From Fleming to Fukunaga, the bond of Books to Films

Paul O'BrienEducation, Innovation8 Comments

The writing, the screenplay, and the script, behind every great film is a story and words written that lead us throughout the narrative we experience on screen. And with so much attention and controversy surrounding Daniel Craig’s latest (and last) venture as a internationally renown spy, the story of how a book becomes a film picked at my brain.

Ian Lancaster Fleming was an English author, journalist, and intelligence officer, today usually best known for his series of spy novels and the distinguishing character brought to life within his pages, James Bond.

We happen to be in Monterey this week for Monterey Car Week and Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, we’re bringing a fantastic VR experience, riding through the countryside in the Emilia-Romagna region in Italy in a Ferrari convertible and touring the Museo Ferrari, thanks to OnlyInVR; all that though is actually beside the point. Doing what we do in media is the point so it was when Twitter lit up with something Aston Martin has cooking that we wanted to get this thought about Fleming out the door to you.

Bond, James Bond

Ian Fleming’s iconic character provides a wonderful lens through which to look at the way in which our world has changed though media and technology.

Fleming, an English journalist and naval intelligence officer, was working for Britain’s Naval Intelligence Division during WWII, involved in planning Operation Goldeneye in the oversight of two intelligence units, drew from his wartime service and his career as a journalist to bring the James Bond novels to life.

Before we get from books to films, it’s Goldeneye that helps further my point about the varied ways in which media and technology plays a role in our world today. That codename was used for one of the most beloved video games of all time, Nintendo’s GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64.

Did you know? The game was developed by only nine people, eight of which had never worked on a game before.

Fleming wrote his first Bond novel, Casino Royale, in 1952. It was a massive success, with three print runs commissioned to cope with the demand. Eleven Bond novels and two collections of short stories followed between 1953 and 1966; novels about James Bond, officer in the British intelligence service MI6; known by his code number, 007.

I’m a bit of a fanboy of Bond for one personal reason in particular, Fleming modeled aspects of Bond on Conrad O’Brien-ffrench (we must be related somehow). While in Kitzbühel, Austria, Conrad met Fleming and they often crossed paths at homes of mutual friends, at bars, on the ski slopes or at the warm-water lake, the Schwarzsee. Conrad’s style, athletic endeavors, personal adventures, and experience in espionage, are thought to be significant inspirations for the character.

From paper to digital, the media, and innovations such as VR and gaming, continue to keep Bond in our lives and culture, whether that’s the exiting news that Captain Marvel’s breakout star Lashana Lynch is joining Bond 25 as Nomi, the spy who will get the code name 007 after Bond “retires.” To Instagram seeding speculation that Superman will step into the future of Bond, we can really appreciate how the stories that impact our lives are as influenced by technology as Bond is thanks to Q.

“Now pay attention, 007”

In June 1961 Fleming sold a six-month option on the film rights to his published and future James Bond novels and short stories to  Harry Saltzman. Saltzman formed the production vehicle Eon Productions along with Albert R. Broccoli. After an extensive search, they hired a young Sean Connery to a six-film deal (only 5 produced) beginning with Dr. No.

Albert Romolo Broccoli, nicknamed “Cubby“, was an American film producer who made more than 40 motion pictures throughout his career. When Broccoli became interested in bringing Fleming’s character to film, he discovered that the rights already belonged Saltzman, who had long wanted to break into film, and who had produced several stage plays and some films with only modest success.

Friends upon partners upon ambitions, the rest is history.

From Books To Films

What does it take to get from paper to celluloid??

Of course, even today, we’re working in drastically different industries; by comparison, with authors and publishers bringing books to life and exploring what more we can do with them in eBook Readers, whereas film makers seek Producers, Executive Producers, Directors, casts, and crews, this is a wonderful question to ask and explore as we’ve seen the overwhelming popularity of Cussler, Rowling, Clancy, King, and Sparks stories on film.

A few tips:

  • Write your book. Novels are adapted for film through a screenplay. It’s the demand and enthusiasm for your book that might grab the attention of that Producer who would love to see it on film.
  • Remember the minor characters. Film is a feast for the eyes and ears, so that narrative of even the smallest of parts played in your pages, while in the imagination of a reader, results in a richer experience in a movie. Every character in a Bond film is known for who they are and I’m sure, having never picked up one of the books, you can ramble off those that you love.
  • Everything is a character with a part to play. This is why that Aston Martin DB5 sparked my attention. You know the submarine from Hunt for Red October. You’ve visited the Pet Cemetery. And you can imagine yourself wearing one of Bond’s Rolex watches driving an Aston Martin in the French Riviera.

Netflix and Amazon are pushing us further as their Original Series production groups are excited about adaptations to television and the fact that OTT Streaming has capably proven a wonderful alternative medium to the theater released film.

“Books are very desirable for the television marketplace now. There are so many buyers out there. There’s a new streaming platform that comes out everyday, a new cable channel that comes out everyday.”

Holly Frederick. Curtis Brown, Ltd.

With that book in market, a producer will likely look to a (your) literary agent and negotiate an “option/purchase agreement.” That technically involves two financial transactions today – ONE: taking an “option” on a book just gives someone the right to *buy* the rights (they don’t have the actual rights just yet). Who can say what you might earn/negotiate for that since it is very negotiable… $1,000 to $500,000…

“During the option period, the producer’s job is to develop a screenplay and package the project with creative elements such as a director. Let’s assume the producer finds a financing source interested in the project.”

Jason Squire, Professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and author of “The Movie Business Book.”

No bites? The rights revert to the author.

Otherwise, we’re off to the studio! Of course, developing a movie and completely different than an episodic series for television, I’ve kept you away from Spectre long enough so we’ll look to how Television vs. Film works another time. Needless to say, an author finds their way to the big (or little) screen.

And it’s Cary Fukunaga’s turn with Bond 25, as Daniel Craig retires from the role, Lashana Lynch wields a Walther PPK, and rumors abound, as always, more so then ever, thanks to the social media.

Monterey Car Week

Bond’s car finds its way to California and thanks to the social media, the world is a-twitter with what will come of the 1965 James Bond DB5, commissioned from Aston Martin and used in the promotion of Thunderball.

If you’re making your way to Pebble Beach this week, get in touch; given the crowd and great many things going on over the next few days, the best way to do that as probably there, on twitter, with a tweet about where to find you, or grab me on LinkedIn so we can connect there or in the future.

I hope to catch a glimpse of that incredible car while I’m there. I see myself in the seat of that Aston Martin as does every closet spy. We see ourselves in the pages of books, on screen, and playing the character of a video game.

8 Comments on “From Fleming to Fukunaga, the bond of Books to Films”

  1. Paul, let’s find time to explore some more of the video game ideas. nice article!

  2. I think Popov is much more likely, though that dude had a very interesting life. Popov was known for his suave manner and womanizing.

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