The novel has offered much to the film world in terms of content. Many of my favourite books have been turned into films; Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Hunger Games. Not all books have resulted in quality films, but the best film adaptations are often those that can capture the essence of a story and then put a new spin on it.
This week’s featured female director’s next project aims to do just that. Susie Singer Carter is a director based in LA California. Her most recent short film My Mom and The Girl won a bunch of awards including Atlanta Short Fest (2017) and was an Offical Selection of The Emerging Filmmaker Showcase at Cannes. The next project for Susie however is an adaption of the book Plain Jane by Barrie Levitt Knee.
The story unfolds over the course of the New Jersey Marathon as Jane Cooper runs towards the finish line and away from an impulsive decision that threatens to change her life forever. Plain Jane is a warm and often lighthearted look at a modern moral dilemma that begs the question… are we really playing God.
I asked Susie what inspired her to want to adapt this book. “I was approached by the author, Barrie Levitt Knee. Her book, which examines a unique modern moral dilemma, had quickly become a darling in the book club circuit and readers were consistently wondering when the book will be adapted into a film.” Susie said. What followed was a serendipitous scenario involving a mutual connection and a sign from the universe. “Barrie reached out to a mutual colleague of ours who recommended me. After watching my latest project, My Mom and The Girl, she sent me the book to read. Turns out the book explored a challenging situation I was literally facing in my own family. The timing was incredible.”
But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows and whilst the screenplay is finished, and a recent reading resulted in all the responses that Susie was looking for, there is still apprehension when it comes to directing the project. “What excites me most is what I anticipate to be the trickiest for me to navigate because of my gender. The possibility of directing. Despite the fact that my directing is the obvious choice, it’s anything but a slam-dunk” Susie explained.
An academy award winning producer has come on board and is now discussing the possibility to take it to a studio. This is a very exciting prospect, so why would Susie be feeling anxious? “I mean, it’s no secret that the criteria for first-time male directors is far more lenient than it is for the freshman female director. Even if it’s her script. And even if she has directed an Oscar qualified short film.” Susie explained, “Just this year, all of the DGA nominees for First-Time Feature Film (and non first-timers, for that matter) were men – Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born), Bo Burnham (Eighth Grade), Carlos Lopez Estrada (Blindspotting), Matthew Heineman (A Private War), and Boots Riley (Sorry to Bother You). And when a woman does get a chance to direct her first feature film, it better be a hit! Women aren’t given second chances.”
Plain Jane appears to be heading towards being a big project for Susie. But one doesn’t simply stumble across projects like this. I asker her if there was any advice she could give for those aspiring towards a similar directing goal. “The best advice I like to give is to try and work with like-minded people. Find your folks. You simply can’t thrive creatively when you’re working with people you never see eye to eye with.” She said, “If it’s a “money-job”, fair enough. Deliver what the employer wants. If it’s your project, guard it and your vision with your life. I’ve worked on studio films and witnessed the deterioration of really great projects because too many people are given a voice and allowed input.”
“There’s never been a better time to produce your own projects. The available platforms and technology make it so much easier for new filmmakers to create something that authentically showcases their skill, voice and vision – the very things that set you apart from everyone else in the industry.“
Stay tuned for more information about Plain Jane as it heads into Pre-Production.
Twitter – @GoGrlMediaSusie