Monday, September 5, 2022

ELVIS, and why you should see this movie

Austin Butler as Elvis Presley

If you haven't seen ELVIS yet, you really should. I watched it last week on HBO Max and it won't surprise me if I end up rewatching it a time or two. The strange thing is: it's not a great movie. It's not bad, but it's only pretty good. 

It's always a risk, taking a hugely popular public figure and creating one film to tell their entire story. Both the movie and the star portrayal has to work. If it's done poorly, fans may wish everyone had just left the legend alone. It's been done well before: The Doors, Rocketman, and Bohemian Rhapsody all come to mind. 

But this movie isn't as well done as any of those. It's (mostly) accurately told but it's choppy, all over the place, and somebody thought it was a good idea to cast Tom Hanks as a villain, in this case, Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis' manager. 

Hanks (who was paid $8M for this performance, compared to Austin Butler who plays Elvis and only took home $700,000 for his performance) is just awful in this film. This may confuse viewers who are used to seeing him be amazing. He looks bad, sounds bad, and is a hideous, creepy mess. 


Elvis and his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, played by Tom Hanks

So why should you see this movie? You should see it so you can be shocked by how great Austin Butler is in the title role. Two people who agree are none other than Priscilla Presley and Elvis' daughter, Lisa Marie.

I was initially skeptical because I didn't think he resembled Elvis closely enough to be believable, but as soon as the movie began, I believed. Whatever the Elvis recipe is for sweetness, vulnerability, wildness, and sex appeal, he gets it perfectly. 

Butler endured a five month audition process to secure the role and then spent two years preparing for it, including using a dialect coach and movement coach. His accent in the film is flawless: not just Southern but specifically Presley. His dancing onstage is amazing. "Dancing" is not the exact term, but I don't know of a one word term to describe the Elvis shimmy, shake, wiggle, wildman thing that Presley was known for. In any case, he gets it right.

He also sings in this film, some songs entirely on his own and others with his voice blended with Elvis' (a technique used with Val Kilmer and Jim Morrison in The Doors. In Bohemian Rhapsody it is a 3 voice blend: Rami Malek, Freddie Mercury, and Marc Martel. In Rocketman, Elton portrayer Taron Egerton sings every note by himself). The music in ELVIS is wonderful, and the costumes are too.

Elvis with Priscilla, played by Olivia DeJonge

What about Priscilla? We get a bit of the love story between Elvis and Priscilla but you'll wish there was more. Olivia DeJonge is pretty good and might have been great if she'd been given more screentime. As it is, there's one scene where she and Elvis have their first kiss that is so moving, it made me cry. 

The majority of viewers are likely to be people who were too young (or had yet to be born) while Elvis was alive but who have enjoyed his rock and roll influence every time they've turned on the radio. For this reason, even a so so movie is worth watching, to remind us how far reaching his influence really was.

Viewers of every age will be sad to see how Tom Parker manipulated the innocent boy from Tupelo, and how willing the former carnival worker was to sacrifice Elvis' physical health for the sake of putting money in his own pocket.

Elvis wasn't around very long, but if you watch this film, you'll believe you got to be there when he was. That alone is worth the ticket price.


Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Writing A Film Treatment


When my book STARFISH ON THURSDAY was optioned, I had hoped it would be greenlit for production. Unfortunately, by the end of the one-year option period, this didn't happen.

I decided it was time to be proactive. 

This was easier said than done. Dabbling in an industry where people can make a lot of money also means you can get sued for a lot of money. So where to begin?

Step One: Don't be a dumbbell.

What that means is decode the terms, find out the rules, and protect your work.

Step Two: Don't get sued. 

Before you enter into any agreement, make sure it doesn't violate the terms of any current agreement you have with someone else. 

If you get good news, especially if it involves money, stop everything and consult with an attorney who specializes in entertainment law. Most attorneys will give you the first consultation for free. 

Don't assume you understood the rules the first time. George Harrison assumed he knew how to write a song and he lost his court case. 

https://ultimateclassicrock.com/george-harrison-my-sweet-lord-plagiarism/

I decided to write a film treatment to send to casting directors and producers. Prior to this, I had only written a logline and summary for the Starfish project, and Taleflick had written a page pitch.

A logline is a one or two sentence summary that tells what the story is about, who the main character is, and what they're up against. Think of any TV series or movie you've ever seen and  try to summarize it this way in 2 sentences. It's hard to do.

When I pitched Starfish for Taleflick, I didn't realize I'd have to come up with a logline. At first I was stumped and then I tried out several ideas and each time realized I needed to condense it more. The finished version I sent in was this:

Plucky female Kevin Arnold type comes of age in 70s and 80s Seattle while loving and fearing her abusive pillhead mother.

That final version surprised me, but it did the trick.

This week I wrote a film treatment for Starfish. A treatment includes the title, logline, character descriptions, and a detailed synopsis of the story. The length of a treatment can vary between 1-50 pages but from what I could gather, unless you're a famous hotshot, most people won't read it if it's longer than 10 pages. My treatment came in at 6 pages.

I was able to skip the step of getting permission of the author of the book because I'm the author and sole owner of the intellectual property.

Prior to sending the treatment anywhere, there's another step: registering the treatment with the Writer's Guild of America (WGA). If you skip this step, most legitimate people won't read it and it puts you at risk for someone stealing it and claiming it as their own.  Registering a treatment can be done online: it takes 5 minutes and costs $25. The WGA gives you a registration # and that goes right on the treatment itself.

This doesn't absolutely guarantee you that someone won't try to steal it, but registering it (with the date, your full legal name, address, phone number, and driver's license number or social security number) gives you enough to prove your case pretty well. 

The next step: sending it out to studios.


Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Happy to announce Juanita High School and Lake Washington High School have both added my books to their libraries. #WashingtonState




Friday, December 3, 2021

How Much Should You Spend: Remembering The Vegas Rule


One thing I've learned is if you're an author and you just add expenses as you go, you end up spending a lot more than you planned. Eight years into this gig, I'm a lot better at planning ahead. If I'm not releasing a new title, if I'm just promoting the books I already have, this is what my budget currently looks like. As you can see, it still adds up, but it actually only ends up being $22.75 per month. Per the Vegas Rule, this is spending what I can afford to lose: about the price of a pizza. Keeping costs low means that even if I don't sell any books at all, I'm OK. If I do sell some, it's a bonus.

Every author will have a different budget. As you can see above, there's a cost for a year's worth of my website, a cost to keep the domain name (www.amieryan.com), about 80 for advertising (although I do try to get freebies online whenever I can--the image above was created, totally free, with a site called Canva), the cost to keep Starfish on the TaleFlick site for another year in the hopes it will get optioned again, and the cost of entering one writing contest, just for fun.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Should you try to get your book into libraries?


Should you try to get your book into libraries? This is a good question. After my book Starfish got into the Seattle Public Library system, I kind of forgot to try to take it to any other library system until my friend and bookcover artist (The John to my Paul) Dane Egenes asked me if I'd ever thought about getting it into the King County Library System. That's what motivated me to contact them and suggest it.

Before I wrote any books I just assumed all the U.S. libraries were somehow connected--that if a book went into one, it went into all of them. It turns out that within each state there are several different library systems, each with their own criteria for accepting books into their catalog. King County, for instance, has an eight point criteria, including that the book be "edgy." 

Whether or not TO do it is a good question. It does make the book available to anyone, without cost, so that's a plus. Some people think it means if a person can check out an author's book at the library it will lead them to seek out other books they've written, but I don't know if that's really true.

Moneywise, it doesn't really make anything for the author. At the time the book is accepted, the library system will purchase a certain number of copies (usually with a discounted rate), so the author receives the royalties for those copies at the time of sale, although a discounted rate means a discounted royalty. For me this is about $2 instead of $3. After that the author receives no royalties from this library book no matter how many times it's checked out.

Anyway, after KCLS accepted Starfish, I thought I should do an experiment and try out 14 public libraries across the U.S. One of the frustrating parts is that even if a library accepts your book into their catalog, they don't necessarily notify you. Of course, if they don't want the book, they really have no reason to notify you. So either way, you just sit there, going: I wonder what's going on. With KCLS they didn't notify me and then I went onto their site and searched the catalog, and there Starfish was, in three branches, so that's how I found out.

Some will only accept book suggestions if they come from one of their library's cardholders, and you have to be a resident of the city to get a library card. 

Some want you to send a copy of the book. Some specify not to send a book. All of them want to see something in the news about the book. This is where Starfish had the edge over my other books, because it had been optioned and there was a press release. It helps if you've had the book reviewed by Publisher's Weekly or Kirkus Reviews, but I have reservations about doing this.

For one thing, it's really expensive, at least, it seems expensive to me. A Kirkus review is $425 and a Publisher's Weekly review is $399. And that doesn't mean it will be a positive review. You can plunk down $425 and then read a negative review which will be of no help to you whatsoever. The idea of paying this amount really violates my Vegas Rule (only spend what you can afford to lose), but it also bothers me to think of spending this on one of my books and not all of them. It feels like having five kids and deciding only one of them can go to college.

You may be thinking: what about Amazon reviews? Some libraries will consider those but one I submitted to said right on their website: "We don't consider Amazon reviews to be reviews."

I don't have a PW or Kirkus review, but I do have the TaleFlick book assessment, which I've sent instead. That, the press release, a book description, an author bio, the genre, the recommended age reader, the nuts and bolts info: page count, book size, ISBN#, publishing date, the verification it's available with expanded distribution via Ingramspark. Some libraries have you send this and also fill out THEIR form which asks you to list the same information, much like applying for a job with a resume but you still have to fill out the employer's application, to show you aren't a moron and can follow directions without a bunch of attitude. Almost all the library systems say it can take up to six months before they make their decision, so for an impatient person like me, this sounds like a long time.

Anyway, so far (three days in) there are three libraries who require I send them a review copy, so I'm setting those libraries aside for a minute because I'm not sure I want to work that hard. I still might end up doing so, but I'm holding tight to see if I can get a bite without having to send copies. I'm limiting the experiment to 14 for now because if I add any more, I'll be checking my email 100 times a day.

All of you readers can help in this Starfish effort, if you feel like doing a good deed. If you own a library card, you can request your library carry Starfish On Thursday by Amie Ryan. You can either do this right at the checkout desk or you can go to the library's website and click on the tab REQUEST A BOOK and do it there. Can't find that ? Click on the CONTACT US tab and request it there. I would be grateful to any of you who feel inclined to do this, in whichever state you are in. If you live outside the United States, you can still request your local library carry this book, wherever you are. I thank you in advancešŸ˜Š



To learn more about my books, please visit www.amieryan.com

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Happy News




I just learned the King County Library System has added my book Starfish On Thursday to their shelves in three branches: Bellevue, Redmond, and Issaquah. What a great surprise!

Monday, October 18, 2021

Meet author Joe O'Neill


Joe O’Neill was inspired to write the Red Hand Adventures while on safari in Sri Lanka. As he was driving along in an old jeep, under the full moon casting silhouettes of wild elephants against the jungle wall, the image of a rebel orphan in old Morocco popped into his head. While he wishes he could take credit for the idea, it was a story that was already out there, waiting to be told. Joe is the CEO and founder of Waquis Global Services. He is also the founder and owner of an independent middle school focused on a next generation approach to education that connects students to their community and then to the world. Joe loves soccer and is a fanatical supporter of Liverpool FC and his local team, the Portland Timbers. He lives in the Columbia Gorge in the Pacific Northwest with his wife, daughter, dog, and 3 cats. There are 5 books in the Red Hand Adventure series, available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Joe-ONeill/e/B00C5QW6LS/ 




SUPER FUN AUTHOR Q AND A:


Q: The first book features 4 main characters. Do these 4 appear in all of the books in the series?

A: Yes, the books feature all four characters, but they end up having very different storylines. They grow with the books and, I hope, each character matures with their experiences.


Q: What is the recommended age range for each of the books and why?

A: Well, most kids aged 10 - 12 love the books. But, we’re finding that a lot of adults read the books as well (which is what I’d hoped for). Many booksellers and librarians have found that, as kids kind of get tired of books about wizards, dragons, and wimpy kids, they want to move onto to something a bit more mature before the YA market (which is inundated with books about romance, high school misery, zombies, and vampires) and there just isn’t a lot out there. These books are good old-fashioned adventures and that resonates with a lot of kids, parents, teachers, and librarians. It’s interesting because a few parents are a bit concerned with the level of violence but we’ve never had any complaints from the kids. A lot of what happens in the first book (about slavery and camel racing) is completely true and still takes place in this day and age. I wanted kids to understand there is still tremendous inequality in the world and the reality is far, far more violent and brutal than what is described in the books. 

Q: Which parts of the books were the most fun to write?

A: Great question. I really loved developing Sanaa because she’s so capable and fearless. I love it when then boys have certain escapades because I get to inject some humor into those chapters. Overall, I just love writing these books and introducing new characters. I’m halfway through the sixth book and I thought that’s where the series might stop, but I’m already gathering ideas for a completely new storyline. For me, researching historical events has been very rewarding. I’m learning about passages of histories that I never studied in school and that has been very rewarding. 

Readers can visit https://www.redhandadventures.com/ to learn more about the author and his books. By signing up on the site with an email, readers can access a  fun activity page which features, in addition to crosswords and search a word puzzles, neat cryptogram puzzles and downloadable extras.