The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

96° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    From movies to manuscripts

    The symbiotic relationship between the film, television and book industries has served writers well for decades. Usually, writers make the transition from books to screenplays with their own material bridging the small gap between the two. William Goldman wrote the novel, and the subsequent screenplay, for “The Princess Bride,” as did Stephen Chbosky for “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” and Gillian Flynn  for “Gone Girl.”

    However, for at least two of the three writers who will be at the “And the Oscar Goes To … Screenwriting for Movies and TV” panel at the Tucson Festival of Books, writing scripts preceded writing books.

    “I came to be an author after I worked in film,” Stuart Gibbs said. “I sort of went the other way. Most people start as an author and end up writing screenplays.”

    Gibbs moved out to Los Angeles during the spec script sale boom in the film industry of the 1990s. 

    After starting his career performing script coverage and writing B-grade kickboxing movies, Gibbs then made the jump to studio work. He performed “punch-up” work on films like “Anastasia” and the “Open Season”series, and was brought in to develop “Ice Age” before there was even a script.

    The transition away from Hollywood began during an event that momentarily came to define television: the 14-week Writers Guild of America Strike from 2007 to 2008.

    “During the writers strike, everybody was sort of saying, ‘Hey, maybe there’s something else I can do to make money writing while I’m not working for the film business,’” Gibbs said.

    His agents encouraged him to write middle-grade books, and the career suggestion panned out well.

    “At the time, I had a 2-year old son and another kid on the way, and I was just thinking it would be really neat to write a book that they could read some day,” Gibbs said.

    Another author who will be at the panel, Betty G. Birney, initially worked in advertising at Disneyland and then moved onto the Disney Studio.

    Around this time, a new project was getting off the ground: the Disney Channel. Birney wrote for “Welcome to Pooh Corner,” which premiered on the first day of the Disney Channel.

    “I found out that I liked writing for children, and I hadn’t thought of that before,” Birney said.

    The opportunity at the Disney Channel opened up doors, and Birney freelanced for more than 20 years. However, she felt the urge to pursue what she had been playing around with for a long time: writing children’s books.

    “It’s like my third act,” Birney said. “I started off in advertising for a number of years, then I moved onto television and now I’m writing books.”

    Both Gibbs and Birney have been beckoned by television since leaving it, and both seem to be able to rebuff it.

    There are development talks to bring one of the books in Gibbs’ “The Spy School Series” to television. However, his writing slate has burgeoned to two books a year.

    “I’m just so wrapped up in the writing that there’s the chance that, if it comes down to having somebody write the screenplay or whatever, I’m not even going to have time to do that,” Gibbs said. “But we’ll see.”

    There’s also potential for Birney’s award-winning, hamster-centric “According to Humphrey” book series to be adapted to television, but, like Gibbs, she finds herself more committed to her current charge.

    “Well, I used to think I’d want to, but [now] I’m not sure,” Birney said. “I think I may be able to just let it go.”

    “And the Oscar Goes To … Screenwriting for Movies and TV” panel will be held Sunday at 10 a.m. in the Education building in Room 353. Birney, Gibbs and Drew Daywalt will be present, moderated by Lisa Morris-Wilkey.


    Follow Alex Guyton on Twitter.

    More to Discover
    Activate Search