Ever wanted to see your book made into a film or TV show? Author Michael Bunker shares the story behind his book “Pennsylvania” was optioned for a major motion picture.
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Michael Bunker, author and off-grid advocate, was thrilled when an agent approached him about optioning his Amish sci-fi as a motion picture. In this episode, Michael sits down with D2D’s Kevin Tumlinson to talk movie adaptations and more.
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Kevin Tumlinson 0:01
Well, hello, everybody. Thanks for tuning in. And this is the Draft2Digital Spotlight. Or if you’re listening to us on the podcast, we are the Self-Publishing Insiders podcast, so thank you for being a part of the show. And today we’ve got special guest Michael Bunker, who is right there. Hey, look at you. It’s a lot less Michael Bunker than most of us are accustomed to seeing though.
Michael Bunker 0:51
I’m half the man I once was.
Kevin Tumlinson 0:58
Literally too, right?
Michael Bunker 1:00
Not really but I was 278. I lost 101 pounds.
Kevin Tumlinson 0:58
That is remarkable. You know, I’ve been working on, I’ve lost quite a bit. I’ve lost like 20 pounds. I’m happy with this. Like, 23 pounds. I’m happy with it.
Michael Bunker 1:10
Well, yeah, you aren’t morbidly obese.
Kevin Tumlinson 1:14
I don’t know, you ask my doctors. They’ll tell you. It didn’t matter what I ever weighed, by the way. My whole life, like they always tell me you need to weigh around 170. Like, I haven’t weighed 170 since I was in like seventh grade, man.
Michael Bunker 1:28
Well, you know, I’m six foot three and my whole life they’ve been saying, yeah, we want 170, 175. I was like, I used to weigh 175. I looked like a stick.
Kevin Tumlinson 1:38
And last time I weighed 175 they changed my diaper.
Michael Bunker 1:43
But a week and a half ago I weighed 177 though.
Kevin Tumlinson 1:47
Yeah, so you’re down there, man. We can’t turn this into to diet talk, though. I’m gonna start feeling suicidal before [inaudible]. No man, first I want to say welcome. I maybe didn’t do a full proper introduction, because you, Michael Bunker, you’re an author. An indie published author. But among other things, you’ve got quite a bit going on with … You’ve got your Bunker Nation stuff, which we can talk about. You just did this 30 Day Off-Grid challenge, which is gonna sound insane to some people. But it’s just another day in the hood for you.
Michael Bunker 2:30
To the reasonable, yeah.
Kevin Tumlinson 2:33
Yeah, we saw your daily egg update. One of the reasons I wanted to have you on, and one of the things I’m really excited about, is we’re going to talk about … Because your book, Pennsylvania, was optioned for a major motion picture. It is in production, slightly derailed by the pandemic, but it actually is still on track, right?
Michael Bunker 2:56
Yeah, yeah, it’s definitely still on. It’s still on the schedule. Everything in Hollywood was sidetracked. I mean, literally movies that were two or three days from wrapping went on hiatus. And a lot of those things, depending on where they were in production were not good, because sometimes the insurance company would rather write it off and move on down the road. And so we were actually in a really good position because we had not actually started pre-production. And so, you know, it’s just waiting for the doors open up now, waiting for … Everything’s gonna shift. So like, all the actors’ schedules are going to shift. So, what deals they’re taking, all the windows have to be reopened, and when are, you know, when is so and so gonna have an opportunity to do this? And once all of that starts, it’s kind of like a big game of Tetris. So once things start falling in, then we’ll have a better idea where we are.
Kevin Tumlinson 4:02
Yeah, that’s one of the few, like, benefits, if there can be one, of this pandemic is that … Because when a film gets delayed, usually it can it can derail a film and it never gets completed. Because those actors have other commitments. They go on to other things. The directors, all the crew. But everybody got derailed on this one.
Michael Bunker 4:25
Yeah, everybody just went on pause, really. And so it’s gonna be interesting to see that once things start falling back together. And I think we’re starting to see some, not officially, but starting to see some things starting to happen as far as, I read some news the other day that some of the productions are going to be moving to places like New Zealand and other places where perhaps the reintroduction of production is not going to be so onerous, so difficult. So just the fact that they’re talking about that means that the ball is starting to roll again. And people are actually having ideas about, you know, what might happen. So we were hoping, prior to the pandemic, that right now, right about now going into June, we were going to be having a schedule for filming and all that. So yeah, it was a hard blow. But, I mean, it was a hard blow for people that got sick, you know? So, I mean, it’s not like anything we can complain about.
Kevin Tumlinson 5:29
Yeah, no, it’s … That really is kind of the thing, right? You can’t exactly say “Aw, woe is me. My movie isn’t being made.”
Michael Bunker 5:41
Yeah, my Hollywood movie’s not being made, because the sick people out here are so selfish.
Kevin Tumlinson 5:48
Come on, pull yourself together. So this is something I know, every author—I’m included in this, even though I worked in film and TV and have a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth for some certain aspects of the production world—but everybody kind of dreams of their book being optioned like this. So what was the start of this journey for you, man?
Michael Bunker 6:12
Well, you know, I’d had some sniffs, I guess you’d call them, way back in like 2013. Not on Pennsylvania because it hadn’t been written yet, but on some earlier stuff that I’d written, I’d had some people contact me and ask about buying options. And so that, I guess that got the thought in my mind that someday it could be possible. And then in 2013, I went to Worldcon and I went to one of the panels, and one of the panels was, it was entitled “How to Sell your Option to Hollywood.” So I just laughed when I read it. Because I thought, if there’s a how-to, why isn’t everybody doing it? It’s actually a list of stuff, it’s like 99% of [inaudible].
Kevin Tumlinson 7:07
Get your book optioned in three easy steps.
Michael Bunker 7:09
Yeah, it’s like, push this button. It’s like every YouTube video, like if you could figure out how to do this. And so I went, and it was exactly what I thought it was. It was not how to, it was how it happened to me, which is a completely different thing. And so they had like seven panels. But it did teach me something. And that is that there’s really two sides of the coin. Some people want to say, well, it’s all luck. It’s all if the right person sees your book or reads it or it gets in the right person’s hands. And there’s some element of that. But there’s also the element of the fact that it’s available for them to read, and it’s available for somebody to stumble upon it. And so there was, a big kind of brouhaha broke out during the middle of the thing, because somebody got mad in the audience and they said, “You’re not telling us how to do it. You’re just telling us you got lucky.” And this, one of the panelists—I don’t remember who it was—said, “You know, perhaps that’s so, but my book was in that bookstore that that director went into. And it was pointed out.” You know, so, you know, all of those things kind of go into it. So that was kind of what just got me thinking about it. And then in 2014 when Pennsylvania really kind of took off and went up into the top, I think it was in the top 26 in the whole store, or 25 in the whole store. Maybe even higher, I can’t remember. But it was the number one sci fi book. And that just happened to be when this producer Stacy Jorgensen was taking a flight. And she had, it was right around right around the time that they were announcing the production on The Martian. And so she, in her mind, she was thinking, “I wonder if there’s another one out there that’s kind of like The Martian.” Yeah, well, not you know, the genre but—well, kind of like the genre. But, and so she just went and I guess she looked at the top five sci fi books at that moment. And I think Pennsylvania was number one. It was number one or number two. And so she just sent me a letter. And I’ve still got it here somewhere. And she just said, you know, I want to inquire about buying the option. Now, at the time, she was a very new producer. She’d been an actress. And she had made a movie as a producer, and a few other smaller, some TV stuff, and had optioned a few things. But most people wouldn’t have known who she was. She was still getting started. She was like us, you know, still trying to get started. And so, and I had had some other interest in Pennsylvania. And so I kind of looked at what had happened with options for like, Hugh Howey’s Wooland some of the other deals that had gone to bigger producers, and then they kind of just got into the doldrums and weren’t getting made. And so I really, really was impressed by Stacy and I thought, well, if anybody’s going to ever get this thing made, then it’s going to be her. So we ended up selling the option In 2015, October—November 2015. And then it’s been re-upped every year. And then starting about last April 1st is when we got a director, and things really started to move. Yeah. And you don’t usually want that stuff to happen on April 1st, but that’s how it happened.
Kevin Tumlinson 10:22
Every major life event in my life seems to start on April 1st.
Michael Bunker 10:29
Isn’t that crazy? And then you can’t really tell anybody because they’re all like, “Right.”
Kevin Tumlinson 10:33
Yeah, exactly. “Good one.” Even for like seven or eight days after, you can’t. They think it’s just a lingering, you know.
Michael Bunker 10:42
Well see, I had played an April Fool’s trick on my wife earlier that day. And we had had a pig that had had piglets, like three or four days earlier. And then on April 1st, I went down there and I said “There’s more piglets down there.” Which is like, an impossibility. But I said, “There’s more piglets down there.” She was like, “You’re kidding me.” I go, “Yeah, yeah, April Fool’s.” So then I went into the house and like 15 minutes later I got contacted from Stacy. And she’s like, “You know, this thing’s moving. We got a big time, big name director who’s attached.” And I was like, “Right.” So now I’m supposed to go tell my wife, I’m supposed to go out there and go, “Hey, we got a director. A huge, big name director.” And so that’s kind of how it got started. But the ball really started rolling. And then in September or October, I can’t remember, my wife and I got to go out to Hollywood and got to meet the director and meet the producer and spend some time out there. And really actually seeing some of the visuals of what he has planned. Which was fantastic. That’s one of the coolest things that’s ever happened to me. Sitting in a restaurant while the guy who created the alien in Independence Day is showing you on a screen what your movie is gonna look like
Kevin Tumlinson 12:09
Are they gonna cast Will Smith in your movie?
Michael Bunker 12:11
I don’t think so.
Kevin Tumlinson 12:14
The cast is already done. I’ve seen the IMDB article about it, so.
Michael Bunker 12:21
Yeah, I don’t think it’s gonna be Will Smith. I think the budget would have to go up a little bit probably.
Kevin Tumlinson 12:30
A little. I mean, he’s not working right now.
Michael Bunker 12:32
Well nobody’s working right now.
Kevin Tumlinson 12:36
So that’s, I mean you … Okay, get the call. There is a little bit of luck involved, but you, also you went looking for that opportunity as well, right?
Michael Bunker 12:49
What opportunity is that? The movie?
Kevin Tumlinson 12:51
The movie. Like you …
Michael Bunker 12:52
Kevin Tumlinson 12:53
No, it just came to you? Okay.
Michael Bunker 12:55
It came to me. And yeah, I’ve never ever ever pursued it. Just because I thought it was crazy. I thought it was crazy. I was like, what? There’s like a billion people trying to make movies right now and there’s a billion authors trying to …
Kevin Tumlinson 13:09
What you’re trying to tell us, Michael, is, is if you want to have your book made into a movie, publish it and get lucky.
Michael Bunker 13:19
Well, I always have to remind people, the more of your books are out there to be read, the luckier you will become if it’s good.
Kevin Tumlinson 13:29
That is good advice, actually.
Michael Bunker 13:30
So, it was an original idea, something nobody had ever done before. It was something that was very cinematic, as far as the visuals of it. It was attention-getting just because of the strange genre, Amish sci fi. But at the same time, if the story’s not there, if it’s not something that somebody like Patrick Tatopoulos, who is our director, who is a very visual—he’s one of the top production designers in all Hollywood. He just got done doing the production design for Maleficent, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award. Well, I think, no, he got it for the Production Directors’ Guild, is what it was. But he was up in the category that usually gets, sends him to the Academy Awards. So this is a very visual guy. So, yes, no doubt the right person, the right—and I would tell you this. Any other director, or any other producer in the world, and I say this honestly, if it had been anybody, you name all the big names. They would have probably dropped this project already. Just because it’s something that has to grab somebody, you know? It’s got to grab them really, really quick. And we’ve had that quite often, but sometimes you have to explain it. So if you’re selling a movie, you’re like, “It’s like people in space, and there’s an alien that’s trapped with them in a spaceship,” they get that. That’s an immediate visual. But when you’re like, “So really it’s an Amish guy, and he’s going to another planet.” It takes a few more words to explain it.
Kevin Tumlinson 15:12
I’m just imagining the pitch meeting. You know, “Okay, look, there’s an Amish guy.” “Did he … Did he get to the planet in a cart and horse? Or, how did it get there?”
Michael Bunker 15:23
“It was a space buggy.”
Kevin Tumlinson 15:25
“Okay. Let’s go back a little.”
Michael Bunker 15:27
Yeah, so we gotta explain it. But once they get it … And you know, Stacy has been like a dog with a bone, man. And if you get her in a room with somebody, and this has happened with financers, this has happened with Patrick, and with a bunch of people. She’s the best salesperson in the world. So I’ve been very, very blessed. You know, I know other people and friends of mine who have sold options, who are bigger names and have sold option to bigger name directors, and their projects went nowhere. So I’m very, very excited.
Kevin Tumlinson 16:02
Yeah, yeah. And it’s not hard for it to go nowhere. Like, I had the president of MGM TV personally request all of my Kotler books. Never heard from him since.
Michael Bunker 16:17
Yeah. It’s almost like, they’re actually looking for a reason to say no. And, there’s somebody in every room. So if there’s nine people in a room that are excited about a project, there’s gonna be one person who’s trying to kill it.
Kevin Tumlinson 16:35
Yeah. You need that, though.
Michael Bunker 16:37
Yeah, you want that, but I don’t want that.
Kevin Tumlinson 16:40
I know, I get it.
Michael Bunker 16:41
Yeah. So [inaudible] probably worked out, but somebody’s trying to kill the deal. And so, and there’s just little nuances, you know. Little things like, you know, all of a sudden the financer comes in, and he’s like, let’s push this thing another year. Well, if you got your director who has a window of time set aside to do this film, then you’re like, “No, we got to do it during this time.” So, it’s been an interesting thing. And then I was going to have the opportunity to be there for six to nine months in 2020 for the filming and possibly even be in the movie. And so that really threw our lives into a turmoil. And then, like that, you know, the pandemic hit and you’re like, well, life change for 2020.
Kevin Tumlinson 17:32
You’ve been posting pictures of baskets of eggs, practically every day. And I think it’s, I think you’re trying to hint to everyone, right? It’s a metaphor.
Michael Bunker 17:45
Are they Easter eggs?
Kevin Tumlinson 17:49
No, you have all those eggs in one basket!
Michael Bunker 17:51
Yeah, they are. It’s also, like, a hidden meaning, right? Aren’t those called Easter eggs, when there’s a hidden meaning?
Kevin Tumlinson 17:59
Yeah, Easter eggs, exactly. You got an Easter egg in there. We can stretch this out, I’m pretty sure.
Michael Bunker 18:05
Kevin Tumlinson 18:07
Before we go any further, though, I want to remind everybody that coming up in about 15 minutes, you can ask, we’ll be answering your questions live in the last 15 minutes of the live broadcast. If you’re listening to this on the podcast, you could still pop over to YouTube, find this video, and leave a question in the comments there. We’d be happy to answer you. Be sure you subscribe while you’re there. So.
Michael Bunker 18:31
Kevin Tumlinson 18:32
There’s a law. There’s the internet law that says I have to tell people to subscribe to us on YouTube. So.
Michael Bunker 18:40
At some point you’ve gotta go, “in the description.”
Kevin Tumlinson 18:42
Yeah. So speaking of YouTube, and subscriptions, and other things, you just finished up that … I know you did some of this, you did this in various places. I was watching you on YouTube primarily. But you just did your 30 Day Off Grid challenge. Now what was the insanity behind that?
Michael Bunker 19:03
Well, this ties with the movie. Because I started my fitness mission on January 8, to get fit because I had an opportunity to at least an audition for the movie. They haven’t promised me anything, but they said—you know, I actually wrote one of the parts for myself, the part of Goa Eegles. And so, I’ve been pressuring them kindly, saying, you know, “I wrote the part for me, I’m really suited for it.” And they said, “Nah,” and they were making up reasons. You know, authors want to be in the movie, you know, and so, they finally said “Okay, you know, we’ll make sure you get an audition.” So I started working out pretty, and walking and exercising, and the character is a large, muscular, fit character. And so I was preparing, and I was going to take about 20 weeks or so, to really, really get my, to do a whole body makeover really. And so I had started that on January 8. And then when this thing happened, my wife and I had planned on me being gone for six to nine months of this year, so we didn’t plant a fall crop. Everybody, if you don’t know, I live on an off grid farm. We don’t, the electricity that I’m using is coming from a backup battery source that’s powered by solar. So, and we produce a lot of our own food, a lot of our own supplies and all that. So, but we did not put a crop in in the fall. We did not put in gardens. We were really poorly prepared. For 15 years, I have been supremely prepared for a pandemic, if anything had happened. And any year up until 2020, I was like, I would have been sitting in a hammock and drinking homemade mai tais. But, because last fall we decided we wanted to divest ourselves of some—my wife was going to be here by herself for the most part for six to nine months, and so I didn’t want her to have this big farm to take care of. So we started, so our root cellar is basically empty. And so when this thing started happening, I had written a book in 2011, a nonfiction book called Surviving Off Off Grid. And all of a sudden, all these people got interested in that book and got interested in my off grid life. And they’re like, “Oh, it must be perfect to be you.” Even the director of the movie Patrick Tatopoulos, he said, “Well, I know you got nothing to worry about.” I was like, actually, we’re not really … He’s got two freezers full of meat, you know, with a generator. He’s probably better off than I am. And so then I was thinking about that. And I thought, you know what, this would be a perfect opportunity to show people what would actually happen. What would actually happen if, on a certain day if the pandemic got worse, and everybody was locked down. We were locked down out here, in this poorly prepared—we were still better prepared than 99% of people—but for us, we were poorly prepared. And what would it be like? And so I announced that I was going to do a 30 day off grid challenge. My wife was going to go stay with her sister in the Metroplex, so I would be totally by myself. Running the farm by myself. And the goal would be not only to survive, but—if I can get my head out of the way—thrive. Which is to increase the stores, increase the food that was in the root cellar. Could not leave the plan, could not buy anything, couldn’t prepare for it. In other words, for the week that I was announcing I was going to do it, I couldn’t go to the store and buy more food, I couldn’t buy any supplies, I couldn’t buy any tools. And so for those 30 days, living completely off grid to try to increase the storage that we have in the root cellar and try to make things better. It ended up being 100 degrees for a good part of the challenge and 50 mile an hour winds it was a real challenge. But I finished yesterday.
Kevin Tumlinson 22:50
You were supposed to finish this morning.
Michael Bunker 22:51
Well, officially the 30 days was over at three o’clock yesterday, but I had decided on my own that I was gonna go until this morning. And then Kevin calls and he’s like, “Hey, you want to do this interview?” And I was like, if I actually do that, that’s gonna add a whole day. Because after this thing, I would have to get everything prepared and then go to town at three o’clock today. So I was like, I’m not adding another day. Yeah, so I ended up yesterday at three o’clock, which was the official ending.
Kevin Tumlinson 23:22
That’s me, I throw a monkey wrench in everybody’s plans.
Michael Bunker 23:24
He’s like, hey, how’d you like to do another day?
Kevin Tumlinson 23:26
Casually come on over.
Michael Bunker 23:28
But we filmed the whole thing. And so then I was doing live YouTube videos every night. I’m still gonna be doing them every two to three nights a week on my YouTube channel. And eventually, probably starting next week, that we’ve had two of the full day videos come out, but all of the full day videos are going to come out. So it’ll be a series that somebody could sit down and watch all 30 days of the challenge and what I did during the day, and when disasters happened, what did I do and …
Kevin Tumlinson 24:01
Can people find this on your website?
Michael Bunker 24:04
They can. My website’s michaelbunker.com. All the videos are archived there. But you can also just go to YouTube, type in Michael Bunker. Youtube.com/bunkdad will get you there.
Kevin Tumlinson 24:14
Bunk dad? Is that what it is?
Michael Bunker 24:15
Bunk dad, yeah. You want to hear that story?
Kevin Tumlinson 24:18
Yeah, let’s hear it. We got six minutes. Tell me.
Michael Bunker 24:19
You know, sometime when the internet first got started and my very first email account. My daughter was one and had just started talking. And I was sitting at the computer, my very first email account I ever signed up for. I was trying to think of a name for the email account and just then I had typed “bunk” and I was trying to think of something else. And she walked in and she went “Dad,” and I became bunk dad. And then all my friends, it became “bunk daddy,” then “B Diddy,” then all of, whenever Puff Daddy changed his name, mine would change too.
Kevin Tumlinson 25:02
All right. I can accept that. That’s a refreshing story. I thought this was gonna go in a whole other direction honestly. That was prior to Bunker Nation.
Michael Bunker 25:14
That was prior to Bunker Nation. That’s right.
Kevin Tumlinson 25:17
What’s the whole Bunker Nation thing?
Michael Bunker 25:18
Well you know, I just was sitting there every day doing a live broadcast, and we had a regular crowd that was coming in. And they were, a guy sent me this t-shirt, like this t-shirt four or five years ago. It was when Pennsylvania was really hot and he thought it was funny. And I said “Well, I cannot wear a picture of myself on my shirt.” And he said, “You can if you wear it ironically.” So because I’ve lost 100 pounds I didn’t have any clothes to wear. So I dug down deep in my drawer and I had this shirt with my face on it and I was wearing it. And then people were like “We want one, we want one.” And so they were, and then the joke kept going and now all of a sudden people were like going, “We’re the Bunker Nation.” So a friend of mine said, you need to just call it Bunker Nation. Call the podcast or the YouTube channel Bunker Nation. So now that’s what it is.
Kevin Tumlinson 26:10
You gotta, sometimes you just gotta let fate guide you.
Michael Bunker 26:15
Right. Everything happens to me on accident. Have you noticed? It’s all unintentional.
Kevin Tumlinson 26:21
Yeah, I know, I know. I tried to get one of those shirts. I was trying to get the black one. Cuz I don’t like white. I don’t want to wear a white shirt. I will, that shirt will always be dirty if it’s white.
Michael Bunker 26:31
That’s exactly what … It happens on the first day, with the first coffee.
Kevin Tumlinson 26:36
And then I’ve got that—at that point, you’ve got a strange brown birthmark for life.
Michael Bunker 26:41
I will tell everybody, the black t-shirts are no longer available. But I’m gonna make sure that Kevin gets one if he will wear it on his podcast.
Kevin Tumlinson 26:50
Oh, I’ll totally wear it. I pimp people out all the time.
Michael Bunker 26:54
Oh, well that’s …
Kevin Tumlinson 26:55
No, I would totally wear it. That was an easy sell.
Michael Bunker 26:58
Yeah. So I’ll make sure you get one. I just need to know what size you’re going to be.
Kevin Tumlinson 27:04
Yeah, exactly. I’m committed, man. I’ve been doing it. For some of the same reasons you did. I know part of yours was not just for the movie but also like some health-related stuff. I’m the same way.
Michael Bunker 27:17
Very much health-related, yeah. And that was really, yeah, I had some pretty serious things going on that were worrying. And it’s been a great experience to lose 101 pounds and feel this much better.
Kevin Tumlinson 27:37
You do feel better. I feel like you dropped a whole person.
Michael Bunker 27:40
Exactly. It’s like, for years carrying a person and you just put them down, and you’re like, “Wow, it feels better without that person.”
Kevin Tumlinson 27:45
What was I thinking? That guy didn’t help me at all.
Michael Bunker 27:50
No. He’s just dragging me down.
Kevin Tumlinson 27:53
So, you got any last tips for people who might be interested in … well, we got like three minutes still. Can you talk about what the adaptation process has been like? Did you have any input in the script?
Michael Bunker 28:05
Yeah. The original, the very first script that was written starting in 2014, I wrote. And that was, it was exciting. It was interesting. It went from a movie to a TV series pitch to a miniseries pitch. Back to a movie again, back to a TV series. Then back to a movie again. Well, at one point, in around 2016, we had a very big name director, who was very interested in doing it and had talked about it and was wanting to read the script. And didn’t have any problem with the script that I’d written. But this is what happens in Hollywood. So you authors out there, be ready. What they’ll do is, everything has to … It’s like musical chairs. Nobody will sit down until something has happened. But even then, they’ll say, “Well, I’m not going to do this deal with a No Name.” Nobody’s ever heard of Michael Bunker before. You can have, nobody ever heard of the original author. But you can’t have nobody ever heard of the screenwriter too. So they said, you have to get a better name screenwriter. So I was fired, which was one of the best things. I mean, to get fired because a big name director wants a better screenwriter is not a bad thing. So I was fired, and they hired another screenwriter, and then that director dropped out. And so it ended up, I got to go through about four or five different passes on the adaptation. And what you basically learn is that they’re really not making a movie of your book. They’re making a movie of the theme, and the overall story, and the general world in the world of your book. And everything else, it’s like an alternative universe version of your book. And so you can’t hold on too tightly, trying to make them make your book into a movie, because it’s just not going to happen. It has, The Martian was one that was pretty close because it had a linear storyline. If you have a linear storyline, where someone … This is one guy, and we’re tracking what happens to him. And you had a couple of off-world shots where they were back at NASA. But the storyline was linear. Most of our books are not linear like that. You know, there’s things happening over here. And then in my books, there’s things happening before, and there’s flash forwards and flashbacks, and you don’t know where the time is. And so with that, they can’t make that into a movie. They could make that into a very long series. But for a movie, basically they bring somebody in who says “Okay, here’s the elements of the story that is true to your book. And then we’re going to write those characters in a story that we can tell in 120 minutes,” or something like that.
Kevin Tumlinson 31:05
Yeah. That’s actually good to point out. Not that a lot of authors are going to have to deal with that scenario right away. But, you know, if you ever do get to that point, I’ve actually seen projects just completely dropped because the original creator couldn’t keep their hands out of it. They just get tired of you.
Michael Bunker 31:28
Yeah. You have to. And, you know, I offered—if they asked for my opinion, I gave them my opinion. But all the time knowing that this was not my book. My book will always exist exactly the way that it is. And so nobody’s gonna be displeased, because they’re not going to go back and rewrite my book. But this is a version of that story that Hollywood wants to tell. And to tell you the truth, after five or six iterations of the script, the script that was approved to go into pre-production and all of that, was closer to the book than any of the previous scripts. So I was very, very pleased with the final script that I read.
Kevin Tumlinson 32:10
My trick is, write a whole bunch of great one-liners, and just string them together. That way they want to keep most of the book.
Michael Bunker 32:20
Yeah, I don’t do anything in one—I can’t even introduce myself in one line. People are like, introduce yourself in a couple minutes. I say, you got a couple hours?
Kevin Tumlinson 32:30
Yeah, exactly. That takes paragraphs. All right. So we’re in the final 15 minutes of the show. So we’re gonna shift gears and we’re gonna get everybody asking some questions and commenting, And the first one I want to pop up here is from DL White, saying—first waving, hello. “You both look like you feel great.” So, compliments on mostly you though, man. I still look essentially the same. But you lost 101 pounds. That’s significant.
Michael Bunker 33:01
But you look great though, by the way.
Kevin Tumlinson 33:03
You do too, man. So we got, Josh Hayes says, “The Bunker!!!!” with four of those very valuable, very rare exclamation points.
Michael Bunker 33:18
And I got it right on my shirt, ironically.
Kevin Tumlinson 33:22
Right? Okay, so let’s see, I’m scrolling down and I don’t see a ton of questions yet. So if you’re out there, YouTube, Facebook or otherwise, go ahead and pop a question in. I’ll share some more comments here. “I love that you’re preparing for a possible role. Very cool, Michael.” That is cool, by the way. Now you said it’s not promised to you yet, but do they seem like they’re actually legitimately interested?
Michael Bunker 33:49
Yeah. And, you know, there’s different, everybody doesn’t have the same vision. And so the director’s got a vision, and the producer has a vision, and at some point everybody’s vision goes away and the director’s vision is the vision that—or the financers. So, you know, there’s a lot of things to it that have been explained to me. And so if the producer was 100% on board and said, “You’re perfect for the role, you’re a great actor, you fit the role, you’ve built your body to fit the role, and the director loved it,” and it gets picked up by Disney, or it gets picked up by Sony … You got a bunch of guys in a room there, and somebody is gonna say, okay. And this actually happens, and this was told to me. They look at every single person on the cast, and they go, “Who does this add as far as an audience in Germany? Who does this add in Hungary? Who does this add in Japan? Does Michael Bunker put any butts in seats in China?” Of course, he doesn’t. That’s true of everybody who’s new at this. And so there are windows of opportunity for somebody in a smaller role to get the opportunity to do it. But basically what was told to me finally was, listen, we’re gonna audition you, and, you know, push it as far as we can with the people who—somebody, at some point is gonna have to go okay. Or be like, “No, we need Ross from Friends,” or something, you know. Because perhaps he has a huge audience in Paraguay that’s going to add that many more dollars, right?
Kevin Tumlinson 35:23
That’s the key. If you want roles in your own stuff, you need to make sure you’re big in Paraguay.
Michael Bunker 35:28
You want to be big in Paraguay. You want to have a Bolivian contingent, or something like that.
Kevin Tumlinson 35:34
We’ve talked about this before. “The Bolivian Contingent” is going to be the title of one of my books at some point.
Michael Bunker 35:40
It oughta be.
Kevin Tumlinson 35:42
So, that’s a thriller right there. So we got a question from YouTube. “Did you ever feel like giving up? Like the industry is too hard to crack?”
Michael Bunker 35:52
Yeah. And there’s two industries here. So you have the book publishing industry and you got the Hollywood industry. I never tried to make it in the Hollywood industry ever. I’ve just been along for the ride. And so like, I answer the phone and if somebody asks me a question, and then I’m in constant, regular contact with the producer, the executive producer who is Stacy Jorgensen. But other than that I have not, I never pursued Hollywood. As far as the publishing industry yes, I’ve been very frustrated, even as an indie author. Just because it’s, sometimes it can be, it’s just so much work. And from 2009 to 2015, I was, you know, 15 hours a day, and you have to do that. You have to be going, and going to shows, and pushing your books, and doing interviews and all that. And so there were times. But then, you know, I like the books. I like the books, I like the stories, I like telling the stories. So that part of it you can do without getting too crazy into it. So, and then, you know, if something happens and somebody—you never know, you never know. I’m an off grid guy living in the middle of nowhere in Texas, and I got a phone call from a producer in Hollywood who had just gotten off a plane. She had just stepped off the plane. She read my book on the plane. And she sent a card actually, when she got off the plane. So it can happen, if it can happen to me. There’s no reason for anybody to have ever read my book.
Kevin Tumlinson 37:29
I’m gonna just start taking my books to the airport, and just leaving them front-facing in the airport bookstores. I’ve done this at Barnes & Noble, and it does work.
Michael Bunker 37:39
Yeah, well, I hadn’t even thought of that. I haven’t been in the airport.
Kevin Tumlinson 37:44
You don’t play the same games I play, Michael. Roland Denzel asks, “What’s the number one thing city folk can do to ‘be prepared?'” And he put that in quotes.
Michael Bunker 37:57
Yeah, the number one thing city folks can do is, they need to consider where and how they do everything that they do. That’s the number one thing you can do. So you have to live deliberately, even if you live in the city. So if you have no idea … Most people have no idea why there’s water coming through their pipes, they just know that there is water coming through their pipes. What happens if it stops? So, you know, we go through our lives and we flip a switch and the power comes on. So you don’t think about it until that one day in the middle of the summer when the power goes out, and you’re like, “Argh!” But what happens if it goes off and it doesn’t come back on? So that question, “what happens?” is the number one thing you can do. You have to be alerted to the idea that the just-in-time delivery of goods and services is not guaranteed. It’s a very new thing in civilization. Most of civilization has existed for thousands and thousands of years without it. We’re in a teeny teeny sliver of a window where you can have oranges in the middle of the winter, and you can have spices from all over the world. And they’re all delivered just in time, just like your electricity. It’s great when it works.
Kevin Tumlinson 39:15
Yeah, that’s the thing that I always try to think about, is … and I’m not an off grid guy. Not really. But I always, whatever I’m doing, I ask, “What happens if this stops,” right? Like, what happens if this, how dependent am I on this microwave oven? Or how dependent am I on running tap water? So and then, you know, the RV thing … You know, you joke, it’s not exactly like what you do. But there is a whole lot of, you have to be consciously making decisions all the time. Do I have enough water? Do I have power?
Michael Bunker 39:50
Yeah, can I do this thing? And where do I need to stop? It does, it is the same thing. It’s not the same degree, but it is the same. Because you’re actually having to think about where stuff comes from and how it gets there, and what would I do without it? And that’s really—
Kevin Tumlinson 40:11
Michael Bunker 40:13
Yeah, that’s the first step, is to know.
Kevin Tumlinson 40:16
So we got another question from YouTube. “I just logged on, and this may have been mentioned, but when your book is made into a movie, do you sign over your rights to not have any changes made from any producers?”
Michael Bunker 40:29
Okay, so it depends on who you are. For 99.9% of us, who no one’s ever heard of before, but somebody read your book and they loved it, and they want to make a movie, you pretty much sign over everything. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have any input. You do have a lot of input up until the moment that you sell the option. So you have that window of time, when somebody tries to buy it, and you are trying to sell it, where you can talk to that person and meet that person and know if this is somebody that’s going to allow you some input and is going to be respectful of your work, and all that kind of stuff. However, like I said, unless you are Stephen King, unless you are somebody like that, you’re not going to be able to demand anything really. There are some standard kind of boilerplate things that you get. And there are standard boilerplate things that you aren’t going to get and they’re not going to give you. And so if you sit, and everybody has the right to be firm in your conviction that that’s your project or whatever, but you also are probably almost certainly never going to have a movie made if you try that when nobody knows who you are. My position was, on this one, I’m going to go along and learn and be along for the ride. And then you learn. And so the next time it happens, and I’ve sold another option since then. I sold the option for Brother Frank, another one of my books that’s in the same world as Pennsylvania. And on that, you have a lot more leeway because you’re a known factor. And they know you’re not going to be a pain in the butt, that you’re not going to be trying to be in control. You’re not trying to be the director of the movie. And so, and if Pennsylvania comes out, and it makes a whole bunch of money, you know, the next time down the road, then you could say, “Hey, you know, I’d like to be in the room. I’d like to be in the writers’ room. I’d like to participate at that level,” you know.
Kevin Tumlinson 42:46
Do you have any worries about—this is, I’m gonna call this the Jumper effect, because when Steven Gould’s book Jumperwas adapted to film—my opinion only—terrible adaptation of the book. So do you have any worries that—but this can be dangerous, now it didn’t hurt him as far as I can tell. But Bonfire of the Vanities was one that the book was, you know, a top seller for years. But when the film came out, people panned the film so much that nobody will touch the book. Are you at all worried about something like that?
Michael Bunker 43:22
No. And the fact that you can name that book tells you that it’s so rare. Most of the time, most of the movies that have ever been made from Stephen King books are bad. Not all of them, of course. The Shining is good, and there’s been some other good ones, but a lot of them, especially those in the 80s and 90s, were pretty bad. Maximum Overdrive was pretty bad. And so the thing is, is that I don’t worry about that even the slightest, and Ernest Hemingway had some great advice. And he’s like, you basically drive to the border of California, you throw your manuscript over the wall, and then they throw money over the wall, and you drive home. You have to tell yourself, and this was great advice from my good friend Jim Butcher. And that is, what they’re making is not your book. Your book exists and will continue to exist as your book. Just because we can think of one example where the book was damaged—but that guy made a whole lot of money off that book before that ever happened. And he made a whole lot of money off the book while the movie was coming out. So your book is your book, and the movie is a separate thing. It can help you a whole lot more than it could ever hurt you. I mean, a whole lot more. It would not take a massive hit for it to start rolling. Because there’s actually more books in this series. And then Brother Frank is a book in the same world.
Kevin Tumlinson 44:58
Yeah, yeah. It’s like marketing. Well we’re at time so I want to make sure everybody knows they can find you and everything Bunker Nation at michaelbunker.com.
Michael Bunker 45:09
Yeah, right there.
Kevin Tumlinson 45:11
There you go. If you’re watching the video, there it is. And it’s on screen at the bottom. So it’s like URL inception. So, Michael, thanks so much for being a part of this, man. I really appreciate it.
Michael Bunker 45:25
Oh, it’s my pleasure.
Kevin Tumlinson 45:26
You and I have talked like five times over the past month too. So I don’t see that stopping.
Michael Bunker 45:30
You know, I enjoy it every time. And even if we weren’t doing this on here, I would just like to sit down and talk with you.
Kevin Tumlinson 45:32
I know, we just need to just make it a regular thing. And we’re going to be in the camper soon. One of my plans is to discover somehow where your compound is hidden, and swing by.
Michael Bunker 45:53
in the middle of Texas. That’s where it is.
Kevin Tumlinson 45:55
Right there where it landed. Wherever that is. Okay everyone, so all of you watching on YouTube and Facebook, thanks for tuning in. We really appreciate you being here and asking questions. Make sure you subscribe, if you go to Youtube.com/draft2digital, or just search for Draft2Digital and you’ll probably find us. Subscribe, hit the little bell icon to be notified of new episodes. And you can do something very similar on Facebook. Go to Facebook.com/draft2digital where you can follow us and see more of these. We’re trying to do one these live every day this summer and you can find the countdown for each new episode if you go to D2Dlive.com. Make sure you bookmark that. If you’re listening on the podcast you can still catch up, you can still follow these things live. We’re gonna eventually shift to a once a week thing. But that is it for this episode of D2D Spotlight. And Michael Bunker, once again, sir, I really appreciate you taking part in the whole thing.
Michael Bunker 46:55
Kevin Tumlinson 46:57
Alright everybody, we’ll see you all next time.