Sunday, February 11, 2018

Nina Sadowsky's "The Burial Society"

Ballantine published filmmaker Nina Sadowsky’s debut thriller, Just Fall, in March 2016. She is developing a TV series based on the book. Sadowsky has written numerous screenplays and produced many films including perennial favorite The Wedding Planner. She also teaches script development and producing at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts.

Here Sadowsky shares some thoughts on adapting her second novel, The Burial Society, for the big screen:
It’s not fair to ask me to play this game. I became a writer after a 25-year career as a film and television producer. In my prior incarnation, one of my customary tasks was to create lists of potential cast for every project on my slate. I rarely even took a script on if I didn’t understand its casting potential from both a creative and an economic standpoint.

Because of this history, it’s impossible for me to have a dreamy-eyed vision of my perfect cast. Of course I think first about creative fit. But past that, I inevitably weigh a litany of other factors, starting with box office appeal, both domestic and foreign. For example, if I’m trying to fund a project through the pre-sale of foreign distribution rights (a typical practice in independent filmmaking), I have to gauge an actor’s appeal in each individual market. How an actor performed in past movies or television shows of a similar genre is one consideration in the determination of that appeal. I also have to look at the balance of the value of one actor to the ensemble as a whole, and then those relative values must be weighed with respect to the budget. While spending extra for a star director or “name” cast certainly happens (it’s called “breakage” because it “breaks” the budget), every project does have its budgetary limitations.

Scheduling is also an ever-constant concern. The most sought after actors and directors, the ones most likely to get a project a “greenlight,” are also the busiest. Getting the planets to align around the right combination of director and cast creatively, financially and logistically is a Herculean task, so one learns to be flexible.

I adapted my first book, Just Fall, for television and have done a variety of “lists” for my lead, a woman who discovers on the night of her wedding that her husband is a contract killer. She’s written as a blonde (who quickly dyes her hair black while on the run) in a conscious inversion of the Hitchcock blonde trope. We’re currently discussing a variety of actors including many dark-haired women and I’m prepared to adjust the script to fit.

My new thriller, The Burial Society, is about a woman who lives off the grid and helps abused women, whistleblowers and others whose lives are endangered escape into new, safe lives. The themes of the novel are self-reinvention and the need for courage in order to face change. My protagonist is a woman of many identities and disguises. And while I have too much information in my head to commit to a dream of one actor, I do hope that if I’m lucky enough to sell this book for an adaptation that the part instead will be an actor’s dream.
Visit Nina Sadowsky's website.

Writers Read: Nina Sadowsky.

The Page 69 Test: The Burial Society.

--Marshal Zeringue