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Novelizations and ancillary products help extend a film’s life—and sales.

When a studio is planning the release strategy for a faith-based movie that isn’t based on an existing novel, spokes on the marketing hub can include ancillary product such as a novelization, Bible studies, sermons, children’s product, and even gift lines.

The process by which these film-based products are developed and come to market is different from those that originate the more standard way.

“We have a curated list of publishers that have expressed interest in novelizing feature films and reach out to each of them with a new film project to see who is interested,” says Rich Peluso, EVP for Affirm Films, a Sony company. “Each of them have areas and genres they’re looking for or specialize in, but we value each and every one of them and want to make each film project available for all of them to consider.”

For Affirm’s movie Paul: Apostle of Christ, Bethany House released a same-titled novel by Angela Hunt.

“As a publisher, we’re often coming along later in the process and building a novelization on the completed screenplay and often an early rough-cut of the film itself,” says David Long, executive editor at Bethany House. “In the case of Paul: Apostle of Christ and our previous novelization, Risen, Sony holds the copyright on the story itself since their team developed it.”

To novelize or not to novelize

Determining if a movie will get a novelization or another type of product is a result of collaboration.

“Ancillary products are determined through discussion between our publishing team and voices from film producers,” says Long. “With both Risen and Paul: Apostle of Christ, we knew the stories lent themselves to novelization. With a story like All Saints, we felt like the nonfiction piece—the true story behind the film from Michael Spurlock, the real-life man the film is based on—made more sense than a novelization. So it’s really project-by-project and what we think will work best for the market and for readers.”

Marketing matters

Marketing all the products that are created to the faith community is multilayered.

“A novelization of a movie like Paul: Apostle of Christ is great to market—as it speaks directly to the core of [the Christian marketplace],” explains Noelle Buss, director of marketing for fiction at Bethany House. “Working with our partners at Sony and how they’re marketing the movie is also a great opportunity—getting information about the book into viewers’ hands that attend early influencer screenings. They’ve also used an excerpt of the book as an extra for people who purchase film tickets, and we’ll probably have an insert in the DVD when it releases.”

The movie and the book aren’t only for enjoyment, she adds. “There’s a lot to it that will enrich one’s faith journey. And Angela Hunt’s novelization has space to more deeply explore the themes of the film and Paul’s life. So it is important to reach the church market and help them understand how the book is an extension and helpful resource to engaging in the film and fostering healthy small group conversations.”

Church strategy

Church engagement leads to other ancillary product.

“Often a studio wants church engagement for a film early on, because getting pastors and other influencers on board and hosting theater buy-outs is a crucial ingredient of success,” says Erica Chumbley, program manager at Outreach.

She notes that often the studio will request the development of a film-based church kit or a small-group study “because these things can not only help people dig deeper into the themes of the movie, they also give longevity to the movie’s content. Churches can host a movie night when the site license is available and then invite visitors to their series or study that follows. Churches find hosting movie nights and movie-based series are effective for outreach, since many people who don’t otherwise attend church are open to a movie night or learning more about a film that’s created buzz.”

Christian retailers could get involved by connecting with churches holding a movie night and being present with a table of movie-related and other products. Thinking outside the box can lead to other opportunities to partner.

Books to screenplays, and vice versa

For content creators, writing a book based on a movie also takes a different approach.

“When I have adapted films to books, there is also a process of change,” says novelist and screenwriter Rene Gutteridge. “I actually add scenes because a typical 90-page screenplay doesn’t have enough story to fill an entire novel of 90,000 words. So adaptation takes skill and work to make sure that it works for the form for which you’re writing.

“Over the course of 25 books, I tried to separate my two writing skills as much as possible. I didn’t love how film was influencing my fiction writing. I felt it made it weaker, so I worked hard to distinguish the two,” she says. “Fiction writing has definitely made me a better screenwriter in terms of understanding story. I definitely have to turn off one part of my brain and turn on another when I switch between the two.” 

For authors hopeful to see their storylines and characters come to life on the big screen, Peluso has some advice: “Focus 100 percent of your time, passion, efforts, blood, and treasure on writing the best story possible, and partnering with a publisher and marketing and distribution team to help the story find and activate an audience. With each book sale, the possibility of a film adaptation increases.”

—Lora Schrock

Read more about bringing books to the big screen at cbaonline.org/bookstofilm.

Read about one author’s perspective on adapting books to film at cbaonline.org/lightscamerawrite.