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From Print to the Big Screen - How One Man Did it All

June 10, 2017

I’m sure we’ve all been there at one time or another. You find out that your favorite book is getting turned into a movie, only to think, “I hope they don’t screw it up like that other adaptation.”

All too often, a novel’s magic is lost somewhere between the time when it hits the shelves, and when the screenwriters repurpose it into some creation that would make Dr. Frankenstein’s monster shudder. Remember the film versions of “Eragon,” “The Cat in the Hat,” “The Great Gatsby” or “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”?

Yeah, I thought so.

But what would happen if the same author who wrote a best-selling novel also decided to write the screenplay for the film adaptation? Queue Jessie Andrews and his award-winning book, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”.

Released in 2012 by Amulet Books, the novel quickly became popular among the younger audiences. It even went on to win the 2012 Cybils Award for Young Adult Fiction.

But Andrews wasn’t done yet. After attracting the attention of Hollywood, he was convinced by the screenplay writer and producer, Dan Fogelman, to actually write the screenplay to the film. There was just one problem, however: Andrews didn’t know how to write a screenplay. Fortunately, Fogelman gave him pointers on the process, and in a 2015 interview with the New York Times, Andrews revealed what the learning experience was like.

“My first draft wasn’t really a screenplay, it was this Frankenstein-y thing, half movie, half novel,” said Andrews. “Dan would start with: ‘Jesse you’ve done incredible work. I’m so proud of you. I do have some notes ...’ ”

The whole process required rewriting the plot of his book into a story that could be told in under 2 hours. Andrews admits that this was a very hard thing to get used to. But he also admitted to Shanee Edwards from Final Draft during an interview, that he enjoyed the new tweaks he had made to certain story elements.   

“Initially, you don’t know what you’re looking at because it’s so familiar and it’s so different. Pretty quickly, though, it becomes the only version that it ever could have been,” said Andrews.

The film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015, and went on to win both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Award for the U.S. Drama category.

See if you agree with the Sundance audience during the Revival House’s next Teen Screen event on June 15 at 6 p.m., where we will be featuring “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”. Tickets can be purchased at: https://www.revivalhousetheater.com/