The Stranger

It’s a useful habit to develop, when you see an interesting movie or television series title, look it up on the Internet Movie Database http://www.imdb.com. Scroll down to the Writing credits, which are listed directly beneath the Directing credits. This is a great way to discover authors you may not have known about. That’s what I did when I noticed The Stranger (2020) listed on Netflix. The series is based on the novel by Harlen Coben published in 2015.

It’s an excellent series, and unique, because it’s an American story, adapted for a British setting. The main character’s children play lacrosse in the novel, but play soccer in the series. (Apparently, soccer is referred to as football outside North America and the NFL would be called American Football. There’s also the CFL-Canadian Football League-with rules slightly different from the NFL.)

What I appreciate about casting in the United Kingdom is that the characters feel more like someone you might actually live next door to, or work with. There seems to be less stress on how good-looking someone is, and more emphasis on whether the person actually fits the role. Realistic characters, combined with the very real possibility of being the victim of an internet blackmail scam, and you have a story that draws you in. The novel is a page-turner, and the series is hard stop watching.

I was surprised I had never heard of this author before, because Harlen Coben (www.harlencoben.com) has the kind of career many writers dream of. As well as an impressive list of published books, several have been adapted for series by Netflix. Looking up The Snowman (2017) on the Internet Movie Database is also how I learned about Jo Nesbo, a very successful Norwegian author.

I realize that envy isn’t a healthy emotion, but it can be discouraging when making the transition from part-time to full-time writer feels impossible. I suppose the question we have to ask ourselves is: Do I love writing? If you do love writing, then there’s really no reason to stop. My plan is to keep writing until the funeral home employees take me to the crematorium, and I don’t complain about the heat.

Copyright © 2022 by J. Paul Cooper

Note: If you haven’t heard about it yet, there’s an interesting development in the self-publishing industry: Smashwords is being acquired by Draft2Digital. I have two eBooks with Draft2Digital (Hunting Teddy Bears, Jack: a Lady’s Cat) and one with Smashwords (What If? A Collection of Short Fiction by J. Paul Cooper.)

An Excellent Pairing

In this post, I would like to be your literary Sommelier and offer you a tasteful book/movie pairing. Both offerings are from 2019, an excellent year, and concern the creation and influence if the iconic media company Netflix.

My first suggestion is the memoire, That Will Never Work by Marc Randolph. What I really appreciate about Randolph’s writing, is the way he describes how success was achieved at Netflix through hard work and innovation, without it becoming a mutual admiration society. He doesn’t try to make anyone, including himself, seem like some godlike, flawless, all knowing genius. Instead, he gives credit where credit is do, and acknowledges failures as he describes how much effort was required to stay the course in the early years of the company’s development. Although it’s a memoire, it is as enjoyable and enlightening as non-fiction narrative works by Ben Mezrich, Stephan Talty and Erik Larson.

Although it isn’t an adaptation of Randolph’s book, the documentary film Neflix vs The World directed by Shawn Cauthern and written by Gina Keeting is an excellent pairing. As well as describing the company’s early years, Netflix vs The World goes on to explain the epic battle between Netflix and Blockbuster for the video rental market and how it came to a surprising conclusion. If you’re old enough to remember renting VHS tapes at a video store, this documentary will offer you a clear explanation of why the industry has changed so dramatically. The mix of interviews, news reports and television commercials over that time is both entertaining as nostalgia and informative as history.

The real significance for writers, however, is served up in the latter segments of Netflix vs. The World as it describes Netflix’s foray into producing original material and how that has influenced other streaming services to start their own productions. If you’re a screenwriter, the market for your work has just expanded. And since short stories, plays for live theatre, and novels are adapted for feature films, it has the potential to impact all writers. That Will Never Work and Netflix vs. The World remind us how fast the media landscape can change, and writers like you and I need to be paying attention and be ready take advantage of those changes.

Copyright © 2021 by J. Paul Cooper

Movie Review: The Titan

Spoiler Alert! If you haven’t watched this movie yet, perhaps you should watch it first, and then decide if you agree with my conclusions.

If the movie The Titan was a ship, you’d expect to have a great voyage, and throughout most of the trip it is smooth sailing.

As Simon Sinek implores with the title of his bestselling non-fiction book, Start With WhyThe Titan follows this advice and begins with a solid premise; a heroic attempt by scientists to colonize Saturn’s largest moon, before the human race is completely annihilated by the degradation of the environment.  So now we know why the ship has left port for uncharted seas.

This ship also has an excellent crew. The performances by Sam Worthington, Taylor Shilling, Tom Wilkinson and the supporting crew were excellent. The ship is at sea and the crew keeps it running at full speed. If you were hoping for an exciting passage, you wouldn’t be disappointed;  there is plenty of suspense, action and drama.

Unfortunately, considering how promising the cruise seemed at the beginning, this ship ends up lost at sea. The final scene has Sam Worthington’s character flying naked over Titan’s surface. If it had shown him stepping out of a lander wearing a uniform, ready to start preparing the way for the next group of genetically engineered humans, then the cost and effort of the dangerous process would have made some sense.  Instead, it appears that hundreds of millions of dollars were spent to create a nudist colony for genetically altered humans. A very disappointing ending for a voyage that began with great potential.

 

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