Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Vanessa Veselka's "Zazen"

Vanessa Veselka is a writer and musician living in Portland, Oregon. She has been, at various times, a teenage runaway, a sex-worker, a union organizer, a student of paleontology, an expatriate, an independent record label owner, a train-hopper, a waitress, and a mother. Her work has appeared in Bust, Bitch, Maxmum Rock ’n’ Roll, Yeti Magazine and Tin House.

Here are some ideas for adapting her novel Zazen for the movies:
People have often told me that Zazen would make great as a movie or a graphic novel so when asked to do My Book, The Movie I thought, great, now I can playfully fill the world I created with actual human actors! Unfortunately it turns out I am missing the chip needed to cast my own novel. In layman’s terms, I got nothing. I can only compare it to a blank spot on an erotic map. Like when someone says, hey are you into hot schoolgirl action? and instead of a meter reading you get a color test screen. So to hide my failure, I got my friend Charlotte to cast Zazen. Here’s what Charlotte said:

“As producer—“


“We need to look at directors…maybe Bigelow, Joss Whedon...”

I'd been thinking along the lines of Francis Ford Coppola’s first chick-flick because, after all, he already knows how to set things on fire and psychedelically butcher an ox.

But Charlotte wasn't listening to me.

According to Charlotte we needed a strong ensemble cast that would please both the arthouse crowd and the money people. Money people?

She was digging in and what emerged was a brilliant combination of indy character actors and glitzy Hollywood. For Credence and Della she wanted something in the way of Billy Crudup and Noomi Rapace. But since they would be too obvious, she chose Ben Foster and Emily Blunt. She said Emily Blunt has the range. I said, who is Emily Blunt? But Charlotte, already in the habit of not listening to me, didn’t.

Next, she cast Jeff Bridges as Miro and Tilda Swinton as Grace. And in a stroke of absolute genius she cast Geoffrey Rush as Coworker Franklin.

“…Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn buddy up again as Tofu Scamble and Ed, Logic's only son,” she said, “it's those small cameos where there's a really opportunity to have superior casting. All Hollywood will clamber to be in it.”

“Owen and Vince are too young.”

“Think about ticket sales when you do casting! Rewrite the parts for Owen and Vince.”

Money people.

“And Leo DiCaprio totally wants to be in your movie. Maybe the guy from the sex party? He works for back-end money, no cash.”

Back end money?

We did hit some snags. She wanted Jeremy Renner for Jules. I wanted a young Sean Bean. For Mirror she wanted a Disney Channel Princess. I stood firm on Alia Shawkat. So Charlotte decided instead to fill the sex party scene with “Disney Channel and Nickelodeon royalty: Selena Gomez, Miranda Cosgrove etc…”

The character of Tamara stumped us both.

“What about someone like a super young Excene Cervenka?” I said.

“Don’t know her. I’ll have to look her up.”

Aha! A win for my team! Finally someone Charlotte didn’t know.

“Wait, she said, “What about Anne Hathaway as Tamara?”

Damn! I was down again.

Charlotte went back to her day job and I went back to googling Anne Hathaway to see who the hell she was.
Learn more about the book and author at Vanessa Veselka's blog.

My Book, The Movie: Zazen.

--Marshal Zeringue