Check out Sara’s guest blog today for New England Home Magazine ‘On Collecting’ http://www.nehomemag.com/blog/sara-ossana-collecting
Comic books and their denser counter parts, Graphic Novels have been adapted into everything from Movies and Television Series to Broadway Plays. With the upcoming releases of Thor: The Dark World, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we were curious how and why this genre and their adapted films, have reached such unimaginably large audiences and revenue.
Recently we asked producer and writer friend of ours, Damian Dydyn, to talk with the co-star of his upcoming web-series Selene Hollow, Doug Sobon. Staring as Augie, an odd obsessed man, running a comic book shop out of his living room; Doug was able to channel his life long passion of comics, into creating a character with the perfect balance of off-beat quirkiness and an intimate knowledge of a very complex world.
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Damian: Doug, thank you for taking the time to chat with me, how have you been? What have you been up to since we wrapped on Selene Hollow?
Doug: Hi Damian, it’s my pleasure, thanks for having me. Well, since we last worked together I’ve been really busy with writing and pre-production work for my upcoming web-series Occ the Skeptical Caveman. We start principle photography in three days, so I’m very excited. Outside that, the little free time I have has involved video games and catching up on my TV shows and Films.
I just saw Man of Steel. I know a lot of people have been critical of the film, and probably for good reason, but I’m an unapologetic, non-critical hyper-fan of comic movies, and watch them often, over and over. For me, the escapism and fantasy is therapeutic and I really enjoy the different spin they put on some of my beloved childhood heroes.
Damian: I agree. Even when a comic book movie isn’t very good, I can often still enjoy it for the escape it provides. The very premise of a superhero movie is unrealistic and forces you to leave the real world behind as the story plays out. It takes you to a place where you have to accept that anything is possible before the opening credits are finished. In fact, these movies do a better job of leaving me in a creative mood than any other kind of movie. So tell me, where and when did your love for this genre spring into being?
Doug: Well, I saw Richard Donner’s Superman when it was originally released, I think I may have been four years old and I’m pretty sure I was a Superman fan before that, so very early on. Of course, it was a while before comic heroes got a another film of that quality. As a child, when I would play, I was always pretending to be extraordinary in some way, super strength, invisibility, I learned the word “teleportation” when I was less than ten (thanks Nightcrawler!) It’s funny to think about now, because my best friend and I would play together, he was always a sports star, while I opted for alien with superhuman powers.
Damian: I suppose that’s one of the reasons you act. You can still play an alien with super powers as an adult without the social stigma attached to someone who runs up and down the streets of their neighborhood, with a towel wrapped around their shoulders making laser sounds and exploding noises.
Doug: Well, I still do that too, but yes, the acting is more socially acceptable.
Damian: Earlier you mentioned Man of Steel. I also enjoyed it, though I do understand the criticism. One of the most insightful comments I’ve seen written about the movie is that it broke the unspoken contract we have with Superman as an audience. Superman doesn’t just save us, he protects us.
The distinction is that saving is more about the big moments and individuals. Lois Lane falls from a building and he catches her just before she hits the pavement, or Jimmy Olsen dangles from a crumbling dam and Superman scoops him up just as he slips. Behind those moments, however, he protects the world from catastrophic doom. In Donner’s Superman he manages to rewind and undo the quake that destroyed California. In Superman 2 he draws the Kryptonians away from Metropolis to minimize the damage to the city and the people that inhabit it. In Man of Steel however, Metropolis is leveled.
Superman saves people like Lois and Perry White, but he fails to protect the city. It didn’t feel like Superman to many people. Personally, I think the biggest issue is that we didn’t have a dichotomy between Superman and Clark Kent. Clark is Superman’s mask. It’s sort of backwards from most heroes who wear a mask to protect their civilian identity. Clark is also a glimpse into how Superman views humanity. Good, wholesome, and utterly helpless. It’s the biggest example of Superman’s hubris and that was lacking in this film making him feel entirely alien. Even still, it was a fun action movie with wonderful special effects, and the boys who played young Clark did a phenomenal job. So I still had a lot of fun despite the flaws.
Doug: That’s actually the one criticism I could bring myself to admit. The big effects, building smashing, ultimate battle in the city could have worked along those lines had Superman made every attempt to pull Zod away from the major population – but failed, or even a couple of shots of him zipping off to rescue people from falling debris before returning to confront Zod again. I didn’t mind the exclusion of Clark so much. I thought the retelling of his relationship with Lois Lane and that fact that she recognizes him through the impenetrable disguise of a pair of glasses did need to be updated.
So Superman first, then Clark. I would have liked to see more of him of course, but I imagine he’ll be quite prominent in the sequel. But you’re right, outside Kryptonite he’s invincible, his only weakness being his obsession with protecting others, something on which Luthor often capitalized. That being said, I’ve seen it three times and really, thoroughly enjoyed it. Hell, I even enjoyed Superman Returns. Don’t judge me. I watched Smallville for it’s entire run, fully aware of the fact that it could be described as sub-standard at best. But slap that S on some farm boy type and I’m probably going to watch and enjoy it.
Damian: I thought I was the only adult on the planet who stuck with Smallville up to the schlocky end. I was also fine with redefining his relationship with Lois, and honestly, I prefer taking previously used characters and trying new things. I just don’t think the approach in Man of Steel worked as well as they wanted it to. I like the idea of a Superman who has more flaws than a glowing green rock and a superiority complex.
Alright, let’s transition to that old cliché no interview about favorite movies would be complete without. If you were stranded on a desert island and could bring only one superhero movie with you, which one would it be?
Doug: Easy, V for Vendetta. It happens to be my favorite movie of all time. Hugo Weaving was absolutely brilliant and pulled off that role without ever showing us his face. I’m also a big fan of any revenge story, and the parallels with my favorite novel, The Count of Monte Cristo, only enhanced my love for the film. The political statements, the allusion to Nazi rule, the call to revolt after years of complacency, and a massively obsessed, even psychotic hero all blended together so beautifully.
Alan Moore, who wrote the original graphic novel is, quite frankly, a genius. His redefinition of the graphic novel is unsurpassed, in my opinion. Many of his works have gone on to become great films. His extreme distaste for Hollywood has kept him from ever viewing an adaptation of his work. It’s a small irony because the Watchmen was nearly a panel for panel recreation, probably the most faithful adaptation ever made.
Damian: Except for the ending, though I can understand not being comfortable with selling the idea of a giant mutated squid popping into existence in New York City and killing millions of people with a psychic blast. For me, it would be down to a coin flip between the first Iron Man and The Avengers. Iron Man blew me away. I wasn’t expecting it to be anywhere near as good as it was, and I could watch Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark all day. The Avengers is, well, a shiny example of just about everything Joss Whedon does well and I’m an unabashed Joss fanboy. If pressed to choose, I would probably go with The Avengers, though, since I get my Stark fix along with my hit of Joss.
Doug: Loved them both, completely. In fact, the entire “first phase” of the Marvel move to films was just awesome. Once in a while I treat myself to a marathon culminating in The Avengers, which was a brilliant success when it could have fallen flat in so many ways. So yeah, props to Whedon on that one.
Damian: Let’s flip this on its head. What is the worst adaptation you’ve seen so far on the big screen? I’ll jump in quickly to say that Daredevil was it for me.
Growing up there were three books I read religiously. Captain America was one, The Amazing Spider-Man was another, and yes that includes the Ben Reilly run, and of course Daredevil. Spider-man was the most fun to read and Cap satisfied that little flame of patriotism every kid had drilled into their heads at school back then, but Daredevil was something different for me.
He first caught my eye because the emblem on his chest was my initials, and he was in a red suit with devil horns. Growing up with the name Damian, most of my nicknames played off of the devil somehow, especially in Catholic school. So I took to reading his books quickly and was immediately drawn in by the idea of a blind superhero. It was fascinating to me, and seeing him constantly getting beat up and broken while saving the day was also refreshing. There were immediate personal consequences for his decision to fight crime. It made him more real than the other heroes I had seen.
When the movie came out, even though I wasn’t a big fan of Ben Affleck playing Matt Murdock, I liked seeing him in pain early in the film. The addiction to pain killers was a wonderful touch. Then it fell off the rails. The grittiness that made the comic book so good was eschewed in favor of an over the top Elektra, a jovial socialite version of The Kingpin and a plot that made very little sense. It was a huge blow as it was an early entry in the Marvel universe and made me wonder if films like Spider-man and X-men were going to end up outliers. Thankfully, that didn’t end up being the case, but Daredevil had me worried for a while. What would be your big flop?
Doug: Well, the 70s-80s produced a host of truly horrific comic adaptations. Spiderman and Captain America most notably. They’re actually good to watch now for the pure, unintended comedy they provide, but man those were awful. I don’t think it’s fair to count those, though. They had shoestring budgets and no one working on the projects seemed to even be familiar with the original material.
In recent years, I would have to say Ghost Rider. Before even seeing it you wonder how a motorcycle rider with a flaming skull for a head, delivering justice, is going to avoid a high level of corniness. Well, the portrayal was pretty weak, and the whole thing was just lackluster. But it pales in comparison to it’s sequel, which is firmly at the top of my list. So many flaws I don’t have time to go through them, but a truly awful film. And for me to say that about a comic book movie, that really is something. But I’ll add another category: biggest disappointment. For a film that was capping off a phenomenal (so far) trilogy X-men 3 was a let down of Lucasesque proportions. Two wonderful films preceded that dung heap. It was good news indeed to hear that Bryan Singer is working very hard to, ahem, underplay some of the terrible choices made in the film. Not as bad as the Ghost Rider films, but the personal slight I felt for X:III was definitely more acute.
Damian: Last Stand was a close runner up for me. Likewise, Spider-man 3 did a terrible job of following up two excellent films and it didn’t even have the excuse of hiring Brett Ratner. Let’s try looking ahead. There is a Guardians of the Galaxy adaptation about to start filming, for which Karen Gillan shaved her head, and there are plans to try and develop films for Black Cat, Deathlok, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, Silver Surfer, Sub-Mariner, Venom, Black Panther, Ant-man, Deadpool and even Runaways. What property would you be most excited about seeing an adaptation for?
Doug: Oh, I would absolutely love to see The Silver Surfer get the adaptation he deserves, instead of a supporting role like last time, and more Galactus please! I’ve always loved the grand cosmic scale on which his stories took place, and the Godlike power he wielded. He’s also a tragic character which makes him all the more appealing to me. With Nolan and Whedon, the bar for comic adaptations has been raised quite high. I think in the next run through SS will be presented to us with more respect for the material. I’m optimistic like that.
Damian: I think Runaways is the one that I’m most interested in. It’s a really interesting premise and it doesn’t have such a huge following that they would be compelled to play it safe with the material. There’s some potential for some really bold story telling there, and they could even try to cover some ground that The Hunger Games teased at but failed to deliver on. Specifically, the idea of children committing violence to survive. So, of the comic book movies currently in production, which one excites you the most? Marvel has The Amazing Spider-man 2, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Thor: The Dark World and Big Hero 6 which is an animated feature they are working with Disney on. DC has recently hinted at a Batman Superman team up, or possibly a Batman vs Superman film and have green lit a Man of Steel sequel, but don’t have much else that looks immanent. What jumps out at you?
Doug: Yeah, I can’t say I’m familiar with Runaways. I’ll have to brush up on that. But man, when I heard about the promo hinting at a Batman/Superman film, I giggle like a child. That is, Bale’s Batman, I hope. I’ve been following the gossip, and it appears he’s open to the idea, even if his signing on hasn’t been officially announced. He and Henry Cavill together on screen in those characters would just be epic. I think this would be far preferable than a Justice League film, at least before the other characters have some established screen time, like the Avengers model. Even then, some of the characters just seem, I don’t know, problematic for a modern film? But a film focusing on these two and their divergent world views? I would lose my mind. There is so much great material to draw from. It’s all there in decades of comics. I even recall a particularly astounding graphic novel where Superman has his ass handed to him by an amped-up aged Batman. Though I think we should wait before recreating Miller’s masterpiece.
Damian: Batman vs Superman would be incredible to see on screen, especially I they can get Bale back for the role. If I had to pick one that I’m most excited for, however, it’s probably Thor: The Dark World. Chris Hemsworth managed to take Thor from the “take him or leave him” level to a must watch character. I never got into Thor as a stand alone comic, but the first Thor movie was epic fun and made him a character I could actually relate to. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he does with the role in the sequel. I’m still not quite sold on Ultron as the villain in the next Avengers movie, but I trust Joss Whedon and I’m sure it’ll end up being a great ride, but Thor has me invested in a way I was absolutely not expecting. Honestly, I’m just grateful that we have so many to choose from. It’s a golden age for comic book fans.
Doug: Yeah, how great was Thor? I was sure that one would fall flat on it’s face, but Hemsworth is so damned charismatic you just fall in love with him. And the realization of Asgard was just breathtaking, can’t wait to see more of that. Last I heard, Thanos was to be the big bad in the next Avengers film, didn’t know they were going with Ultron. Interesting, but you’re right, they really haven’t let us down yet with that franchise, so I’m sure I’ll love it.
Damian: Thank you for taking the time to talk to me about all this, Doug. We appreciate you taking the time from the production for Occ to chat with us.
Doug: It’s been my pleasure.
If you’ve seen any of these films or have a favorite (or least) we’ve missed, we’d love to hear about your experience. Don’t forget to LIKE us on Facebook, FOLLOW us on Twitter, and SUBSCRIBE to our Blog for all the latest news and updates.
Horror stories have captivated audiences for years. What most likely began as stories around a campfire, has evolved to over 100 years of frightening and formidable films. If you recall from our post “Top 5 Must-See Sci-Fi Film Adaptations”, Georges Méliès is credited with creating the first science fiction film.
Méliès is recognized as the creator of the first horror film too, Le Manoir du Diable, a three-minute short film (above) made in 1896. The plot dances through the world of vampires, demons, and skeletons, which was sure to send shivers throughout the terrified audience when it was first released on Christmas Eve, 1896, at the Théâtre Robert-Houdin, in Paris. On this ‘Friday the 13th’ we want to share with you some of our favorite adapted horror films. If you have seen these films or have a suggestion for a must-see we may have missed, leave a comment below.
Did you visit the beach this summer? You might not want to go back after watching Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. The film is based on Peter Benchley’s novel, who was inspired by real-life shark attacks. The story takes place in a fictional town, Amity, and was filmed mostly on-location in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. The major difference between the book and the movie was Spielberg’s decision to eliminate most of the minor subplots that occur throughout the novel. When working to adapt the story, Spielberg proposed to “…change the first two acts, basing them on original screenplay material, while remaining true to the book for the last third of the film,” because that was his favorite part of the book.
John Williams composed the iconic Jaws theme, which received an Academy Award for Best Original Score. Interestingly enough, the music that is so well-known today, was laughed at by Steven Spielberg himself, thinking it was a joke that only two notes would sound menacing enough for a shark. If you’re brave enough to DIVE into this one, don’t expect to see the shark right off the bat. Similar to Alfred Hitchcock’s method, Spielberg suggests a more impending presence. And if you ask me, that’s what makes this book/movie a thriller!
The Exorcist (1973)
In the world of horror stories, The Exorcist is one of the most frightening because it was loosely based on true, demonic events. William Peter Blatty published this novel in 1971, but the inspiration is rooted in a 1949 exorcism case that Blatty heard about as a student of Georgetown University in 1950. Without ruining the incredibly thrilling story, the novel revolves around the demonic possession of a girl named Regan MacNeil.
In order to stay true to the story, and live up to its horrific potential, director William Friedkin executed many unorthodox methods during the production of The Exorcist. Friedkin manipulated his actors to extreme limits, and even caused physical damages to some of the cast members. The decision was also made to shoot some scenes, specifically the ones at Georgetown University, on-location. If this story doesn’t sound scary enough, many involved with the production have claimed that the film was cursed. On several occasions, a priest was even brought in to bless the set.
The Birds (1963)
Alfred Hitchcock’s film The Birds, was inspired by a novelette of the same name written by Daphne du Maurier. Although the original story is short, it is absolutely haunting with its detail of birds violently attacking humans for seemingly no reason. In the film’s adaptation, even more detail is provided, with more instances of attacking birds. It is widely known that Hitchcock was never a typical Hollywood director. While filming The Birds, he brought in live birds to unknowingly attack his leading actress, Tippi Hendren. Despite Hitchcock’s enormous approval of Hendren, she only filmed one more movie under his direction, Marnie. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Special Effects, and Tippi Hendren shared the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year with Ursula Andress and Elke Sommer.
If you are looking for sparkling vampires and romance, you’ve come to the wrong place. In 1897, Bram Stoker first introduced the character Count Dracula. But, Stoker did not invent the creatures we know as vampires, he simply defined a modern form. Although there are countless adaptations of this story, Dracula (1931) is one of the most well-known versions. In order to stay true to the story, the writers studied the Broadway stageplay, and the unauthorized silent film Nosferatu (1922) created by F.W. Murnau.
Although the film was not silent, the director Tod Browning was accustomed to that style and struggled to transition into sound. Inter-tiles and and a newspaper closeup used in the film, display the silent film techniques that still remained in 1931. The film did very well at the box office, and even caused movie-goers to faint at the horrors on-screen. With its success, the movie increased the novel’s popularity, creating an instant-classic.
The Shining (1980)
The name Stephen King is synonmous with horror. The Shining was only King’s third novel published, and it established him as an author in the horror genre. The story takes place in an isolated hotel in the Colorado Rockies. Jack Torrance has just accepted the job as winter caretaker of the hotel and moves in with his wife, Wendy, and five year old son, Danny. The horror begins when Danny’s psychic abilities allows him to view the hotel’s terrifying past. Soon, a winter storm hits and Jack becomes possessed with the hotel’s evil nature.
The film adaptation, directed and co-written by Stanley Kubrick, did not receive an immediate positive reception. Later on, the film received better reactions and higher critical ratings. However, Stephen King has been quoted expressing his distaste with the film, and being the only adaptation of his that he “hated.” I would recommend enjoying the film and book yourself, and then you can decide who told the story better.
“Art of various kinds is often expensive, and filmmaking especially so. Thousands of gifted filmmakers, young and old, have waited hat in hand at the studio gates, only to be turned away with nothing. That’s why Kickstarter and like organizations—which secure funding through donations from people with an interest in art-to-be—are a healthy and adventurous way to go. Let the studios eat cake, as a famous lady once said.” — Larry McMurtry
Thanks to you and the KICKSTARTER community, we have reached our STRETCH GOAL of $12,000 and are now in the position to finish production on BOOKS: A DOCUMENTARY!
If you missed us here on Kickstarter, you can check out our website BooksMovie.org, for all the details on pre-ordering the film, purchasing merchandise, future screenings etc…
We are thrilled and overwhelmed by all of your support throughout these past two campaigns and sincerely THANK YOU for believing in BOOKS. We can’t wait to save you a seat at the theatre.
– Mathew & Sara
Larry wrote a piece for The Daily Beast today and we have it here for you… Enjoy!
“For writer Larry McMurtry, auctioning off part of his vast book collection was bittersweet, but they are off on a new adventure in the hands of new readers. He writes to urge readers to support a film on Kickstarter documenting this remarkable sale.”
Art of various kinds is often expensive, and filmmaking especially so. Thousands of gifted filmmakers, young and old, have waited hat in hand at the studio gates, only to be turned away with nothing.
That’s why Kickstarter and like organizations—which secure funding through donations from people with an interest in art-to-be—are a healthy and adventurous way to go. Let the studios eat cake, as a famous lady once said.
Writing prose, on the other hand, is a solitary endeavor (unless one has a fine writing partner, as do I). And as such, it’s not very expensive. Paper, a typewriter, and a place to write is all I needed; that is, until I was given a laptop computer.
I came to the world of computers at least 20 years late, thus missing whole generations of pods, tablets, and the like, which is too bad. Diana Ossana, my writing partner and close friend, purchased a MacBook for me recently, at my request. I let it sit for six months and then made a cautious approach to the keyboard, as one might approach a wary woman. I respect it greatly, and though I work at it every day, we are not yet on familiar terms. But maybe, if time allows, I’ll improve.
At present, the fledgling artistic project nearest to my heart is a worthy one called “BOOKS, A Documentary,” a film about my own passion for books, a passion that led me to create a book town in my home place of Archer City, Texas.
At its peak, my book town harbored between 500,000 and 600,000 volumes, not counting my own 28,000 volume personal library. I love my books, all of them. Holding them in my hands, leafing through the pages, is a comfort to me. But this is a lot of books: my son and grandson might not be so inclined as to simply sit and appreciate their presence.
So, I held an auction in Archer City over three scorching summer days in August 2012 to reduce the burden of books that might be left to my heirs, should I depart before my inventory does. I managed, during said auction, to launch two-thirds of said inventory back out into the world, all taking up residence with new and enthusiastic owners. The adventures of those books will be documented, should the smart young filmmakers have their way.
It’s been a bittersweet experience for me, parting with my beloved stock, but they’ve been given a second life, on bookshelves and in storefronts all across America.
The filmmakers are my goddaughter Sara Ossana and her husband Mathew Provost. May they–and the books–flourish! — Larry McMurtry
Support Books by becoming a backer -http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/studioseven7films/books-a-documentary-take-2
Mighty Good Boys, Mighty Good Yes! Not sure if that makes sense, but we’re going with it.
The Might Good Boys can be summed up… like you’re sitting at a picnic table surrounded by your favorite people about to dive into a mound of steamed Chesapeake Bay shellfish. This combination of talented gents, are similar to a tasty mix of blue crabs, oysters, clams, crawfish, green beans and corn on the cob steamed in a bath of old bay, which will leave you wishing for more, or at least a napkin.
Hailing from Providence, RI, Corey, Travis, Nick, Jeff, Benny and Mike have been delighting crowds with their heavy influence of Appalachian & other American folk music styles.
Stacking books has been a long tradition and necessary tool of those wanting to organize, carry or build. Build??? Well if you’ve ever spent time in Detroit, you may have looked up to see the Book Tower, a stunning 38-story skyscraper in the Washington Boulevard Historic District. Unfortunately the tower was not made of books, but rather named after three brothers, J. Burgess, Frank, and Herbert Book determined to turn the Detroit’s Washington Boulevard into the “Fifth Avenue of the West”.
Lucky for us though, in 2011 Buenos Aires was named World Book Capital by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. What better way to celebrate than build a spiraling tower built with over 30,000 donated books. Artist Marta Minujin designed the Tower of Babel, as she named it, creating the installation 25-meters high. Although the shelf life of the tower was only a month, when it was time to take the sculpture down visitors were encouraged to pick out a book and take it home with them. Now that’s an idea worth building upon.
To our friends, family and colleagues,
We would like to start by thanking all of you who have supported us, in contributing to and sharing Books: A Documentary. We truly appreciate your support and the kind words you have shared with us throughout this process.
When Sara and I first set out to make a film about Larry, we really wanted to make sure that we were making a film that was more than just a bio pic. It was important to us to shed light on a world few rarely consider, the world of books. Larry set in motion Sara’s love of books, and Larry’s own works have influenced generations of writers and readers alike. Books: A Documentary is so much more than a film about an auction or Larry, it is a film about life-long passions, about community, and most of all about the power of books. There are many films based on books, but few films about books.
As went enter into the final hours of our fundraising campaign, some of you may or may not know that Kickstarter works on an “All or Nothing” platform, which means that despite receiving pledges totaling over $22,500 from 145 backers, we will not see any of these pledged funds unless we reach our goal of $50,000. Our $50,000 budget is broken down into three sections – $12,000 to fees and taxes – $8,000 to the remaining filming, which includes production, insurance and travel costs – $30,000 to post-production, which includes editing and sound mixing. Having backed a number of projects on Kickstarter, it was important for us to curate the perks as items we would want for ourselves, or to share as gifts.
Our wish is to hold a screening of the final finished film for Larry in the last remaining building of the Archer City Booked-Up bookshop. Film production provides a series of day-to-day, minute-by-minute hurdles a crew must overcome, charge through or even pick up and carry, to complete a film. The real trick is to make a good film, where you not only enjoy the process but also the final product. To finish the film we will be undertaking a huge coordination challenge. We still have to send our camera crew to film the remaining interviews, follow up stories on the books themselves and the people who bought them across America.
Efficiency will play a huge role in making this remaining stage of shooting a success. A successful film is a lot like a Gateau Marjolaine, a series of delicate layers that when put together in the right combination, create something to marvel at. Now we are not trying to say that we want to be the next Robert J. Flaherty; our goal is simply to make a really good film that you, the world and Larry will enjoy.
If you’ve donated in the past, thank you. If you have not, please consider supporting us. You can do so by visiting our Kickstarter Campaign.
Mathew Provost & Sara Ossana
Articles about Books: A Documentary
Originally posted on Chris Barsanti:
This is the killer Kickstarter pitch for a new proposed film project with the can’t-go-wrong title of Books: A Documentary:
This past August over 300,000 antiquarian books from Larry McMurtry’s Booked Up were sold at auction: This is the story of those Books.
The world of the book scout is a changing landscape. The very technology that seemingly threatens to submerge it has recently switched polarity and infused it with an unexpected resurgence. The renaissance may be short lived, as the overall trend has shown book scouting to have gone from a popular pastime to an obscure practice. What was once a busy profession abounding with hordes of enthusiasts, has turned into an archaic vocation kept alive by a handful of skilled connoisseurs. Recently however, they have been joined by an influx of pickers armed with digital scanners, smart phones and online book selling savvy.
An old school book scout would scour classified ads for estate sales, garage sales, library sales and yard sales, paying particular attention to how they each were worded. He, or she was wary of ads using the word “treasures” which translated to “junk” and kept a sharp eye out for buzz phrases like “English grad student moving” or “Philosophy professor passed away” which could have spelled pay dirt. Armed with a vast knowledge of books from a lifetime of reading and a finely tuned intuition for locating quality print, they set out for these sales. The goal: to unearth gems among the rubble, to buy them cheap and then sell them for profit.
One such man is none other than author Larry McMurtry, who explains having embarked on a career as a novelist in order to support his book buying habit. He is the central figure in the upcoming indie film by Studio Seven7 Films called Books: A Documentary. The film by Sara Ossana and myself tells the story of the three hundred thousand plus, of Larry McMurtry’s antiquated acquisitions that were auctioned off in August of 2012. The event, which lasted just two days, was aptly named The Last Book Sale. This historic occasion marks the culmination of forty years of Larry’s work as a book scout, and two thirds of what was amassed, being released back out into the world.
The auction no doubt drew book scouts cut from the same cloth as the proprietor of the four Booked Up storefronts in Archer City, Texas. However, there was also a new breed of book buyer lurking about among the paperbacks and first editions. The 21st century literary curator still combs through the classifieds for listings of book sales, but they rely more on technical gadgetry than upon applicable knowledge to cull profits from the piles of pages. They use a handheld electronic scanner to weed through many volumes in one day, looking for titles that can be sold for profit. Their scanner runs a book’s UPC code across a snapshot of the Amazon catalog. The software then calculates the book’s worth. Books with a high value are bought if a low price can be arranged and then re-sold online. Many rare books are pre-UPC, where scanning a code is not an option. In this case, they then pull out a smart-phone, loaded with latest apps and booked marked websites, and with a few clicks, now has all the information needed.
Similar to the world of baseball, an old-school scout would simply have taken the findings, cross referenced with years of gut instinct and stuffed notebooks, to bookstores or private collectors they had built relationships with over the years. The new school scout harnesses the power of the internet, which although impersonal, has not necessarily cheapened the trade. Online book reselling is highly competitive because there is money to be made. This current model is a recent improvement on what was being done just a few years ago. Before electronic scanners, new school book scouts had to use their cell phones to call friends or partners who were waiting at computers to look up titles that may have been valuable. This resurgence in the popularity of old books is a refreshing development. Perhaps the digital world will not yet fully render the analog world of information obsolete.
However, this begs the question: what improvements on the current strategy might the book scout of tomorrow employ? Perhaps tomorrow’s book scout will find a title, scan it and take a picture of it all at once. They could then post it online, find a buyer and collect the money digitally before ever paying for it and leaving the store. Perhaps when teleportation is an everyday practice the process will go one step further and the scout will beam the book over to the buyer right then and there. Sounds like a plot to a futuristic novel…