Patricia Highsmith’s Diaries Among Titles Up for Grabs at Venice’s Book Adaptation Rights Market

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From Patricia Highsmith’s diaries to French graphic novels, the 6th edition of the Book Adaptation Rights Market (BARM) at the Venice Production Bridge film market, gave publishers a welcome chance to meet face-to-face with producers interested in good writing for the screen.

The three-day event hosted meetings between top European publishers, and their production partners, from Switzerland’s Diogenes Verlag to Britain’s Andrew Nurnberg Associates, whose titles include “Hitler and Stalin: The Tyrants and the Second World War” by Laurence Rees.

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“As every year, the Book Adaptation Rights Market offers a unique possibility of having one-to-one meetings between 25 international publishers, on one side, and producers or broadcasters and streaming platforms on the other one,” Venice market topper Pascal Diot tells Variety.

Publishers have presented multiple works, which is not the case at some other markets, publishers say.

“We aren’t highlighting one novel or essay per publishers (as some markets do), but asking them to present their whole catalog to producers to understand what they are looking for,” he adds.

Because of the pandemic, the number of invited publishers was limited to 25 this year. Each held court at large, socially-distanced tables.

Keeping it smaller, “We had, unfortunately, to reject some requests to join the BARM. We have three publishers online as they haven’t been able to travel,” he adds.

New publishers joining the BARM market this year included Editis from France and Tunué from Italy, presenting its graphic novels to meet a growing demand for this genre.

As per publishers on site, there’s a huge appetite for book material to adapt to film from comedies to thrillers and children’s books.

Susanne Bauknecht, rights director at Diogenes, said: “American writer Patricia Highsmith lived the last years of her life in Ticino. It’s exciting to work on this project now following the scores of books from our catalog that have been adapted to film.”

Previous adaptations of her novels include “Carol,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Strangers on a Train,” with another one, Adrian Lyne’s “Deep Water,” starring Ben Affleck, due to be released next year.

Current Diogenes titles available for adaptation include “The Fire,” by Daniela Krien, and “The Singer,” by Lukas Hartmann, that follows famous singer Joseph Schmidt becoming a refugee.

To present Euro-language books to an international audience one hurdle is translation. “It’s easier if it’s already published in English,” says Viviana Vuscovich, Italo rights dealer.

Each publisher takes a different approach to when book rights are sold, but all reported it being a lucrative asset in the busy publishing market.

“Book sales are really good in Italy, helped by the pandemic, and I’m presenting a slew of new books every few months,” says Vuscovich, who notes some changes in the market.

“Years ago you couldn’t have sold historic books but now those are in big demand,” she says.

Examples of historic titles now selling for adaptation include Italian historic family saga “The Florios of Sicily,” by Stefania Auci, she says.

Rights holders take different approaches to dealmaking. Vuscovich prefers to sell options before a book is published, while at Diogenes it can vary.

Dimitri Pawlowski, founder of French publisher L’Homme Sans Nom, has been collaborating with a graphic novel house to adapt some of their titles into films.

“I’ve been coming to this market for six years, and it’s an increasingly important part of book publishing, and this strategy helps keep us relevant to publishing and for screen adaptations,” he says.

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