Best known as the author of The Twilight Saga novels, Stephenie Meyer has brought the first feature from her Fickle Fish Films to the Sundance Film Festival this year. Based on Shannon Hale’s novel of the same name, Austenland focuses an obsessed Jane Austen fan’s search for love and visit to a theme park based on the famous author. Selected for the U.S. Dramatic competition, the comedy stars Keri Russell, Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Seymour and Bret McKenzie and marks the directorial debut of Napoleon Dynamite co-writer Jerusha Hess. Austenland premiered at the Festival on January 18 with a sold out screening yesterday and four more screenings planned, all of which are sold out too. A producer on all The Twilight Saga movies as well as the upcoming The Host, Meyer sat down with Deadline at Sundance to talk about producing a film not based on a book she wrote, adaptations and an Austenland sequel.
Deadline: How did Austenland come together as Fickle Fish’s first feature?
Stephenie Meyer: Austenland happened because years ago my good friend and author Shannon Hale sent me the manuscript for her book. I loved it obviously and I thought it read like a movie to me. You could see everything, it’s very visual. And I got halfway through and thought how much fun it would be to go and make it real. So I figured 10 years down the road, we’re going to go to England and film it ourselves. Which my partner Meghan Hibbett and I did but a little earlier than scheduled and a little more elaborately than we planned. I’ve always loved book adaptations. I don’t always love what comes out of it but I love the idea of it. Every time I read a book I’m casting it in my head. So producing for me started out as really cool hobby and Austenland was the perfect place to start.
Deadline: For, you, what is the difference being a writer and being a producer?
Meyer: Writing for me is a lot more fulfilling that producing. But with producing, you get an opportunity and you don’t want to let it go by. You see it in your head and your really want to make it real. So for me, right now, it is still an indulgence to be able to step aside from my writing and have fun producing for a while. Movies to me are more shallow than writing but they are a lot more fun.
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Deadline: What’s next for Fickle Fish after Austenland?
Meyer: We have a couple of other properties optioned that we are working through in the scripts phase right now. And this is what I mean by opportunities happening. We found out that the only Lois Duncan book that was available to option was my favorite Lois Duncan book Down A Dark Hall. So we acquired it and we’re working on a script for it. It is really something to take a book that you loved when you were nine and have a chance to play around with it like that. It wasn’t the plan, but we also have Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood too, so right now we are focusing on women authors. Maybe, I think, that books and then movies by women more naturally speak to women. But there are a lot of books by men that would be pretty exciting to do too so I’m sure that focus will change for us.
Deadline: Austenland must have been a very different producing experience than The Twilight Saga movies.
Meyer: Oh yeah! On this one, we were on our own pretty much. We had no idea what we were doing so there was a huge steep learning curve and we made a good number of mistakes. Luckily we had a lot of really good people around us. And then we had that magic thing where stuff falls together with all the right actors, the right director, the right writing. Everything just fell together how we wanted it. It was so different from the Twilight movies but I think it came together in the end.
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Deadline: How do you see Fickle Fish growing over the next few years?
Meyer: I would prefer right now for it to be one passion project at a time. I don’t see it being this great big company where we’re doing dozens of projects. I would like to get one book that we love, make it into a movie then look into another one. It’s too hectic otherwise. For instance, there’s a sequel to this book called Midnight In Austenland and that is something I would like to do in the future. We got the rights to it when we got Austenland, it was part of our deal. So we’re sitting on it. We’ll see how it goes and if there is enough of an audience for this movie it would be so cool to get back into that world again.
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