Books To Screen Edition: Literary Agents’ and Rights Directors’ Film Deals

In News by Porter Anderson

The year ahead already is a standout for news of film and television adaptations, both in recent releases and shows going into production.

Marina Foïs and Seear Kohi in ‘Ils Sont Vivants,’ releasing in France on February 23, an adaptation of ‘Calais, mon amour’ by Béatrice Huret with Catherine Siguret, a project handled by Calmann-Lévy in Paris. Image: Super 8 Production

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Also in our Books to Screen Edition
Interview: Producer Beata Rzezniczek’s Rap on ‘Other People’
Diogenes Verlag: Patricia Highsmith, New Film and Television – via Zurich

Books at Berlinale is Next Week
A you may remember, this year’s Books at Berlinale program from Frankfurter Buchmesse and Berlinale Co-Production Market will have its producer pitch sessions on Monday and Tuesday (February 14 and 15), operating with support from Frankfurt’s Guest of Honor Spain in a digital format hosted by Syd Atlas.

Incidentally, there are concerning reports from Berlin this morning (February 11) of a theft at the European Film Market studio in which some of its digital events were being recorded. Alternate studios are being used for shooting today. No one was hurt in the theft, Scott Roxborough writes at The Hollywood Reporter.

And when we spoke with international rights directors and literary agents about their projects in the works, they had lots to talk about, at a time when the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has intensified audience consumption and the streamers’ development of content.

Not for nothing did Ryan Faughnder write at the Los Angeles Times in Tuesday’s (February 8) Oscar nomination report, “Don’t Look Up and The Power of the Dog powered Netflix to 27 Oscar nominations Tuesday morning, the most of any studio, reflecting a year when streaming was again the dominant force in Hollywood.”

Much of what Faughnder and colleagues in the film and television press are seeing is that, as he writes, “the film academy’s reluctance to recognize Netflix has faded in recent years.”

And Netflix, of course, is simply the tip of the streaming-service spear, now encountering forceful competition from a growing array of big-budget rivals.

“Ironically, the highest-grossing best picture nominee was Dune,” Faughnder writes, “despite its same-day streaming release. It earned nearly US$400 million in global ticket sales, including $108 million domestically.”

That same-day streamed release was on HBO Max, a service that gave all its 2021 releases a 31-day run simultaneously with cinema showings.

When we made a quick survey of rights directors and literary agents working in international development, we were able to put together a list of projects for you, and can give you a quick outline of some of them here. We’ll start in Paris.

Éditions Calmann-Lévy and Éditions Kero

At Calmann-Lévy‘s offices on the Rue du Montparnasse, Patricia Roussel–the rights director at Calmann-Lévy and Kero–decided that in film, she’d like to point us to three properties, the first of which releases in France this month.

  • Ils sont vivants (They Are Alive, also translated as A Change of Heart) is directed by Jérémie Elkaïm with Arthur Cahn’s screenplay adapted from the book Calais, mon amour by Béatrice Huret (with Catherine Siguret) stars Marina Foïs and Seear Kohi. Produced by Super 8 Production, it releases February 23
  • Tom, a film adapted and directed by Fabienne Berthaud, is based on the novel Tom, petit Tom, tout petit homme, Tom by Barbara Constantine, and features Nadia Tereszkiewicz and Félix Maritaud. It’s produced by Rhamsa for a release this year, the date to be announced
  • La Chambre des merveilles, directed by Lisa Azuelos, is adapted from the novel La chambre des merveilles by Julien Sandrel and casts Alexandra Lamy and Muriel Robin in a production from Jerico Films for release later this year, the date to be announced

And in television, Roussel points to:

  • Et la montagne fleurira (And the Mountain Will Flourish), directed by Éléonore Faucher in a six-episode series adapted from the novel Le Mas des Tilleuls by Françoise Bourdon, the cast featuring Guillaume Arnault, Claire Duburcq, Philippe Torreton, and Constance Dollé in a production by Storia for release this year on France Télévisions, the date yet to be confirmed
Literarische Agentur Michael Gaeb

Andrea Vogel in Berlin at Michael Gaeb’s agency—a big assist with our production of a conference at Frankfurt in October on independent publishers—is reporting strong interest from both film and literary scouts in Eva Wagendorfer’s Die Radioschwestern: Klänge einer neuen Zeit (The Radio Sisters: Sounds of a New Era). 

Pre-publication, Vogel says, literary rights already have sold to:

  • Netherlands: Luitingh Sijthoff (a two-book-deal at auction)
  • Czech Republic: Omega
  • World Spanish: Planeta (in a two-book pre-empt)
  • France: Laffont
  • Hungary: Offer pending

While waiting for confirmation of a film/television deal, Vogel tells us that the book is the first installment from Wagendorfer in a trilogy from Penguin Germany. Set in the 1920s, the story is about women’s friendship in the early years of radio–in Frankfurt.

An English sample is available.

Immaterial Agents

Chiara Toniolo at the Milan office of Trudy Kolaas’ Norwegian literary agency Immaterial Agents on the Via Mario Fusetti tells us that author Kristin Helga Gunnarsdottir‘s YA novel Iceland’s Mountain Factory is being adapted for a television series by the Munoz Brothers and Oslo’s Inner Voice Artists.

Tom Grater at Deadline writes, “The book was inspired by the Greta Thunberg movement. It follows a group of young graduates from a mountaineering academy in the southeast of Iceland who get stuck in a fierce storm, taking refuge in an old hut. There, they decide to set up a free state dedicated to nature and sustainability. When one of the girls in the group, an established environmental activist and influencer, is found dead one morning, everything changes.”

Gunnarsdóttir is a two-time winner of the Reykjavik Children’s Book Award, a four-time winner of the Iceland Women’s Literary Award for Children, and the author of 25 titles.

Also on Toniolo’s desk is a deal recently made for a television adaptation of I Founded the United States by Hilde Susan Jægtnes about Alexander Hamilton, his childhood in the Caribbean. A deal has been closed with Nicola Donata directing with an as-yet unannounced producer in the States.

And “Claudio Fava’s book Mar del Plata,” Toniolo says, “now has an agreement signed with the Munoz Brothers” for development.

Pontas Literary and Film Agency

In Barcelona, Anna Soler-Pont at the Pontas Agency tells us that the Booker Prize for Fiction’s 2020 shortlistee Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi—also longlisted for the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction—has been acquired by Propagate Content in Los Angeles “to produce a feature film based on the novel,” Soler-Pont says.

The adaptation, she says, “is to be written and directed by Academy Award-nominated Indian-Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta.”

Translation rights for the novel have been sold into 26 languages.

And as Publishing Perspectives reported from Frankfurt in October, the Spanish author Dolores Redondo‘s La cara norte del corazón (The North Face of the Heart, Planeta), and Baztán Trilogy “have been acquired by Heyday Television,” Soler-Pont reminds us.

That’s part of NBCUniversal International Studios—a division of Universal Studio Group—and the deal is for a television series.

David Heyman, the founder of Heyday with production credits including the Harry Potter adaptations, will oversee the projects.

Having been released in 2019 by Planeta, the book now has sold into 15 languages, Soler-Pont tells us.

Grand Agency

Image: Netflix Originals

In Stockholm, Lena Stjernström at the Grand Agency on Vanadisvägen is, as usual, hardly at a loss for words when asked about adaptations. Here’s the list of recent deals she’s looking at.

Film and Television Premieres

  • The Unlikely Murderer, based on a book by Thomas Pettersson, has been adapted as a five-episode television series under the Netflix Originals banner, produced by FLX Sweden, released last November
  • So Damned Easygoing, based on a book by Jenny Jägerfeld, was screened on January 28 as the opening show at the Götenburg Film Festival. Its Swedish cinematic premiere is set for February 25 in a production by Cinenic Film of Stockholm
  • Comedy Queen, based on a another book by Jenny Jägerfeld, has a cinematic premiere today (February 11), in an adaptation from FLX Sweden written by Linn Gottfridsson with Sanna Lenken directing. It’s about a 13-year-old who wants to be a stand-up comedian

In Production This Year

  • Maria Wern, a crime television series based on books by Anna Jansson, is being produced by Warner Bros. Entertainment Nordic in a ninth season (yes, a ninth season) to be filmed starting in the autumn
  • Nora Sand, another crime series based on books by Lone Theils, also goes into shooting in the autumn for a television series, the producers in that case being ReInvent Studios Denmark and Shuuto Norway

Adaptation Rights Sold

  • The Sprint Tides, still another crime series, this one by Cilla and Rolf Börjlind, for a television series, sold to Pampas Film, Sweden
  • The Decomposition, a thriller series by Lotta Fritzdorf and Johan Rosenlind, has been sold to Art & Bob in Sweden for a television series
  • Monsters in Therapy, another novel by Jenny Jägerfeld (with Mats Strandberg), for a television series, bought by ITV Sweden
  • Sparkle, Daze, Amaze, yet another novel by Jenny Jägerfeld, has been sold for feature-film development to BReel Sweden
  • The Conference (Konferensen), a thriller by Mats Strandberg “about the worst team-building exercise you could possibly imagine,” the rights sold to SF Studios
  • Blood Cruise, another novel by Mats Strandberg, picked up for television series co-production by Northern Fable, Sweden; Imaginarium UK; and SVT Sweden
  • Into a Raging Blaze, which is an espionage thriller by Andreas Norman, bought by Anagram Film Sweden for a television series
  • 1007, a tale by Johannes Pinter, for feature-film development by Solid Entertainment Sweden
Cappelen Damm Agency

In Oslo, Cappelen Damm rights manager Anette S. Garpestad highlights Ida Takes Charge, based on Kjersti Halvorsen’s 2019 book about a young woman who becomes involved at university with Aksel, “a lone wolf with a dubious interest in weapons.”

The show has just had its premiere in an NENT/ViaPlay television series produced by Norwegian Anagram. “The television series has received great reviews all over,” Garpestad tells us, “and is certainly the talk of the town right now. I’m pretty sure it will travel abroad as well.

Kjersti Halvorsen is also out with a new book this spring, I’m the One Who Can Help You, another novel that I also think has great screen potential.”

Gulraiz Sharif’s stellar bestselling novel Listen up!—which has sold literary rights into Germany, Italy, Denmark, and the Netherlands—is also in development, Garpested says.

Producer Yngve Sæter of Motlys is producing a film based on the book, for production this spring and summer.

“Will we see it premiering at Berlinale 2023, perhaps?” she asks. “We have a great feeling about this one, and the manuscript written by Erlend Loe, a good sign for where the project is going.”

DTV Verlagsgesellschaft

At DTV’s offices on Tumblingerstrasse in Munich, rights manager Luise Hertwige points out that Liebes Kind (Dear Child) by Romy Hausmann is among the German shows Netflix announced in what Georg Szalai at The Hollywood Reporter describes as a doubling of its German content commitment to US$570 between 2021 and 2023.

The thriller series, signed for six episodes, will be produced by Constantin Television, with Tom Spieß and Friederich Oetker producing. The adaptation and direction is being handled by Isabel Kleefeld and Julian Pörksen.

Hausmann’s book is about a family raised in a remote forest location, the children “conceived and born in captivity” and protected by a father fearful of dangers “out there.” And the book has had heavy literary rights sales, including:

  • English UK/US: Quercus/Flatiron
  • Bulgaria: Lettera
  • Croatia: Znanje
  • Czech Republic: Euromedia
  • Denmark: Superlux
  • Finland: WSOY
  • France: Actes Sud
  • Greece: Metaichmio
  • Hungary: Müvelt
  • Italy: Giunti
  • Japan: Shogakukan
  • Korea: Balgunsesang
  • Lithuania; Lithuanian Writers’ Union Publishing House
  • The Netherlands; HarperCollins Holland
  • North Macedonia: Sakam Knigi
  • Norway: Cappelen Damm
  • Poland: Grupa Wydawnictwo Foksal
  • Portugal: Porto
  • Romania; Editura Lebada Neagra
  • Russia: Eksmo
  • Slovenia: Ucila
  • Spain/Castilian: Alianza
  • Sweden: Nona
  • Turkey: Eksik Parca Yayincilik

More from Publishing Perspectives on Books at Berlinale is here, and on adaptations of books to film and television is here and here. More on rights and licensing is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.