Atlantic books hit the big screen

Following the nation-wide success of Lesley Crewe's Relative Happiness, more Atlantic books are making the transition to the film
Ivy (Melissa Bergland) and Joss (Aaron Poole) from Lesley Crewe's novel Relative Happiness came alive on the screen last fall. Photo courtesy of Nimbus Publishing
Ivy (Melissa Bergland) and Joss (Aaron Poole) from Lesley Crewe’s novel Relative Happiness came alive on the screen last fall. Photo courtesy of Nimbus Publishing

Following the nation-wide success of Lesley Crewe’s Relative Happiness, more Atlantic books are making the transition to the film

After being optioned as a film in January 2012, Away From Everywhere will begin filming this month. Chad Pelley, the novel’s author, says he is flattered by the time and money being spent to adapting his book.

Although he doesn’t have a hands-on role in the production, Pelley says, “It’s interesting as a writer to see someone else’s interpretation of a book you wrote.”

The story follows the lives of two brothers as they grow to be very different men after losing their father to mental illness. Canadian actor Jason Priestly, from “Beverly Hills 90210,” will play one of the lead roles as Alex. “I grew up watching this TV show,” says Pelley. “Now, years later, my professional life is intersected with this epic 1990s TV show and Jason Priestly is asking for a copy of my novel so he can read it to get into the character. That was unimaginably great, I have to say.”

St. John’s-based Breakwater Books published Away From Everywhere in October 2009.

Breakwater’s president Rebecca Rose says, “It’s great the potential that some of these actors have to lend their name to a project like this and create a bigger, and likely, more international audience for the film and the book itself. It’s wonderful.”

Also being adapted for film is Chris Ryan’s The Bay Bulls Standoff.

Since its March 2 release, The Bay Bulls Standoff web series teaser has received about 10,000 individual views. The series is based on the memoir of the same name, which Flanker Press published in November 2014.

“We’re quite excited,” says Flanker president Garry Cranford.

The memoir is about the eight-day standoff between 55-year-old electrical technician Leo Crockwell and the RCMP in December 2010. Crockwell barricaded himself in his mother’s house after an altercation involving his sister and a firearm. The event made national headlines as the RCMP toiled to end the standoff safely.

While the release date isn’t yet public, Cranford says the film company is in the process of applying for funding.

“The next step is to get the script, get the actors signed up and then pitch that whole thing, including the [public] interest,” said Flanker president Garry Cranford.

Cranford says that Atlantic books being turned into film is “great for authors and it’s great for publishers.”

“One spin-off for a publisher is increased sales and interest in the printed word. Everyone benefits that way,” he says.

Rose echoes a similar sentiment. “I think [film adaptation] is drawing attention to the talent and stories that are coming out of this region that I’m sure in some ways are often overlooked,” she says. “I think it has the potential to make a great impact on Atlantic Canadian books and writers and the potential they have, not just from an entertainment point of view, but an economic point of view as well.”

Nimbus Publishing has seen some of these benefits with Lesley Crewe’s novel Relative Happiness becoming a box office hit across Canada.

Terrilee Bulger, general manager of Nimbus Publishing, has been through the entire film process with the adaptation of Relative Happiness. She says the film allowed them to rejuvenate the novel with a movie cover tie-in. “It really brought the older book back to the forefront,” she says.

“To me, the collaboration was really just an exciting thing,” Bugler says. “It really shows the potential of what can happen when the creative industries can work together.”

Atlantic Canadians were heavily involved in the making of the film. From writing to publishing, and production to music, east coast talent was a prominent aspect of the film.

Bugler says even the Nova Scotian setting was “almost a character” in the film.

To Pelley, the situation in Newfoundland is largely the same.

“I feel in Atlantic Canada we read a lot of our own. So, it’s natural that with a stronger film industry there will be more local adaptations,” says Pelley.


Written By

Alissa MacDougall is Atlantic Books Today's editorial intern. She recently completed her fourth year of university in Halifax.

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