The search for great stories is one that never ends. Nowhere is that truer than in Hollywood, where the past decade has seen a variety of stories — from books to graphic novels to short stories to articles — optioned by production companies and studios with the intention of visually telling these tales on the big screen.
In 2016, we continued our efforts to track TV and film rights, following the hottest literary properties from the moment they hit the rights market. We scoured our bookshelves to find some of our favorite novels from the past year that are still available on the rights marketand highlighted a few of the properties optioned this year that we just can’t wait to see up on the big screen.
Our Top 5 Books That Were Optioned In 2016
Speak, Broad Green
Mosquitoland by David Arnold
The road-trip novel by Arnold follows teenager Mim Malone as she navigates life following her parents’ sudden divorce. She’s taken to Mississippi to live with her dad and stepmom but when she learns of her mother’s illness, Mim travels back to Ohio on a bus and meets a colorful cast of characters along the way.
The book was picked up by Broad Green, which just put out Bad Santa 2 and is handling the distribution of Terrence Malick’s upcoming Knight of Cups.
New York Magazine
The Hustlers at Score by Jessica Pressler
Pressler’s December 2015 New York Magazine article about the story of ex-strippers who lured wealthy, male jerks and perverts into hotel rooms, drugged them, and then maxed out their credit cards, was acquired by The Big Short director Adam McKay and business partner Will Ferrell under their Gloria Sanchez production banner. Coming up, McKay is taking on another real life story by writing and directing a feature film about Vice President Dick Cheney.
The Love that Split the World by Emily Henry
In Henry’s debut novel, supernatural elements meet a daring romance. Natalie is having a magical last summer in her small Kentucky hometown until she starts seeing the ‘wrong things’ — momentary glimpses at first, like her front door is red instead of the usual green. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Natalie knows something isn’t right. She’s then visited by an apparition she calls “Grandmother” who tells her she has three months to save him. Then she meets Beau and time stops.
Young adult romances have been a hit at the box office, from the Twilight Saga to the more realisticially inclined The Fault in Our Stars. This book has been picked up by Lionsgate (the ones behind Twilight) and the studio is looking for it to be their next hit.
The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty and illustrator Jamie McKelvie
In this graphic novel, picked up by Netflix earlier in the year, travel writer Zoe takes a job at a New York City publishing company — with a twist. Her boss is a death goddess who drinks blood and Zoe has to write a guide to the city… for the undead. Described as an “urban fantasy,” Zoe descends deeper into the world of monsters and things start becoming more and more dangerous. It’s the first in a series and hails from two veteran workers in the comics industry, so it’s bound to end up as a good acquisition for the streaming company.
Vor by Rimma Rose
In another big move, Netflix gained the rights to this Russian mafia manuscript. The story follows the mythology of the “vor” or a made man, who proves their undeniable loyalty and members of this world accepting the code of the “Thief within the Law.” It’s a tantalizing arena of which most mafia films haven’t touched on, which gives Netflix plenty of room for originality and exploration.
Our Top 5 Books That Are Still Available On The Rights Market
Cousin Joseph by Jules Feiffer
The story is set in Bay City, 1931, in the midst of the Great Depression. Bare-knuckle detective Big Sam is a righteous, truth-seeking patriot — but he also makes secret trips on behalf of the mysterious Cousin Joseph to pay off Hollywood producers to ensure that they will film only upbeat films that idealize a mythic America. But Sam himself is not in for a happy ending as step by step the secret of his unseen mentor’s duplicity is revealed. It’s a blend of sociopolitical satire with the fast-paced action, violence, and murder of pulpy, traditional noir that tell a larger tale about America today, which is likely to prove a fruitful adaptation.
Paolo Pellegrin, NYT Magazine
Fractured Lands by Scott Anderson
Fractured Lands tells the story of the catastrophe that has fractured the Arab world since the invasion of Iraq 13 years ago, leading to the rise of ISIS and the global refugee crisis. The geography of this catastrophe is broad and its causes are many, but its consequences – war and uncertainty throughout the world – are all too familiar globally. Anderson’s story gives the reader a visceral sense of how it unfolded, through the eyes of six characters in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan.
Sunk by Mitch Moxley
Originally published this year, the lengthy and captivating original article reads like a mystery, with Moxley in the role of Sherlock Holmes as he tries to discover why this film, the brainchild of real estate billionaire Jon Jiang, has never been able to find success. It details the various stages of the film, including going through four directors, ten scriptwriters, with many of the cast and crew still unpaid as the film struggles to find distribution, four years after the first trailer appeared online.
The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson
The story is set in an idyllic community of wealthy California families, where new teacher Molly Nicoll becomes intrigued by the hidden lives of her privileged students. Unknown to Molly, a middle school tragedy in which they were all complicit continues to reverberate for “her” kids: Nick, the brilliant scam artist; Emma, the gifted dancer and party girl; Dave, the B student who strives to meet his parents’ expectations; Calista, the hippie outcast who hides her intelligence for reasons of her own. Theirs is a world in which every action may become public—postable, shareable, indelible.
Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky
The story follows four fangirls who end up getting a room in the same hotel where their favorite Brit boy band, The Ruperts, are staying. Their obsession eventually leads to them kidnapping one of the members — but it ends up being the least popular and most useless one. As the night progresses, the situation becomes funnier and darker, with plenty of twists and turns leading to unexpected results. It satirizes fandom culture in unexpected and compelling ways.
In case you missed it, on Monday we revealed our Best and Worst TV Shows of 2016, and our Best and Worst Films of 2016 yesterday. Check back tomorrow for our Best Overall of 2016, followed by our most anticipated movies of 2017!