"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
—Muriel Rukeyser

Spotlight: Success of films with Chinese elements in North America excites Hollywood insiders

"The Meg" is the highest-grossing U.S.-Chinese co-production of all time in North America.

The success of Hollywood films with Chinese elements at North American box office in 2018 has attracted interest from critics and Hollywood insiders, triggering enthusiastic discussions about cooperation between Chinese and American film industries.

The shark-themed thriller, "The Meg," and the racial diversity triumph, "Crazy Rich Asians," are among the most successful films incorporating China-related elements, gaining mainstream appeal in North America.

Hollywood films incorporating Chinese elements, including "The Meg," "Crazy Rich Asians" and Legendary and Universal's big-budget release "Pacific Rim: Uprising," have stayed atop North American weekend box office 5 out of 51 weeks as of Dec. 23 this year.

"The Meg," a Chinese-American co-production, released by Gravity Pictures in China and by Warner Bros. Pictures in the United States, grossed more than 530 million U.S. dollars in the global box office against a production budget of around 150 million dollars.

"Crazy Rich Asians" was a Warner Bros. Pictures release, and produced by SK Global, Color Force, Ivanhoe Pictures, Electric Somewhere and China-backed firm Starlight Culture. The romantic comedy-drama film, based on Kevin Kwan's novel of the same name and directed by Chinese American filmmaker Jon M. Chu, has brought in 238 million dollars worldwide against a modest 30-million-dollar production budget.

"Chinese co-productions have been among the most successful films of 2018. Titles like 'Crazy Rich Asians' and 'The Meg' reflected a true understanding of what global audiences are looking for when they go to the multiplex," said U.S. movie analyst Paul Dergarabedian at Comscore.

Dergarabedian pointed out that "Crazy Rich Asians" became a comedy sensation in North America and drew audiences of all backgrounds who were attracted by its universal themes and relatable situations while "The Meg" featured an irresistible concept embraced by audiences on a global scale and also featured notable Chinese talent.

"Films like 'The Meg' and 'Crazy Rich Asians' are great models for how to perfectly combine the best of U.S. and China-based talent to create appealing filmed content for global consumption. In the future, we will likely see more such productions and perhaps there will be more China-based productions that reflect the taste and culture and Chinese point of view that could be produced in a way that will enable them to cross over in a more profound way to audiences outside of their country of origin," he told Xinhua.

"The Meg" is already the highest-grossing U.S.-Chinese co-production of all time and "Crazy Rich Asians" became the highest-grossing romantic comedy of the last 10 years in North America.

"The growth and importance of the Chinese movie market has been incredibly impressive, with a growth rate that has been sparked over the years by the building of state-of-the-art cinemas that inspired enthusiasm by audiences who flocked to a multi-faceted slate of home grown and U.S.-based productions. Its yearly revenue has come close to rivaling that of North America and is the second biggest movie market in the world," he noted.

The follow-up of "Crazy Rich Asians" is reportedly in the development stages. The team behind the film is planning to reunite for the sequel, based on Kwan's second book, "China Rich Girlfriend." Producers said the new film is targeting a shoot in Shanghai, and possibly as a co-production.

"There have been many earlier attempted co-productions where the story didn't really work for both audiences, and so it felt forced and strange. As the two film industries have worked together more though, they've found ways to make the Hollywood and China elements live together naturally, so then the story feels believable and strong, and movie audiences respond," said Elizabeth Dell, head of the China Task Force of the Producers Guild of America, adding that audiences love new stories and new worlds to explore, but they have to feel authentic.

She noted that the progress of China's film industry over the last ten years has been remarkable. "I think there is still more progress to make, especially in the areas of strengthening skills and understanding of story and of producing, but the Chinese film industry continues to impress me with the quality and breadth of the work," She told Xinhua.

"Successful cooperation and co-production needs to look to stories and creators that work between the two industries and so naturally know how to collaborate in a seamless way," said Dell.

"Experience is key. It cannot come from only one film or one collaboration; it comes from a history of many projects together and learning how each culture thrives," she concluded.

"The growth of the Chinese film industry reflects the growth of the Chinese middle class, which has been meteoric and will continue to be over the next five to ten years," said William Mundell, producer of "Better Angels," a documentary film examining the U.S.-China relations through the lives of ordinary citizens of the two countries.

Mundell added that China is an obvious target for American film makers who are looking to expand beyond their existing mature markets.

"The film industry in Hollywood has a history of over 100 years so it's very developed. China can learn from that and create its own distinctive version of Hollywood," he told Xinhua.

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Kristin Wong Tells You How to Finally Write Your Nonfiction Book

Image result for women writing images

No, it will not be easy. Yes, it will be rewarding. (Eventually.)

“I’d like to write a book someday.”

Like many writers, I said this for years before finally deciding to commit to the long and grueling process of publishing my first book, which is about personal finance.

Most authors would probably agree that writing a book is one of the most difficult challenges of their careers. You spend your summer inside writing while your friends post photos of their beach vacations on Instagram. Once your book is published, the work is far from over: You must now sell it like your career depends on it, because it kind of does. Failure is a constant fear, and impostor syndrome can feel overwhelming. But more often than not, it’s also completely worth it.

Consider your ‘platform’

Before you write your first word, ask yourself: Do I have an audience? And, most important: Does my idea actually appeal to readers?

“My most common recommendation for people who want to write a book is, ‘Don’t — not yet,’” said Ramit Sethi, the author of “I Will Teach You to Be Rich.” “Build a large audience first.” Mr. Sethi, whose nonfiction personal finance book started as a blog with the same title, was able to amass hundreds of thousands of readers before he landed a book deal.

Building an audience isn’t a prerequisite, of course, and it’s certainly not easy, but publishers like authors who come with a built-in market.

Don’t write your book — yet

Many aspiring authors assume that getting started means cranking out tens of thousands of words before you approach an agent or publisher, but it might depend on the book. If you have an idea for a nonfiction book, it’s better to write a couple of chapters and then pitch a book proposal. That way, you can see if there’s any interest before you churn out 80,000 words on a given topic.

Even though you might not need to write the entire book before pitching it, it’s likely that if an agent or potential publisher likes the idea, they’ll still want to see at least two sample chapters. In any case, you’re going to want to fully flesh out your idea and write up those sample chapters before reaching out to agents, or, if you’re still building an audience, a few blog posts on your topic. Doing so will give you a deeper sense of what your book is about and what the rest of the writing process will be like — and this will also help you firm up your ideas of what the rest of the book will be like.

Decide how to publish

With traditional publishing, you’ll put together a book proposal, find an agent and then your agent will send your proposal to publishers. If those publishers like your idea, they could make you an offer. If multiple publishers like your idea your book might even go to auction, which could help you secure a more lucrative deal.

If a publisher buys your book, your advance from the publisher will likely be paid out in installments (typically two or three). How those payments are broken up varies widely, but one possible combination is a third paid on contract signing, another third on manuscript delivery, and the final third upon publication. (Though sometimes the advance is paid out in two sums, and, in some instances, four or more.) You won’t earn royalties from your book until you sell enough copies to outearn your advance.

Self-publishing means publishing your book on your own, or with the help of a self-publishing platform like Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing or CreateSpace, which is also owned by Amazon. Barnes & Noble also has a self-publishing platform.

“As a self-published author, you have more control of your work because you have more control of your deadlines and budget,” said Nailah Harvey, author of “Look Better in Writing.” “Some people do not work well with the pressure of third-party deadlines, so self-publishing may be a better fit for their personality.” You also have full creative control over your work, Ms. Harvey said, whereas with a publisher, you may have to bend to their ideas for your book title, cover and content.

Mr. Sethi, both a traditionally published and self-published author, said your choice will partly depend on what’s more important to you: profit or credibility. Traditional publishing lends you the latter, while self-publishing can be more profitable because you won’t have to give a percentage of sales to an agent and publisher. On the other hand, an agent and publisher might be able to help increase your reach to make those sales.

Self-publishing also means your book will be available on only the platform you publish with, and it likely will never get on shelves in physical bookstores or libraries.

If you opt to self-publish, Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, an online publishing platform for digital books and paperbacks, is an ideal place to start. The site includes manuscript templates you can download and follow. You’ll write, edit, proofread and format the book before uploading it for approval.

Self-publishing means you have to do all of the work, like designing a cover and proofreading, yourself (or hire people to help).

Write your book proposal

While an agent will likely want to see the completed manuscript of a novel, a nonfiction book typically requires a proposal, which is a detailed outline of what your book is and why it matters. Rather than thinking of your proposal as an introduction to the book, think of it as a business case for why it’s worth a publisher’s time and investment.

You’ll make the case for your book’s marketability in this proposal, so you’ll want to include sections on your target audience, competitive titles, a table of contents and an outline. You can find downloadable book proposal templates online. For example, the publishing platform Reedsy includes detailed explanations of what’s included in a book proposal on their blog, along with a template you can download. The literary agent Ted Weinstein shares a simple nonfiction template on his website. And Jane Friedman, a Publisher’s Weekly columnist, includes a brief outline and introduction to writing a book proposal on her website.

“If it’s a big New York publishing house, they’re probably looking for an idea with relevancy or currency in the market, combined with an author who has a platform — visibility to the intended readership,” Ms. Friedman said.

Publishers also like to see numbers. Try to quantify your platform using metrics like your combined social media followers, newsletter subscribers or monthly page views on your blog.

Find an agent

“An agent is a near-requirement if you want to be published by one of the major New York publishing houses,” Ms. Friedman said. While you can approach smaller publishing houses and university presses directly, you’ll still need someone to look over your contract. If not an agent, you’ll need to hire a literary or intellectual property lawyer once you get to that step, she added.

Start your search for an agent using databases like AgentQuery and P & W’s Agents Database. You can also search Publishers Marketplace for their deals section (subscription required) and the Association of Authors’ Representatives. A lower-tech option: Look in the back of similar books to see who the author thanks in the acknowledgments.

You may have to query multiple agents about your idea. Ideally, one of them will bite and want to represent you. Then, you’ll have a helping hand through the rest of the process. The agent will pitch your book proposal or manuscript to publishers, which can lead to getting-to-know-you meetings with publishers and editors, or both. If a publisher loves your idea, your agent will then negotiate the contract and terms with input from you as needed. It sounds simple, but this can take much more time than many writers expect.

Now it’s time to write

Start by establishing your writing habit. Don’t look at your book as a monster, 80,000-word project; view it as a collection of tiny goals and achievements you can knock off one at a time. (One way to structure this type of working: make micro-progress, or the smallest units of progress.)

“Since money can equal time in some ways, I used my steady paycheck to buy myself time to write,” said Paulette Perhach, author of “Welcome to the Writer’s Life.” “For instance, I outsourced the cleaning of my place once a month while I went and wrote for three hours in a coffee shop.”

Ms. Perhach said she gave herself a small goal to write for one hour per day, then shared that goal with loved ones. She also joined writing groups, which can be a helpful step for many writers who may find it hard to turn in work without a real deadline. A 2014 Stanford study found that working on a team makes you feel motivated, even if you’re really working alone. If you have friends who like to write, you could organize a writer accountability group with weekly or monthly deadlines.

There are also existing groups and organizations you can join. In November, NaNoWriMo (which stands for National Novel Writing Month) encourages writers from all over the world to sign up on its website and begin working on a goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by the end of the month. Many libraries and writing centers host regular writing groups as well.

Think about schedules instead of deadlines

You’ll want to organize your writing workflow so you’re encouraged to keep up with the habit every day.

First figure out how much time you have to write each week, then schedule that writing time into your day. Some writers like to get their words out at night, after everyone has gone to bed. Others prefer to write as their first task of the day. Experiment with different times to find what works for you.

Once your writing schedule is in place, you’ll have to decide what you want to write. Books are big — where do you dig in first? In a lecture at Columbia University that was later published in “Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays,” the novelist Zadie Smith said there are “macro planners” and “micro managers.”

“You will recognize a macro planner from his Post-Its, from those Moleskines he insists on buying. A macro planner makes notes, organizes material, configures a plot and creates a structure — all before he writes the title page. This structural security gives him a great deal of freedom of movement,” Ms. Smith said in her lecture. Micro managers, on the other hand, have no master plan for their writing and simply figure out the ending when they get there.

Again, a little trial and error works well. You can try to just start writing your first draft, and if you find yourself stuck, start again with the outline and work from there. Or you might just try to start writing about something that excites you.

If your writing system feels chaotic, there are tools that can help you corral the mess. Scrivener is a popular writing program designed to help authors organize and research their books. When writing my book, I used a simple Excel spreadsheet that included my table of contents, along with the tasks that went with it. Each chapter also had its own separate Excel sheet that included more detail about what I wanted to include in that chapter, like interviews, references and research.

Dig in for the long haul

The most common question aspiring authors asked when I finished my book: How long did it take? It’s hard to quantify how long it took, but writing a book is an exercise in patience.

When I started to get serious about my idea, I bought “How to Write a Book Proposal.” From there, it was two and a half years until I convinced an agent to represent my idea, and another year and a half before my book was on a shelf.

“I think you should plan for at least one year to write the first draft of a book, and a second year to rewrite it,” Ms. Perhach said. Of course, it can take much longer than this, but most writers can expect at least a couple of years to pen a book.

“Writing is like putting together Ikea furniture,” she added. “There’s a right way to do it, but nobody knows what it is.”

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Guest Post: A little editing leads to happy ending for literary agent by Nancy Nigrosh

L.A. Affairs 

During the 10-plus years I was a single parent, I was consumed by my career as a literary agent. This was the kind of job that involved long-range strategies and 24/7 focus. I didn't have the time or energy left over to date. Instead, I devoted myself to many well-intentioned but futile attempts to rein in my troubled teen, who was moving in a perilously rebellious direction.

As a parent, my heart was breaking and yet as a woman I couldn't shake the persistent and inexplicable feeling that somewhere, at some point, I'd actually met the man I longed for, who'd somehow vanished from view. I often had the uncanny feeling he might be right under my nose, maybe even next door or down the block.
L.A. Affairs

I responded to all of this by putting my sorrow aside and going into a free fall, flinging my heart wide across the 'Net. I became "Ms. Aloft" (a lame reference to the fact I lived in a loft downtown) on a plethora of dating sites.

I checked my inbox with regularity but attracted only respondents who lied about everything from relationship status to height, weight and bank account. When I tried to explain all of this to a friend, I sobbed, and he said, "I know an Internet dating coach. Maybe she can help."

I phoned the expert, and to my surprise, she came right over. "No wonder you're attracting weak men," she said. "We have to do something about that profile picture."

"It was taken for an article I wrote for Variety!" I protested.

As she snapped a new photo with her phone, she explained, "You look like a dominatrix in that picture. Let's have a look at your closet."

I pulled out some of my nicest clothes and arranged them on the bed. She responded by tossing them aside and went right for the lingerie drawer. I could feel my heart pound.

"Put these on," she purred, handing me a pair of modest Chinese silk pajamas "then this … and this," referring to combinations I never would have thought of, snapping away with her phone.

Then she instructed me to close my eyes and imagine the man I sought. "Now, tell me how you feel about him. Be really specific." Words, just like the clothes in my closet I'd never imagine pairing, came pouring out for the first time.

Satisfied, she announced, "OK, now let's rewrite your profile." Though I wanted to reveal my true age, she advised against it: "You're a youthful-looking lady. They'll think your pictures are 10 years old and you're being dishonest. Put down that you're 10 years younger, then add you're actually 'somewhat older' … but 'identify with a younger vibe.' Then add that your pictures were taken this month, this year."

To lie and immediately acknowledge it seemed perfectly honest to me.

Next she asked, "How do you feel about him having children?" I sighed, "I assume every man has children." Flinty-eyed, she continued, "That's not what I asked." So I typed: "Though I have a wonderful 17-year-old, I'm not looking to raise any other children." Saying what I wanted suddenly wasn't so hard.

One evening I noticed a nice-looking face and clicked on his profile. I read about the woman he longed for. He described me to a T.

We made a plan to meet at a popular downtown L.A. spot. I immediately felt at ease, settling into the calm he cast over the tiny table we shared. I told him my true age, which was the same as his. We discovered we'd been classmates in the same school in New York in the same program the very same year. We retraced the steps of our separate journeys in migrating West. As I suspected, for many of the years since college, we'd been living less than two miles from each other in Santa Monica. It turned out that his sister-in-law, who lived in Los Angeles, was a longtime friend of mine. His cousin was an East Coast literary agent with whom I'd co-represented an author only a few years earlier.

He'd never married yet he always believed, as I did, that his destiny was out there, somewhere, and somehow he would find her.

He asked me to attend his nephew's engagement party, where I knew more of the guests than he did. We waltzed through our own private nostalgia ball, also becoming engaged.

Months later, at our wedding on our downtown rooftop, our violinist neighbor played sweet notes that seemed to sum up our long journey. I texted my dating coach: "Life is lived forward but understood backward. What could say 'happily ever after' better than an actual fiddler on an actual roof?"

Nigrosh is a consulting editor for authors and screenwriters in Los Angeles and teaches at UCLA Extension's Writers' Program.

Reposted from LA Times

The beautiful Icelandic tradition of giving books on Christmas Eve

 Icelanders have a beautiful tradition of giving books to each other on Christmas Eve and then spending the night reading. This custom is so deeply ingrained in the culture that it is the reason for the Jolabokaflod, or “Christmas Book Flood,” when the majority of books in Iceland are sold between September and December in preparation for Christmas giving.

At this time of year, most households receive an annual free book catalog of new publications called the Bokatidindi. Icelanders pore over the new releases and choose which ones they want to buy, fueling what Kristjan B. Jonasson, president of the Iceland Publishers Association, describes as “the backbone of the publishing industry.”

    "It's like the firing of the guns at the opening of the race," says Baldur Bjarnason, a researcher who has written about the Icelandic book industry. "It's not like this is a catalog that gets put in everybody's mailbox and everybody ignores it. Books get attention here."

The small Nordic island, with a population of only 329,000 people, is extraordinarily literary. They love to read and write. According to a BBC article, “The country has more writers, more books published and more books read, per head, than anywhere else in the world… One in 10 Icelanders will publish [a book].”

It seems there is more value placed on physical, paper books than in North America, where e-books have grown in popularity. One bookstore manager told NPR, “The book in Iceland is such an enormous gift, you give a physical book. You don't give e-books here." The book industry is driven by the majority of people buying several books each year, rather than the North American pattern of a few people buying lots of books.

When I asked an Icelandic friend what she thought of this tradition, she was surprised.
“I hadn't thought of this as a special Icelandic tradition. It is true that a book is always considered a nice gift. Yes, for my family this is true. We are very proud of our authors.”

It sounds like a wonderful tradition, perfect for a winter evening. It is something that I would love to incorporate into my own family’s celebration of Christmas. I doubt my loyalty to physical books will ever fade; they are the one thing I can’t resist collecting, in order to read and re-read, to beautify and personalize my home, to pass on to friends and family as needed. Combining my love for books and quiet, cozy Christmas Eves sounds like a perfect match.

Read more at Treehugger.com

Mary Ann and Joseph Anselmo's "Through the Fire" tells the Inspirational story of her fight against Cancer.

Researchers treat brain cancer patient with skin cancer drug


Researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) are exploring a new form of clinical trial called a basket trial, which is designed to examine responses to drugs based on specific mutations in patients’ tumors rather than where their cancer originated.

The study, published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, consisted of 122 patients from 23 cancer centers around the world, and participants were diagnosed with either non-small cell lung, colorectal, ovarian or brain cancers. Each patient had his or her tumor genome sequenced so doctors could determine which mutation to target through precision medicine, according to a news release.  

One patient in the study, MaryAnn Anselmo, had been diagnosed with stage 4 glioblastoma in 2013. Anselmo’s physicians decided to target the BRAF mutation in her tumor, and treated it with a drug recently approved for BRAF mutations in melanoma patients, TIME reported. Two years later, Anselmo is tumor free.

“This study is the first deliverable of precision medicine,” Dr. Jose Baselga, study author and MSK physician-in-chief and chief medical officer, said in the news release. “We have proven that histology-independent, biomarker-selected basket studies are feasible and can serve as a tool for developing molecularly targeted cancer therapy.”
“While we can— and should— be cautiously optimistic, this is what the future of precision medicine looks like,” he said.

Hyman told TIME that the basket study focused on BRAF mutations allows for researchers to study cancer patients as a group, despite their different diagnoses. The results found that 70 percent of patients with non-small cell cancer saw their tumors shrink by at least 30 percent in length, with the best response rate among patients with non-small cell lung cancer.

Researchers noted that the results of the study demonstrated that drugs can reach patients beyond the current approved use, but do not work for everyone. They suggest the results show the benefits of basket studies and call for more work to be done with these types of trials.
“One of the things that gets lost when we talk averages and medians is how many patients benefit and for how long,” Hyman told TIME. “There is a tremendous range and a concern that promoting the best successes sets the bar very high. But it also lets people know that things are not entirely hopeless, that there are people who have tremendous benefit from therapies and not get completely caught up in medians and averages.”

Reposted From Fox News

Music of the spheres!

Is outer space really the silent and lifeless place it's often depicted to be? Perhaps not. Astrophysicist and musician Matt Russo takes us on a journey through the cosmos, revealing the hidden rhythms and harmonies of planetary orbits. The universe is full of music, he says -- we just need to learn how to hear it.

This is dedicated to the one I love

I thought I’d reprint Gary Wenkle Smith’s “Dedication” page as a great example of the evolving relationship between an author and his faithful “tough-coach” editor, in this case his wife, Pat Rearic Smith! May everyone evolve in this direction.

Image result for books surreal images


To quote a song from my generation: “This is dedicated to the one I love.”

My wife, Pat Rearic Smith, has been my best friend, lover and wife for forty-six years. It hasn’t been easy being married to me, I assure you. Not all have been blissful years, and I am responsible for most of the unpleasantness. Yet, the good times have put those other days in the distant fog, and we have a great life today, without remorse or recriminations.

During these past several years while I have become serious about my writings, she has been the one person who has steadfastly stuck with me. She has been unbending in her desire to guide me past my many faults, as a writer and a man. When I tried to mold myself into the stories I wished to tell, she removed the frill and repetition written by someone who really hadn’t a clue about half the time. When I did know what I was doing, I still needed to ask her to help me do it much more simply.

Having trained to write as a lawyer made writing for enjoyment an onerous task. Lawyer’s are repetitive in our legal briefs. We are taught: tell them what you are going to tell them; then tell them; then tell them what you have told them. The best legal story tellers repeat themselves with eloquence.
My first editing with Pat was a war. I had asked her to help me with The Last Midnight, my first published novel. Then I rejected her many suggestions to the point of turning her away. After begging her to give me a second chance, I wasn’t much better at accepting her proposals that I give up significant amounts of my writing and live without it. I remember feeling betrayed at her intimation that she declared such a large amount of my precious words unworthy of publication. I confess to being burdensome and defensive.

I praise her for her amazing patience, and love. She has stuck with me in editing all that I have written. She can take long paragraphs I have labored over for hours and turn them into three sentences that say everything I was trying to convey. She can read an entire novel in a few days and make all the necessary corrections. It took a while, but now I don’t ask that she edit it so that I can see what she has changed. I accept her work without question and move forward with completion of whatever I have in progress.

So, to you my dear, love of my life, best friend, my Woman-Girl, I thank you for staying with a guy like me. I am truly grateful.

Hanna Flint Exclusive 'The Meg' director shares the secrets of making a killer shark movie

The shark movie has become a staple horror subgenre ever since audiences heard those two notes of John Williams’ daunting Jaws score in 1975.
Forty-plus years later, there have been many additions to the B movie tradition, some good (Deep Blue Sea), some bad (Shark Swarm), and some inexplicable (Sharknado), but in 2018 The Meg proved that they can still be a box office hit.
The Jason Statham-led shark movie – centred on a mammoth, 70-foot sea creature believed to have been extinct for millions of years – made a staggering £415 million at the international box office making it one of Warner Bros’ most profitable original films of the year.

Audiences have loved shark movies ever since Jaws hit screens in 1975.

So what makes a shark movie a box office hit? The Meg director Jon Turteltaub gives us the lowdown in his own words… Spoilers ahead.

Know the genre

The fin shot is a must for all shark movies

Jon Turteltaub: Like every movie, you have to first understand the genre and what people expect. Then you focus on a good story with good characters. Sometimes you succeed, and sometimes you don’t. You don’t run away from the cliches, you lean into them. I think audiences expect them and like them.
With a shark movie, you better see that fin, you better see under the water legs dangling – we love all that stuff and we want to see people dying in really cool ways. That’s what you expect and why you’re going to these movies.

Suspense is key

The Meg movie

First of all, you want to set deaths up so the audience is not sure if it’s going to happen or not. You don’t necessarily want these to come out of nowhere. The start of these movies is the suspense so the person in the water instantly gives you that sense of “oh no.”
The worry about what’s going to happen is actually more interesting and enjoyable for an audience than the death itself. Unless there are two people in the middle of getting married and they love each other and it eats one of them. There’s not that much emotion attached unless it’s one of your major lead characters otherwise you just like watching how they’re going to die but mostly are they going to die? What’s going to happen, what are the choices they make?
I really like the death of Dr Heller [in The Meg] because he chooses to die to save Jaxx. The shot of him dying, for me, it’s the most realistic shark shot in the movie because it’s more of how we see sharks rather than how movies see sharks.

The kill list

The Meg movie

We really pondered this and that really starts with the writers. Have we killed too many people? Have we killed enough people? But a movie like this you are really paying attention to entertainment value. Nobody thought we were going to win a Nobel Prize when we made this movie, our job is to put on a really fun show so you’ve got to figure out not just how many people die, but who too.
What’s the price, what’s the cost? The more you love a character the more often it is for them to die but there is a point at which, when that character dies, the audience hates you. In our case, it’s a dog! A lot of people were telling me, “what was this dog doing in the movie, we have all these people to kill?” and all I could think of was people always care more about a dog than a person.

The audience is always on the dog’s side

If there is a dog trapped in a building and you get him out everyone starts crying. If there is a person trapped in a building and you get him out the audience is like” oh cool, glad he’s safe.”

Making the shark

They didn’t want it to look like a Great White Shark

You have no idea what a complicated process that is because it’s more than having good ideas for the shark but finding those who can realise them. Getting everyone to agree on those ideas is hard too. Everyone has their own point of view, starting with the writers of the novel, to the producers who bought the novel, to the studio who is paying for the movie, then to me who just wants to do what I want to do.
That debate of “gigantic great white shark versus creating our own” went on for a long time and I’m glad I got the shark I wanted because I didn’t want the great white, that seemed very low budget for me. It looks like you took a regular great white shark and just made it bigger in the cheapest way possible rather than figuring out what a shark would have looked like millions of years ago, how it would have survived in the ocean and all that sort of stuff.

Balancing the visual effects

The visual effects had to make the shark look as real as possible

I feel, as a director, you have to make a decision and decide if you want to scare the audience because it’s real or do something that is really cool. I tend towards real; I want things to feel like real life rather than “look how cool this shot is how the camera can jump off the boat and go through the shark’s mouth and come out the gills” and all that stuff.
With visual effects, you can do that, and there are directors who are amazing at doing all that, but for me, I tend to get pulled out of a movie when I can see the director’s hand showing me how cool they are. So I try to create images that feel more real because when you do that it makes the shark look more real and one of the things we talked about was to never let the shark do something that the shark wouldn’t do.

Levity is a must

Rainn Wilson brought a lot of comic relief

That was super important to me. Our approach was very tricky because we tried to thread the needle with the notion that the characters in the movie have seen shark movies in their lives. Let’s not pretend they don’t know the cliches or have seen movies like this so you can lean in a little bit to the humour.
Let the characters be funny in these extreme situations. I had people saying “do you want it real or do you want it funny?” I don’t know the difference. That’s part of life.

More than a hero

Jason Statham makes you feel safe, says Turteltaub

We knew we needed the guy who you could believe was a badass hero and could save the day. Jason [Statham] for me took care of the first part, which is much harder to find than you think, but we wanted a person who when you walk in a room you feel safer. You feel like everything is going to be OK and Jason brings that too.
He also brings the counterpoint of a sense of humour. He had done a bit of comedy in his movie but he’s never, with the exception of Spy, he’s never been asked to do too much and I think that’s a mistake. You want to believe these super macho guys have another side to them.


The Meg is out on digital download now

Sequels usually suck and try to outdo the first one where there’s a bigger shark, ninety sharks, or a poisonous shark and that’s not what audiences want to see. They want to see a really good story that they couldn’t think of themselves.
But now that I’ve said it, poisonous sharks sound really cool.
The Meg is available on Digital Download now and on DVD and Blu-Ray from December 10.

From time to time we run into writers who simply don’t want to hear notes aimed at making their work more likely to sell and succeed. Their egos keep their eyes from seeing how rare constructive criticism is. They remind me of this great poster we ran across:

Turn your book into a movie: 16 treatment tips by Kenneth Atchity

Turn your book into a movie 2By Kenneth Atchity

Making a book into a film can cost producers anymore $1 million to $200 million, so this is clearly a major investment.

Talk to a story editor from any production company, studio, or agency “story department,” and they will tell you the weaknesses they see in novels submitted for film or television.

The story department’s report on the book’s potential for translation to film, referred to as “coverage,” is their feedback to the decision-making exec. It can make or break it for you — and it kills countless submissions.

The sad thing is, most writers will almost never even get as far as a coverage of their novel.

That’s often because of the book’s “treatment.”

What’s a treatment?

A treatment is a relatively short, written pitch of a story intended for production as a motion picture or television program. Written in user-friendly, informal language and focused on action and events, it presents the story’s overall structure and primary characters. It presents three clear acts and shows how the characters change from beginning to end.

You can write a better treatment if you know about the typical weaknesses story editors find as they prepare each option’s “coverage” (see my book, Writing Treatments that Sell). When you address these common weaknesses, you give your story a much better chance in the rooms where people decide whether, and how much, to spend on putting your story onto the screen.

Then you can use that treatment to market your story to Hollywood.

16 treatment tips that will help you turn your book into a movie

Here are 16 things to know about what your treatment needs to include.

1. Make sure your primary characters are relatable (that’s also called sympathetic).

If we can’t relate to them, we don’t feel for them. This addresses the comment: “I can’t relate to anyone in the book.”

2. Trim the number of characters way back so the treatment’s reader isn’t boggled by the immensity of the cast. 

Also, keep the treatment focused as much as possible on the protagonist (and his or her love interest and/or ally) and antagonist. Comment: “There are way too many characters, and it’s not clear till page 200 who the protagonist is.”

3. Build a strong protagonist in the 20 to 50 star age range, one we want to root for

Comment: “We don’t know who to root for.”

4. Make sure your hero or heroine takes action based on his or her motivation and mission, and forces others in your story to react.

Comment: “The protagonist is reactive, instead of proactive.”

5. Offer a new twist in your story even if it’s a familiar story to avoid the comment: “There’s nothing new here.”

6. Write it so the story editor reading your treatment can see three well-defined acts: act one (the setup), act two (rhythmic development, rising and falling action), and act three (climax, leading to conclusive ending).

Comment: “I can’t see three acts here.”

7. Make sure the turning point into the third act of your story is well-marked with a major twist that takes us there.

Comment: “There’s no Third Act…it just trickles out.”

8. Create a well-pronounced theme for your story (sometimes called “the premise”) in the treatment, so that the reader (audience) walks away with the feeling they’ve learned something important.

Comment: “At the end of the day, I have no idea what this story is about.”
9. Be sure there’s plenty of action in your story. 

Action means dramatic action, of which there are two kinds: action and dialogue. Action is obvious:

She slams the door in his face.
The bullets find their target, and he slumps in his chair.
The second plane crashes into the Pentagon.
But good dialogue is also action:
“Would you do something for me now?”
“I’d do anything for you.”
“Would you please please please please please please please stop talking?” (Hemingway, “Hills like White Elephants”)

10. Sprinkle character-revealing dialogue throughout, enough to let the reader know what your characters sound like—and that they all sound different.

Comment: “There’s no dialogue, so we don’t know what the characters sound like.”

11. Make sure the plot is hidden not overt, dropping clues act by act so the audience can foresee its possible outcomes.

Comment: “At the end, the antagonist lays out the entire plot to the protagonist before he’s killed.”

12. Ruthlessly go through your treatment and remove anything that even hints of contrivance.

The audience will allow any story one gimme, but rarely two, and never three, before they lose their belief. Everything needs to be grounded in the story’s integrity.

Comment: “The whole thing is overly contrived.”

13. Make it well-paced, with rising and falling action, twists and turns, cliffhangers ending every act, etc.

Comment: “There is no real pacing.”

14. Be able to pitch your story  in a single punch line (aka “logline”), and put that line at the beginning of your treatment in bold face:

She’s a fish out of water—but she’s a mermaid (“The Little Mermaid,” “Splash”).
He’s left behind alone. On Mars (“The Martian”).
An inventor creates an artificial woman who’s so real she turns the table on her creator, locks him up, and escapes (“Ex Machina”).

This is also called “the high concept,” which means it can be pitched simply—on a poster or to a friend on the phone.

Comment: “How do we pitch it? There’s no high concept.”

15. Make sure your story feels like a movie, which includes taking us to places we’ve probably never been, or rarely been.

A movie transports us to locations we want to feel, like Antarctica, or the Amazon jungle, or a moon of Saturn, or, in movies I’ve done, a brothel in New Orleans (The Madams Family), the experimental lab of the inventor of the vibrator in Victorian England (Hysteria), a mountain cabin during a blizzard (Angels in the Snow), or the Amityville house in Long Island (Amityville: The Evil Returns).

Comment: “There are no set pieces, so it doesn’t feel like a movie.”

16. Get someone who knows the industry well to read your treatment and give you dramatic feedback on it before you send it out.

Comment: “The writer shows no knowledge of movies!”

Of course anyone with the mind of a sleuth can list films that got made despite one or more of these comments being evident. But for novelists frustrated at not getting their books made into films, that’s small consolation.

If you regard your career as a business instead of a quixotic crusade, plan your novel’s treatment to make it appealing to filmmakers–and to avoid the story department’s buzz-killing comments.

Read more

Self-Publishing: Expectations vs Reality For New Authors

Self-publishing is a great opportunity – if you have a head for business

Are you dreaming of becoming the next bestselling author?

For anyone who writes, it is natural to want your hard work to reap the rewards you believe it deserves.

Self-publishing today gives all authors the chance to publish for (almost) free and to have a book on sale on Amazon and many other online book retailers.

If you use Amazon’s publishing service, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), you can publish an ebook, and it will be on sale in around 24 hours.

For a paperback version of a book using print on demand, it takes only a few days.

In the days before self-publishing, the publishing process for a traditional publisher very often took a year or more. It has not changed a great deal for large publishers today.

It is a long road to take to get a book published the traditional way. You need first to find a literary agent to represent you, which is no easy task.

Then if you are lucky enough to find one, it can take months for your agent to secure a publishing contract for you. If you are one of the fortunate authors who manage to get this far, it is then a wait of another year before your book is released.

After that, you cross your fingers and hope your book sells well. Otherwise, the chances of another contract are slim.

However, if you self-publish, you skip all the waiting and jump immediately to crossing your fingers.

So much has changed, but the publishing industry stays the same. It is about hoping that readers will buy your book.

The expectations of publishing a book

I started publishing in 2005 with Createspace. The following four years were marvellous for me for with my print books selling well enough to get a nice check every month.

Then came the ebook.

When I self-published my first ebook in 2011, there were fewer than 800,000 Kindle ebooks on Amazon. Fast forward to today, and it is over 7 million.

Did you know that a new Kindle ebook is now published on average every 3 minutes?

You do not need to be a statistician to calculate that while the number of ebook titles has risen dramatically, the number of book buyers has not increased proportionally.

In simple terms, for a digital book, it is a highly competitive market.

On top of that, Kindle Unlimited has turned all the publishing rules on its head. No longer do you sell a book. You sell page reads. For authors and publishing companies alike, it is a considerable challenge.

Many new authors leap into publishing an ebook on Amazon with the expectation that because their book is for sale, it will sell.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The hard facts are that very few titles sell well, and most struggle to sell more than a handful of copies per year. Mostly to friends and family.

The biggest problem is that many newly published authors do zero market research before a book launch.

If you want to sell anything, you have to know what your market is and how you are going to attract people to buy your product.

Smart indie authors know this and have a clear idea of their genre and what market potential there is for their writing.

For example, there is a massive market for contemporary romance, but only a tiny market for gardening or rose care books. However, a small market segment is less competitive.

Balancing competitivity and volume is how you understand your potential market share. Do you want a tiny proportion of the highly competitive romance market, or to dominate the less competitive rose care genre?

For new independent authors, do not let your expectation cloud the reality. Selling books in today’s market is very hard unless you are an expert in book marketing and know who your potential book buyers are and how you can connect with them.

Putting your book up for sale is one thing. Selling a lot of copies is another reality altogether.

The realities of making it with self-published books

The first reality is to understand that vanity presses will never help you succeed.

I hear from so many authors who had wild dreams, were told mistruths and paid an awful lot of money to publish their book. And all for nothing.

Vanity publishing is definitely not self-publishing. Paying a vanity publishing company to sell books to you is not a recipe for success. Do not fall for the trap.

You can only succeed if you can sell books to readers. And you can.

Here is a short extract from the 2018 Author Earnings Report.

“Despite the prevalent indie doom-and-gloom rumours, today’s top sellers are handily making as much or more than the top-selling indies from prior years were.

But here’s the kicker. A lot of today’s top-selling indies are relatively new names. We didn’t recognize a lot of them. And a lot of yesteryear’s pioneering indie superstars no longer even make the Top 50.”

A look at ebook sales for 2017 tells an optimistic story for indie-publishing authors.

Combined Indie author ebook sales of imprint, not listed and collective amount to over 37% of the market. A full 12% higher than the Big Five publishers.

There is no doubt that readers do buy self-published titles and far more than traditionally published titles.

But do not expect to be part of this success if you think that everyone in the world is going to want to buy your book about rose care, or even romance.

You have to know your specific genre, the demographics and interests of your potential readers, and most importantly, how to get them to find your book.

You might have a fantastic book title, a brilliant professionally designed book cover and had the interior of your book formatted by a book designer.

But unless the story or subject of your book is what readers really want to read, your book can still fail.

Book buyers are fickle, so you need to give them a compelling reason to buy your book.

Learning about how people find books they want to buy

Understanding how and why people buy books is your first step towards being a successful indie publisher.

Yes, you need a great story, a brilliant book description and a killer cover design.

You need to be a little tech savvy and know how to exploit social media and attract attention via your blog with good use of SEO.

Most of all though, you need to know how to leverage categories and keywords for your books.

Getting your book into the right place for readers of your genre to find is more powerful than any other form of book marketing.

The new breed of successful Indie authors are quietly and studiously using data to help readers find their books on Amazon and other retailers. It is an electronic form of getting your book on a shelf at the front of a bookstore.

The expectation vs reality equation is now that you can only expect to gain regular book sales if you understand the reality of the necessity to use data.

Learning how to access and leverage Amazon book sales data especially is now key to succeeding in the online book market.

To use the example I mention before of the difference in the market for contemporary romance and rose care, here is some hard data.

Amazon sales data for books related to rose gardening. Data source KDP Rocket

In line six, the book, The Rose Garden, is fiction, so it needs to be ignored. But you can see that the monthly sales for books related to rose care and rose gardening is very small. The best selling book is making $73.00 per month.

Now let’s looks at contemporary romance.

Amazon sales data for books related to contemporary romance. Data source KDP Rocket

What a difference! Yes, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. In 21 days, Every Breath has made sales of over half a million dollars.

When you can access data as I have illustrated above, you can drill down to find your niche market and find keywords and categories to make your book as competitive as possible.

This is the future of independent publishing. Using data to position your book where readers can find it, and buy it.

In SEO, there is an expression that if your page ranks on page one of Google Search, you get traffic. If it is listed on page two, it is in the cemetery.

The same applies to books on Amazon. If you book appears on the first page when a book buyer searches for a new book, you will make book sales. If it appears on page two, you won’t.

The future success stories of indie publishing

Book buyers are over discriminating between traditional published and self-published books and ebooks. They just buy books they want to read.

In the past, the best advice to new authors was to have a fantastic book cover, a great book description to hook readers and to have a book properly edited.

But today, that is now not going to be enough to succeed.

The path to success today and in the future will be to learn how to market a book to an electronic online market.

Using data research to find your market niche and to better position your title so buyers see it will be more important than your book cover and description.

That is why the Author Earnings Report I mentioned earlier stated that today’s top-selling indies are relatively new names.

They are the new authors who know the power of data, and how to use it.