MONTE CARLO — Michael Cimino, Sydney Pollack, Nora Ephron, Mary Higgins Clark and Nicholas Pileggi all took part in the first Intl. Cinema and Literature Forum in Monaco.
The three-day event, which wrapped Sunday and will take place annually, united authors, filmmakers, publishers and producers from the U.S. and France, many using the event as a pit stop before this week’s Mipcom TV mart and the Frankfurt Book Fair.
Literary adaptation of books for film was the Forum’s primary focus. According to French publishers present, Gallic literary works are seldom made into English-language films.
Explanation for this situation, said British-born Susanna Lea, a lit agent in France, is that French publishers rarely sell a book from an English synopsis, generally waiting until a book is published in English to send it out to film and TV companies.
Agnes Fruman, secretaire generale of French publisher Albin Michel, said that not one of the 400 books put out each year by her company is published in the U.S.
Lea, whose motto is “published in Europe, read around the world,” said this trend has nothing to do with an inherent American dislike for French narratives. “Americans don’t care where a story comes from,” she told Daily Variety on Saturday, “as long as it’s a good story.”
Lea, who represents French publishers as they, not the authors, own the audiovisual rights, writes synopses of her clients’ publications herself, sometimes even before the book is written — a tactic unheard of in France until Lea set up shop eight years ago.
Lea made international news last year when she sold Forum jury member Marc Levy’s first novel “If Only It Were True” to Steven Spielberg for $2 million, the highest price ever paid for the audiovisual rights to a French book. “It was purchased outright, not optioned,” Lea stressed. The book, which was sold in 30 countries, was adapted into a film script by Ron Bass for DreamWorks.
The price paid for a one-year option for the audiovisual rights to a French book by a French production company is between $20,000 and $70,000. Lea, on the other hand, has sold audiovisual rights to U.S. production companies for $100,000-$1 million, with Levy’s book the exception.
The Lancaster Prize for the best European film adapted from a book went to Francois Dupeyron’s “La chambre des officiers.” Anne Rambach’s “Tokyo Atomic” and Jean-Christophe Duchon-Doris’ “L’ordure et le soleil” split the prize for the best novel adaptable for cinema or TV.