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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

May 27, 2009 at 1:49 PM

Where has John Sayles been? Writing a novel

It seems odd to have a Seattle International Film Festival without John Sayles; the low-key indie filmmaker has turned up at a number of festivals in past years, always good for a thoughtful interview or a unique film like “Limbo” (which won the directing award at SIFF in 1999) or “Lone Star.” His 2007 film “Honeydripper” appeared at the Langston Hughes African-American Film Festival here recently, but he doesn’t currently have a new movie on the horizon. Why? He’s been writing a novel, and he can’t find a publisher.
The L.A. Times reports that Sayles finished “Some Time in the Sun,” a novel set during America’s 1898 war with Spain, late last year. He had originally planned to write a movie on the topic, but found the subject matter too sprawling for the confines of a film:

“There was no way in hell we were ever going to raise the money to make the film,” Sayles says. “I felt like I was pushing way too much stuff into a two-hour-and-20-minute format, and it would work better as a miniseries. But who gets to come in and say, ‘Oh, I want to make a 50-part miniseries about America at the turn of the century’?”

“Some Time in the Sun” isn’t Sayles’s first novel; he previously published “Los Gusanos” in 1990 and “Union Dues” in 1977. But now he’s up against a publishing industry hit hard by the recession and reluctant to take a chance on a lengthy, complex book (it’s 1,000 typed pages) that may not be destined to be a bestseller. Sayles said he’s sent it out to “five or six” publishers but none have indicated interest. That John Sayles, who’s a legend in the indie filmmaker world, can’t get a book deal is astonishing to me; I hope things turn around. It seems, though, that there’s not a lot of crossover in the novelist/screenwriter world (though David Benioff’s novel “City of Thieves” comes to mind — anybody read that?). Do read the L.A. Times article if you’re interested in Sayles’ work; it’s a good read. Now that Sayles’s is done with the novel (which he transported to his agent in seven big binders, carried in shopping bags), he’s at work on an HBO series about Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Anthony Kiedis; here’s hoping he’s also quietly scripting a new movie, too.

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