The big news in Y.A. and film is that the movie based on the third Hunger Games book, Mockingjay, will be split into two parts (as was the last movie in the Twilight series, as was the last movie in the Harry Potter series). All the more to love; all the more tickets to be sold—it's becoming something of a pattern. Not to knock the books that get the big motion picture releases (this writer is a huge fan of the Games), but there are other books, too. And there are plenty of far smaller, less well-funded Y.A. endeavors that deserve their time in the sun—whether as books, as films, or perhaps as both. This week's edition of Y.A. for Grownups is about one of those.
Nina LaCour is the author of two Y.A. novels, Hold Still and The Disenchantments. The Disenchantments, her more recent book, is about a girl band, and she's actually in talks to make it into a big-budget movie. Her previous book, Hold Still, though, is about suicide. Gayle Forman, author of If I Stay, wrote, "Hold Still may be the truest depiction of the aching, gaping hole left in the wake of a suicide that I've ever read. But it's anything but depressing and gloomy—it's also about the tender shoots of new relationships that grow unexpectedly out of tragedy. A haunting and hopeful book about loss, love, and redemption."
LaCour told me, of her debut novel, "It's a perfect example of the kind of book that rarely gets made into a movie. It’s an emotional story, with no special effects, and it fits the indie model." She never had the expectation of a major studio picking it up, but she wanted to make it as a movie anyway. So, like many creative people dreaming up projects unlikely to be funded through traditional means, she turned to Kickstarter.
"I love The Hunger Games," says LaCour, "And I’m so excited about the Beautiful Creatures movie; those are perfect for big budgets. But I think that Hold Still can be told on a tiny budget using our friends’ living rooms." She wrote on her Kickstarter page, "Last winter, I began adapting the story for the screen, a project that Amanda Krampf (Director), Kristyn Stroble (Cinematographer), and I have been dreaming about since 2009 when we made the book trailer. An idea, sparked over dinner on a Friday night--that we make this film ourselves instead of approaching producers--has blossomed into a brilliant cast of emerging and established actors and a behind-the-scenes team of professional artists all dedicated to pouring their energy, hearts, and time into this project."
She set a goal of $17,000 to cover production costs; funding has exceeded that, with the deadline approaching this afternoon. She says, "I was tentative about asking people for money, but I just felt it’s so important to tell stories about the troubles teens go through, and to provide the joy that comes from watching a good movie." It's also something her fans had themselves asked for—"I get so much fan mail from teen readers, and so many have said they wish it would be a movie," she says. Some of her donations have also come from teens, but a large portion are from people in the Y.A. author community. LaCour sent me a long list of names of writers who've donated, including David Levithan, Gayle Forman, Stephanie Perkins, Ransom Riggs, Siobhan Vivian, Elizabeth Fama, Nova Ren Suma, Daisy Whitney, Malinda Lo, Gennifer Albin, Elizabeth Eulberg, and others. "I feel even more fortunate to be a part of the Y.A. community now that I see how generously we support one another," she said.
This project is representative of a broader trend in book world, a new wave of Do-It-Yourselfing. Self-publishing is one big example of this; another example is to market oneself through social media; one very basic way is by having a website, probably at this point it's nearly a universal necessity. Then there are examples like Margaret Atwood's effort to fund a mobile app that will allow fans to connect with their favorite artists. Recently, Seth Godin tested the market for his next book on Kickstarter. And KL Going's Fat Kid Rules the World is another Y.A. book-to-movie project (movie by Matthew Lillard) that's been funded via Kickstarter. He wrote on that site, "Mainstream Hollywood doesn't know how to make money on a movie like this, they don't believe that there is an audience, and we mean to prove them wrong."
As for the publishing houses, it's in their interest to support these sorts of endeavors (ideally more books are sold and read and everybody wins!), and in the case of LaCour's Hold Still movie project, "Penguin has been so supportive," she says. "They were all for it. I kept hearing publishers don’t promote writers and you have to do it on your own, you have to have a social platform ... but Penguin steps in and it’s really a partnership in spreading the word." One thing they did was post about it on the Penguin Teen tumblr under "Things We Are Ridiculously Excited About."
When I talked to LaCour, she'd just gotten off the phone with her dad, who'd been marveling about the power of the age we're in. "He's not on Facebook or Twitter," she said. "But he's keeping the page open on his computer" to watch the funding come in. She continued, "I feel like in some ways all of this [Internet-world] exposure inhibits creativity sometimes; it can be daunting to see what others are doing or to compare yourself to other people. But with Kickstarter, there's a community of people who are encouraging and enabling these things, and they get to feel part of something that’s really cool. How great would it be if this was something that was added to the structures already in place, just another way of supporting people in whatever they do?"