Saturday, April 5, 2008

Louis Ferrante's "Unlocked"

Louis Ferrante's Unlocked: A Journey from Prison to Proust is a memoir about the author’s journey from a life as a Mafia insider and federal prison inmate to that of a professional writer.

Here he shares some reflections on the idea of writing a memoir with a movie deal in mind:
My memoir was recently optioned for a movie by film star Lorraine Bracco. Believe it or not, this came as a surprise.

I never wrote my memoir with thoughts of cinema in mind. In telling my story, I felt it was important to interpret the facts of my life as best as I could. It was necessary to focus on situations, clarity, and the messages I wanted to convey, as opposed to creating chapters that could easily fit onto a Hollywood screen. Had I been thinking in terms of cinema while writing, it may have distracted me from actual events. I might have said to myself, “How will this play out in a scene?” Or, “Who could play this part well?” And then I’d have been jumping far ahead of myself.

At some point toward the end of the book, my girlfriend, who is a librarian, commented that she’d seen many books cross her desk that had gone on to become movies. She expressed with certainty that my book would become a movie. This was the first time I’d imagined the possibility, and yet, I quickly put it out of my head, choosing to take one step at a time.

So, if writing a memoir, let it follow it’s natural progression, and, if it lends itself to the screen, so be it. Nowadays I think any well-written memoir has an excellent chance of becoming a movie given Hollywood’s continuing demand for new material.

In stark contrast to my memoir, when I wrote my novel, which takes place in the antebellum South, I did have an ongoing movie reel spinning in my head. Having to create characters, scenes and situations, I was able to see the whole book as if it were being played out as a movie in my head. So much so, that if I were to see a movie based on my novel for the first time, I couldn’t help but think, “I’ve seen this before.”

In conclusion, I advise anyone writing a memoir to write it without any intention of it being made into a film, and it just may be. When writing fiction, you won’t be able to help but see the movie in your head. Hard work and perseverance will get it to the big screen, and the rest of us will one day see it as well.
Read more about Unlocked at the publisher's webpage and at Louis Ferrante's website.

--Marshal Zeringue