also know that only a very small percentage will be made into a film later." No, I didn't know. I always thought…
But that's exactly how it was. There are two contracts, one is only valid with the other. One contract, stage one of the space shuttle, so to speak, is the option contract. With this, the production company assures itself the right to turn your book into a script, calculate the production and offer it to their partners. You are giving up all rights to your book for a few years and initially for relatively little money. The film production can turn your romance novel into a dystopia if something like that is selling better. Or stow the thing in the rearmost drawer and wait for it to crumble into dust, the main thing is that it has been snatched away from the competitor's nose. You mean a good book doesn't turn to dust? How much do you think a bestseller will be worth in five years?
And so you come back to the fork in the road and ask yourself year after year: Was it the right decision that I made? A bit of a fee comes in every year so that the option can be extended for another year. And over the years there have been more and more requests for filming rights, which unfortunately now have to be rejected. The soaring flight is followed by a landing in the desert. It's a shame, actually, it would have been too good to be true.
I woke up one morning in August and thought: My book is being made into a film. I swear it was. I walked to the desk, booted up my computer, and Googled “The 7th Day”. Lo and behold: the screenwriter André Georgi wrote the script, according to Google, which ZDF filmed, and the shooting will supposedly start in September 2016.
I beg your pardon? It was one of those crazy moments when you get hot and cold at the same time, when you don't know what to do with yourself, you scream, you bounce, you just don't believe it, you're afraid of being wrong, you are totally exhausted and - at a loss. And of course your partner is not at home either. Why don't I find out about it when it's already on the internet?
I will send a copy of the page to my "lucky messenger" Oliver Brendel, to the man who read my book at the right time, in the right place, more precisely on a November day in the city park of Madrid. He sends the copy on Oliver Berben. And he answers succinctly: "Yes, we will start shooting next month."
At the same time I receive an email asking me to bill for one of the two possible fee models, since Moovie took the option. Stage two of the rocket has been fired, the second contract, which is only valid in conjunction with the first contract, now takes effect.
Yes, you read that correctly, alternative fee models were agreed in the contract for filming, i.e. when I signed the contract I didn't know how I would actually be paid later, as that depends on the production partner.
Hop, scream, cheer, dance, cry. Tears of joy, of course. And that, dear people, is the most beautiful and exciting moment in the filming of your book.
I don't learn anything about the actors, nothing about the director, nothing about the locations. But why do you have Master Google at hand and so I gather from the Internet that you actually have wonderful actors like Henning Baum, Marcus Mittermeier, Josefine Preuß, Katharina Schüttler, Stefanie Stappenbeck and Steve Windof engaged and with Roland Suso Richter also hired an award-winning director. I'm excited!
So I call the production company and naively ask if I can stop by the set and take a few photos. Since I've been involved in film production for long enough in my life, I know that there's no one less fun to see on set than a writer. And then even a debut author whose first work is currently being filmed. That messes up the schedule, and she's guaranteed to ask way too many questions. You know that something is in love with its material.
It's really not as easy as you think it is. Because the actors have a photo clause in their contracts, every photo must be approved by every actor. (If I would also insist on it as an actor, who wants a stupid photo to haunt the gazettes for decades.) And the ZDF has to approve that too. Naturally.
But with the help of my good luck messenger, from Oliver Berben and from his co-producer Jan Ehlert I was allowed to go to the set. Exciting? Nope, I got excited beforehand, at home, when I hopped around my desk for joy. It's like on any film set on site. Wait, wait, wait. The film location is around the corner from me Gelfertstrasse in Dahlem, best address in Berlin. The house looks at least the way I imagined it would.
Jan Ehlert, the co-producer is on site, we wait outside on the street until we take a break from filming. In that time I learn what a producer has to do with a film. This roughly corresponds to my job when I organized major events for my clients: You have to find the material, prepare it, calculate it, offer it, get the order, put together the film crew, get the permits, hire and coordinate the actors (which I suppose the hardest thing ever) and making sure that the schedule and budget are met. So the guy with the most trouble on his neck.
With co-producer Jan Ehlert, Stefanie Stappenbeck (Sybille Thalheim), director Suso Richter and Marcus Mittermeier (Ulli Henke)
Outside the door, he confesses to me that not a single scene of my judicial drama is set in court. The fact that filming is not in the Caribbean, where a third of the book was located, was obvious to me for reasons of cost. And if Henning Baum plays a detective who had about three sentences in my book, then I have a rough idea of the direction in which the Haase is hopping.
What have they done to my song, Ma? No, I don't want to know, I won't say a tone of criticism, I'll watch the movie and be happy that I was so lucky. As already wrote the first editor for “The 7th Day”, who kept me from continuing to write for ten years: “You can put writing one way or another.” And that is how television needs it. I never wanted to be a scriptwriter, I love books and never wanted to write anything other than exciting detective novels that totally captivate my readers for a few hours and let them forget their own worries. I do my job and the film people do theirs.
Everyone works calmly and with concentration. They were all very nice to me, the atmosphere on set is relaxed. I wish the entire production a broken leg, I'm sure they'll make a really great film. Which I would like to watch next year as “TV film of the week” on ZDF. I will invite a lot of fellow authors to Berlin for this, because one thing is sure to be hip in the Lubitsch house: party!
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