[IN THE TRENCHES] Upcycle

Before the hourlong pilot script for Shining City, there was a web pilot

If you write for long enough, you’re going to end up with projects in your library that you’ve pitched to everyone you can, but still haven’t gotten a concrete bite.

You still believe in them, you still love the stories, but maybe you need to come at them differently than you have before. Maybe there’s a way to get them in front of an audience without having to go through a studio or financier first.

I’m talking about upcycling. Reinvigorating those scripts with an entirely different kind of reboot, and transforming them into something new.

Like anything in the film industry there’s no one way to make that happen. Here’s a few to consider…

SCREENPLAY TO NOVEL

The most obvious path is the reverse-adaptation. Taking that screenplay and adapting it into a novel. It’s an opportunity to enrich your story, exploring deeper and expanding further.

It’s by no means easy, and writing prose might feel unfamiliar at first. But a veteran storyteller will eventually find their bearings.

On a practical front, it’s the least expensive route.

Although it’s a good idea to hire an editor or a proofreader, it’s not mandatory. And a cover can just be text alone. Basically, this route calls for plenty of effort and time, but doesn’t require financing.

My frequent writing partner, Rhonda Smiley, has adapted two of her scripts over the last few years. There’s the young adult fantasy, Asper, and the kids adventure comedy, Monty and the Monster.

They were both hard work, but the reviews and accolades have proven an excellent reward.

SCREENPLAY TO GRAPHIC NOVEL

Rhonda and I did this with one of our much-loved scripts, Blowback. It had garnered a fair amount of positive responses, including a First Place win for Science Fiction in the Fade In Screenplay Competition.

Nevertheless, we seemed to have trouble getting someone to fork over a couple hundred million to get it produced for the screen.

Instead, we decided the story would really work well as a graphic novel, with its combination of time periods and action.

In a reverse from the prose novel, the graphic novel generally requires trimming down a feature screenplay for a more manageable page count.

Even with a shorter length, however, this can still be a costly pursuit. Experienced artists, colorists, and letterers don’t come cheap.

You can save some money creating a partnership with an artist, but you’ll lose a lot of control in the process. As with all pursuits, the path that works best for you might be different from others’.

For us, the results were a book that was nominated for Best Original Graphic Novel and won Fan Favorite Villain at the 2022 Ringo Awards.

SERIES TO FEATURE

Rhonda and I originally conceived of the project, N.O.R.M.A.L., as an animated series. A treatment was written, episode loglines created, and artwork drawn.

Later, we realized it would instead make a great feature follow-up to our indie sci fi movie, Race. Easier said than done, of course (what is easier done than said, I wonder), but once we found the right story, the feature screenplay became our favorite version of the concept.

Alas, financing for that movie has not come together. Yet. And as a result, we’ve come full circle and revisited the series version as a spin-off of the potential movie.

Maybe a novelization is on the horizon as well.

WEB SERIES TO TELEVISION SERIES

My writer and filmmaker friend, Doug Stark, created a web series called, Shining City, and produced the short pilot for it.

While that pilot didn’t ultimately develop into a web series, it ended up being a launch point for Doug to write an hourlong script for a potential television version.

And for that, the short would serve as an excellent companion piece to demonstrate the tone, style, and direction of the project.

END TO A BLOG POST

While we’d always love to see these type of adaptations circle back to become movies or series one day, these new iterations should be seen as end products themselves. A new, fresh way to invigorate an older project and ultimately get an audience in a position to enjoy our work.

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Cover of the graphic novel, "Blowback" (2021)

Jim Hereth‘s latest project is his debut action/adventure graphic novel, Blowback, nominated for Best Original Graphic Novel and winner of Fan Favorite Villain at the Ringo Awards. Available now in digital and paperback editions at Amazon.

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