MaxBarry.com
legionnaires' disease-free since 1990

Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Thu 02
May
2013

Thoughts As My Movie Comes Out

Syrup

Official Syrup WebsiteTrailerWatch on iTunes (US)Cable On Demand (US)Early Theater Screenings (US)Clip Where Max Tries to Act

People are about to watch my movie. Seriously. This is happening. Until now, I’ve been able to say, “Oh yes, I have a movie,” and no-one could say, “Yeah, I thought that SUCKED.” Because no-one had seen it. That time is over.

Today, May 2, 2013, Syrup launches as a “sneak” on Video on Demand, which is something I had no idea about until very recently, but I have since learned is how you release an indie movie to generate buzz ahead of its theatrical release. If you live in the US, you can rent it right now from iTunes. Also, if you have some kind of premium digital cable thing, you can use that. I’m not sure of the details there. I don’t live in the US. But it’s something like that.

The dream here is that Syrup breaks into the Top 10 Movie Rentals on iTunes. That would be huge. So if you are in the US and want to help push it up the list, today is the day.

But back to me. Over the last few years I’ve thought a lot about what happens if, like, the movie turns out to be so bad that they write newspaper articles about it and people come to my house asking why I would visit such an abomination upon the earth. Also, what if it becomes the breakout hit of the year and they write newspaper articles about it and people come to my house asking can I help them sleep with Kellan Lutz.

Because movies get seen by a lot of people. And those people have strong opinions. That’s a little daunting. Also, some people who read the novel have been amazingly supportive of my career over 10 or 15 years, and I don’t want them to be disappointed. Yet that’s kind of unavoidable, when adapting a book, since a film can never match what’s in your head.

On top of this, I still haven’t seen the movie. A while back, I decided to wait until I could see it in a theater, since it’s kind of a big moment for me. But I didn’t anticipate this on-demand sneak thing. I’m in Australia, where the film isn’t released until November, and now I have this slightly awkward scenario where a lot of people will see it before me.

So the movie is suddenly here and I don’t know what people will think. Before I have a book published, I’ve at least seen some early reviews, and the publisher has completed a print run (thrillingly high or alarmingly small), which gives me a general idea of what to expect. But today: nope. Which is kind of scary.

But I am going to try not to become lost in that, and remember to enjoy how awesome it is to, you know, have a freaking movie. I’ve seen authors do this: they dream of being published, but when it finally happens, they’re so preoccupied with whether it will be a hit that they don’t seem to actually enjoy the moment.

The reality is most books and movies aren’t breakout hits: they are read or seen by some people, and some of those people love it and some don’t. And that’s it. This isn’t very romantic, not the kind of thing you imagine about when you dream of being an author or actor or filmmaker. But it’s still pretty great.

One of my favorite moments as an author is an email I received from a 14-year-old who said Jennifer Government was the best book he’d read in his life. It was so cute. I mean, obviously he hadn’t read that many books. But no-one could be more gushingly, genuinely enthusiastic than this kid. I will never get a more delighted email, no matter how many books I write, or how many people read them. As far as creating something that connects with people, that’s as good as it gets.

This movie process has been awesome all the way through. I got to write scripts, swap ideas with the director, hang out on set, and try not to strangle Amber Heard with a necklace. These are all amazing moments that I would have killed for as a 23-year-old, writing the novel in my car during lunch breaks from my sales job. And today is another one.

ONE MORE THING: How similar is the movie to the book?

Although I haven’t seen it, and don’t know how much of various scripts I wrote are in the final movie, I do know I wrote a lot of stuff that departed heavily from the book’s plot. I didn’t change the characters or the world much, but I changed what they did. I mention this because I don’t think you should go into the film expecting it to be exactly the same. I never wanted the film to be like the book only with all the parts you imagined now filled in. I wanted it to be something new.

Comments

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Machine Man subscriber Stygian Emperor (#2947)

Location: Austin, TX
Quote: "Hope is but the first step down the path to disappointment."
Posted: 570 days ago

I realized from the trailers this movie wasn't going to be much like the book. So I'll be going into this movie with no expectations, which is probably how you should see every movie.

Machine Man subscriber Mapuche (#1184)

Location: Darwin, Australia
Quote: "Inconceivable!"
Posted: 570 days ago

Some movies are disappointingly different from the books they are based on, some not, though even those that don't often have variations from the books for various reasons. I think those of us who have been along for the ride, will not have too many false expectations in this respect. The atmosphere is palpable in the sneak previews, and I think that whole marketing thing that the book was about, will still be captured well enough.

Anyway, I heard the waiter is pretty cool...

Greg (#3266)

Location: Melbourne
Quote: ""when deprived of freedom the only choice is to say no", is that deep enough?"
Posted: 570 days ago

Can't wait to see it, I'm sure it will meet my expectations as they're pretty low with good books that are put on film.

I have to agree with the 14yo, JG's my favourite book too, I've bought it three times now for me and then presents.

Machine Man subscriber gStein (#585)

Location: 127.0.0.1
Quote: "That's not change! That's more of the same!"
Posted: 570 days ago

you say you haven't seen the movie yet, but have you read the book? (no, not really joking) I know as a writer you have all of these potential ideas, you have this entire world crafted in your mind, and you only take us down one particular path when writing the book. Have you ever read one of your books years later and just thought "huh, i wish Jennifer had done such and such instead"

Nial Wheate (#5873)

Location: Sydney
Posted: 570 days ago

It's not in the Australian iTunes :(

Machine Man subscriber Impotent Verse (#3907)

Location: Cambridge, UK
Quote: "On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog"
Posted: 570 days ago

Pimped it on Facebook and G+, Oh master!

I love the last few lines in the trailer:

Scat: "As long as this thing tastes better than urine people will literally convince themselves that they like it."
6: "Actually, people can believe they like the taste of urine."
Suite: "Really?"
6: "We tested it once."

Machine Man subscriber Adam Willard (#4231)

Location: Madagascar
Quote: "What unseen pen etched eternal things in the hearts of humankind... but never let them in our minds?"
Posted: 570 days ago

I'm excited to see it! Low-budget, high-budget, doesn't matter to me. It'll just be really cool to see the movie. Unfortunately I'm going to have to wait a LOOOOONG time! (I don't live in the US anymore, nor anywhere with access to the sort of things that well-developed Western countries have access to.) Oh well. At least I can get Lexicon when it comes out as an ebook! Also, I'm really hoping your other books get made into awesome movies since they're supposed to have great directors behind them!

Karan (#1376)

Location: Sydney, Australia
Quote: "Quid Quid Latine Dictum Sit, Altum Viditur - Anything said in Latin sounds important"
Posted: 570 days ago

November?! Oh Max, why no sooner :( no chance of sneaky early screenings for family, friends and loyal followers? :)

As to differences between the book and the movie, I look to the Hitchhiker's Guide - the radio play, the books, the TV show and the movie are all different retellings of the same basic story. Shouldn't bother fans one bit!

Ashley Pfeiffer (#6240)

Posted: 569 days ago

I made Syrup required reading for my English 2 class this semester and I've never seen a group of students enjoy a text so much. And, I know they are super excited for the film, so you'll have a guaranteed audience of at least 20. And I can't wait to see it, and force more Max Barry down unsuspecting college students' throats (phrasing unintentional).

Machine Man subscriber David (#1456)

Location: Sydney, Australia
Quote: "Why are the pretty ones always insane?"
Posted: 569 days ago

November! NOoooooooooo...

Machine Man subscriber Roger (#1653)

Posted: 568 days ago

Amber Heard distracted me too much during my first viewing. So jealous of you, Max.

Machine Man subscriber Ben (#3924)

Location: Alberta, Canada
Quote: "I don't wanna ride the elevator."
Posted: 567 days ago

Hey Max, you have some pretty awesome fans who you do seem pretty devoted to in return. I'm thinking this could go terribly and it wouldn't rub off on you too bad. Honestly, from the heart here, I still think it is one of the coolest promo stunts ever that you freakin called me at home and we chatted for ten minutes. I recently got two pictures taken, one with Richard Dean Anderson and Michael Shanks, the other with Nathan Fillion. While in line for the Nathan Fillion photo I told the guy behind me about that phone call and said wouldn't it be cool if he would do that. I think remortgaging the house was mentioned. Fans love that kind of stuff and you play that angle well. Don't worry.

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 565 days ago

You guys are so good to me. Thanks.

Chelsea (#5402)

Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posted: 565 days ago

The movie was really good. I liked it from beginning to end. It was definitely different from the book, but like you said, the characters are the same, and so is the overall theme. I was afraid I would hate it, but really liked it instead.
Since this was the first of your books that I read- and thereby became a fan- I am SO GLAD it was a good movie. It was also fun to see you in it. :)

Dann Burdette (#6342)

Posted: 565 days ago

My wife and I watched the movie last night, and we both enjoyed it. It's been quite a while since we read the book, but I think the basic themes came across well.

One thing that I noticed, and I'm curious if this was intentional or not: the movie doesn't feel contemporary. Obviously the original book was written back at the turn of the millennium, and so didn't feature things like modern viral marketing via YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. But to have those absent in the movie without something clearly saying it takes place earlier than present day was almost like peering into the not-so-distant past. I can't imagine how the story might've changed, or not, given modern social media, but I thought it was an interesting choice and I'm wondering if that was a studio thing or just the nature of adapting the book without changing much.

Machine Man subscriber tim (#3234)

Location: chattanooga, TN, USA
Quote: """
Posted: 564 days ago

I saw it over the weekend. So, I have a question; I know that said you expected to get a letter from Coke after Syrup was published but it never came. However, the movie uses the alias coke brand, addy. I assume this is because Coke didn't want to be a part of the movie (which is crazy). Has Coke still not bothered you about their portrayal in the book? What about Nike in JG?

It was a good movie, it was enjoyable but left me unfufilled. It actually made me want to read Syrup again, which I did. Hopefully it will drive book sales.

Paul Shiller (#6343)

Location: USA
Quote: "Perception is Reality."
Posted: 564 days ago

I saw it on Monday, it was pretty good and defiantly enjoyable although the ending was not the best and some of the characters were a little watered-down to fit the 105 min run time. The movie made me want to read the book, which I ordered the next day. As of now I am a good ways in the book and its very good, the added info really expanded on the characters. I wish they/you kept California as the setting and Coke Cola as the company, but I can see the benefit from doing it the way they/you did. The aliases match the ones in the book Company, therefore there could be a sequel and the guy that 6 interviews could be the main character for the next movie, the screen play would be based on Company of course.

On other note if there will be a movie on Jenifer Government, you should consider making it in two parts as to allow longer character development and allow room for the many and various story lines.

Thank you for your amazing work!

Donald (#6344)

Location: Sherman Oaks, California
Posted: 564 days ago

Hey Max,

Been a fan of yours for many years now. Was excited to hear that you finally got one of your novels made into a movie. I agree with some previous comments that the overall theme of the book was there. I was a little surprised because when I watched the trailer, I was convinced that you had taken the novel and completely thrown it out the window, only to see the first few opening scenes played out exactly how I imagined it in the book.

I was scared for it, honestly. I don't really like it when people say that the movie wasn't as good as the novel because, like you said, "a film can never match what’s in your head." But you've always been the answer for me to the question "Who is your favorite author" and to see your first novel get turned into a movie, I actually felt the same nerves you just described anticipating its release. I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome, though I felt some of the characters deserved more revealing scenes.

All in all, it's great to see you finally making this transition with one of your novels. It's definitely a good start for what I can only hope is the eventual adaptation of your other novels. Congratulations.

Machine Man subscriber tim (#3234)

Location: chattanooga, TN, USA
Quote: """
Posted: 562 days ago

the more I think about the movie after seeing it last weekend, the more i like it. The ending is smarter than the book, and I feel smarter for it. It is of a satire on US marketing and the american dream(as the book was) and more of a direct lesson. Immediately after watching it I liked it, but now looking back, I liked it a lot.

Michael (#6373)

Location: Kabul Afghanistan
Posted: 535 days ago

Recently saw the film and for the most part I liked it. I even thought the ending was much better than the book. I think it was the one disappointment I had in reading it. However, I have to say that the Sneaky Pete character was brutally destroyed in the film. What made him such a likable menace in the book just wasn't there. Still, overall I thought the movie was very good and I hope it does well. May Jennifer Government be on the horizon. :-)

BadWolf (#6437)

Location: London
Posted: 475 days ago

As a big fan of all your books, i'm actually scared to see the film :/ Maybe it's the design of the cover, maybe it's that you are saying that the film is a departure from the book (why would you change a successful formula?) or maybe it's a fear that if this goes badly my favoured Jennifer Government won't get to the big screen... argg! Fingers and everything is crossed...

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