In December of 2015, I was being terribly impolite by checking my phone at Christmas dinner with my family. I glanced through my emails to find an unexpected missive from a man named Josh Tickell. I skimmed it and then sat back, stunned and suddenly incapable of participating in the banter around the table. I read the email again.
“… boutique film company in Ojai … reaching out … interested in optioning The Sowing for the big screen … movies that make a difference ….”
I read the email at least five times before I looked up from my phone.
Is this some kind of scam? I wondered. Who is this guy?
Before I opened my mouth to announce to Kristy and Elena, my co-authors on the Seeds trilogy project, that I had received an email from a man who claimed to want to turn our books into films, I did a quick background scan. I searched for Joshua Tickell on Google and on IMDB.com. Sure enough, there he was – producer and director of the Oscar-nominated environmental documentary Fuel, as well as the subsequent The Big Fix, which premiered at Cannes.
Wow, I thought. This could be real.
And then I started shouting at the dinner table.
A month later, my sister Elena and I were driving down to Ojai on a Friday night after work. We had plans to meet Josh and his wife Rebecca at their home the following day. Exhausted from a mid-week industry conference and a long day of bottling at the winery, I was both curious and cautious. We all felt certain that as indie authors, this kind of opportunity wasn’t going to come along again. But we weren’t sure what we were getting into – or how it was going to go. We knew we didn’t want someone to option the film rights to The Sowing and sit on them for ten years. We didn’t want to work with someone who would buy the rights and then ignore our input throughout the production process. And in the event that the movie did make it to the big screen, we wanted someone who would honor Remy and Vale’s story.
On Saturday morning before our meeting, Elena and I watched both Fuel and The Big Fix. We were impressed – both by the quality of the documentaries and by the messaging, marketing, and fundraising around the films. Having done our research, we were ready to meet with the Tickells.
At the meeting, we talked about our characters and their motivations. We talked about environmentalism and messaging to a younger generation. We talked about using art to make a difference. We talked about marketing, screenwriting, the fact that Channing Tatum also lives in Ojai and maybe he would be interested in a part in the movie. They showed us around their home, which doubles (triples?) as a film studio, a business office, and a permaculture avocado grove.
They sent us home with a full bag of avocados. We joked about getting paid for the film rights in bushels of avocados.
Afterwards, in the car on the drive home, we called our mom and co-author Kristy.
“How’d it go?” she asked immediately.
Elena and I both looked at each other, smiles spilling across our faces. “About as well as it possibly could have,” I replied.
“Were they awesome?” she asked.
“They were awesome,” Elena replied.
We filled her in on all the details. We told her about their vision for a possible adaptation, how in love they were with the books, how they wanted our input on everything from the screenplay to the marketing strategy, how they wanted us all to be, above all, a team of people bringing Remy and Vale’s story to the silver screen. (We might also have mentioned Channing Tatum and spent a few minutes discussing which role he would be cast in in the film.)
“Do you want to move forward?” Kristy asked. Elena and I thought about it for a minute.
“I think we should think about it for a few days, but my first instinct is ‘yes,'” I said.
“I think we should,” Elena added. “But I need time to process, too.”
We spent the rest of the drive home “processing” by daydreaming about which famous actors and actresses would play which characters in the film adaptation, exclaiming loudly over and over again that, “this could be real!” and giggling incessantly.
Three months later and just a few days before the release of our third book, The Harvest, Kristy, Elena, and I signed a contract that allowed Big Picture Ranch, the Tickells’ production company, to option the rights to turn The Sowing into a film. The contractual details can get confusing, but above all, this means that it’s not a guarantee that The Sowing will become a film; it just means that, for the time being, Big Picture Ranch has the exclusive rights to do so.
A lot of things have happened since then, but that’s the subject of the future blog post, Bringing Seeds to the Silver Screen: Part Two. But for now, I want to celebrate something very special: Elena got to attend the Los Angeles premiere of Good Fortune, Big Picture Ranch’s newest documentary!
Good Fortune is the rags-to-riches story of John Paul DeJoria. Born with nothing, occasionally homeless, in and out of motorcycle gangs, J.P. worked his way to the top of an empire of hair products and tequila. His motto, “success unshared is failure,” has led him to a philanthropist mentality that puts people and planet above all else.
Here’s Elena at the premiere!
Pretty cool, right? In the next post, Bringing Seeds to the Silver Screen: Part Two, I’ll talk about the screenwriter Big Picture Ranch hired to work on the script for The Sowing, the process of screenplay development, and where we stand right now.
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