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Today I am SO excited to welcome Jay Bell to the blog to talk about the Something Like Summer movie premiere. We are big fans of the book here at Joyfully Jay (both in ebook and audio) and so I am thrilled to see that the book is being made into a feature movie. Jay was at the premier this weekend and he is here to tell us all about it. Welcome Jay!

 

Writing is supposed to be a nice quiet job. It couldn’t be more divorced from the red-carpet world of movies, but when a book gets the big screen treatment, the two industries intersect. That means people like me are ripped away from their humming laptops, steaming mugs of tea, and purring cats, but when the end destination promises gorgeous actors and the briefest taste of fame, how could anyone resist? That was my thought process when booking my flight. Actually being in Philadelphia for a North American premier of a movie, this one based on a little book I wrote, was kind of terrifying. We’ll get to that soon enough. But first, please allow me a moment of celebration, because after a grueling wait of five years, Something Like Summer the movie has finally happened. It exists! If you’ve heard of the book, then you might be aware that a film adaptation was in the works. A lot of these indie projects stumble and fall along the way, never to find their feet again, but by some miracle this one pulled through. I thought that would be the end of my sleepless nights, but then I discovered a new worry to replace the old one; Sure the movie exists, but will anyone actually like it?

Jay-Grant-Andreas

Jay, Grant, and Andreas

I think that’s what had me so nervous on the night of March 19th, although I wasn’t waltzing into the experience completely blind. I had spent two weeks on set during filming and have stayed in touch with much of the cast and crew since then. I read each version of the script during the development process and watched the movie from my home just the week before. I already knew that I liked the talent behind the movie. Scratch that. I love them! You couldn’t ask for a more passionate and gifted group of individuals. The audience doesn’t have that benefit. They won’t get the same warm fuzzy feelings I do when seeing faces on screen that have become my friends, or filming locations where I made treasured memories. In fact, they might not like the movie at all, and stupid me had agreed to be in the audience that night to experience first-hand what their reaction would be. If that wasn’t enough pressure, qFLIX Philadelphia, the film festival hosting us, had chosen Something Like Summer as its closing attraction, which from what I understand is a spot of honor. But would this year’s festivities go out with a whimper or a bang?

The night started well. Before the movie began, a short awards ceremony was held, during which the director of Something Like Summer, Dave Berry, received a prize for the work he did. That was a good sign, but critics and casual movie-goers don’t always agree, and the seats were filling up. I wasn’t just worried about impressing the audience. My husband Andreas was sitting next to me, and I always strive to make him proud. The star of the movie, Grant Davis, was to my right, radiating with excitement. When Grant is happy it lights up the room, so that combined with the comforting presence of my man finally allowed me to let go and enjoy the show. And I did! The movie itself is fantastic. I’m certainly biased, but I feel that the author of the source material has the most reason to be critical, and I haven’t held back in my scrutiny during either viewing.

For those not familiar with the plot, it’s about a young gay guy with a brave heart who comes out in the nineties. The story begins after this when Ben, the main character, realizes that the next great struggle will be finding someone willing to love him back. I won’t go into the plot more than that, other to say that the story spans twelve years. Oh, and that Ben can sing. The movie doesn’t waste time in demonstrating this. Grant Davis has a sensational voice, as does his on-screen best friend Allison Cross, portrayed by Ajiona Alexus. Allison can also sing in the books, and the film makers capitalized on this. Some will describe this movie as a musical, which isn’t completely accurate. At least not in the sense that characters leap up from the dinner table and start yodeling their lines. Instead the music acts as a sort of insight into Ben’s emotional state. Or at other times, it helps move the plot along, because remember, there is twelve years’ worth of plot to cover. This is woven into the film instead of it feeling like a jarring interruption. Characters who never sing in the book also don’t sing in the movie. In this way, it feels true to the source material rather than being a deviation from it. Music also plays an important role in the book, but for the first time, that aspect is finally allowed to flourish instead of being limited to static text on a page.

The three co-stars

The three co-stars

What else was brought to life? How about Tim Wyman’s divisive character, played by hunky Davi Santos. You want muscles, smoldering eyes, and smile that will weaken the knees? Davi brings it all to the table. At times simmering, and at others chilly, he successfully provokes the same reaction as his literary counterpart. Jace Holden is another fan favorite, and a character that some have described as too good to be true. That made the task of portraying him realistically all the more daunting, but actor Ben Baur rose to the occasion, bringing an easy charm and lovability to the role that will win over many hearts. I’m pleased with the acting in this movie. There’s always some disconnect for a reader when presented with actors who don’t necessarily match the imagined character, but all three guys slip into their roles so seamlessly that it’s easy to suspend disbelief. I suspect that many of those mental images will soon be replaced by these (very handsome) faces instead. As for Allison Cross, every scene with her is electric, enough that I feel certain that Ajiona Alexus will go far in her career. Grant Davis had the largest burden to bear, but he carries the movie with youthful enthusiasm and a goofy but sweet demeanor, making it hard not to root for him even when his character makes some less-than-wise decisions.

So the acting is great. Check. The music is wonderful. Check. What about the visuals? When a movie has a limited budget, it’s often painfully apparent from its cheapness in appearance, but there’s a reason David Berry won that award. He got his start as a cinematographer and it shows. The movie looks stunning. Sure there are a few parts that millions of dollars could have improved upon, but with the limited means available, the movie exceeds expectations. That just leaves us with the biggest, most contentious aspect of any book adaptation. The plot.

Movie makers seem to rejoice in taking a beloved story and messing with it to mixed results. This film is no exception. Events don’t play out exactly how they do in the book, and some characters are a little different too. But is it better or worse? The most objective answer is that it’s different. Some changes were made to accommodate a limited screen time. A movie adaptation will always be a more condensed version of the story, and the producers were prudent in what they chose to cut. Those wanting to learn more about Allison’s home life or what Tim got up to in his post-college years will have to turn to the book. And that’s good! Something Like Summer has grown into a massive series of eleven novels, and it wouldn’t be difficult to alienate new audiences by overwhelming them with too many details. Nods to the series for hardcore readers to discover are still there, but the producers did a commendable job in making the movie accessible. Other scenes had to be changed for more practical reasons. It doesn’t cost me a dime to send my characters on multiple European trips. That’s not quite so easy in real life, so changes were made. I think that’s great too. Even if you have the books memorized, when you go to see the movie, you’ll still be surprised. Rest assured, the vast majority of the movie is the same plot you know and (hopefully) love, just with the bonus of the unexpected. You might even prefer the movie’s version of events! If not, the book will always remain the book. There’s room enough for both canons. I’m happy to let them coexist peacefully, rather than it being a winner-takes-all competition. I like to think the movie and book help elevate each other to new levels.

Grant Davis and Ben Baur

Grant Davis and Ben Baur

All of that is, of course, my opinion. Others might not share it. Imagine my relief then, when—as the credits rolled—the audience burst into applause. They seemed to have really enjoyed the show, and the QnA session that followed was really positive. Only after leaving the theater would I really find out what everyone thought, because it was time to mingle! You would think that getting to see a movie based on my book would be the highlight of my evening. Definitely not. Getting to interact with readers and newcomers alike, that was an absolute pleasure. So many people took the time out of their schedule to come see the movie. For that I am eternally grateful. One reader even drove ten hours (from Canada!) just to be there. I’m glad too, because the festivities wouldn’t have been the same without so many supportive and enthusiastic people there. We reconvened at a local bar, which was ideal, considering that alcohol has a way of encouraging honesty. I spoke with and got the opinion of as many people as I could, and all of it was very positive. It’s not difficult to tell the difference between lip service and genuine enthusiasm, and audience seemed taken with the movie. Is it perfect? No, but neither is the book. I’m sure there will be people who dislike it. That’s how it is with anything. Regardless, the general consensus seems to be that the movie is a worthy tribute to the book and a great starting point for those unfamiliar with the series.

I hope you’ll all soon have an opportunity to judge for yourselves. How? Right now the movie is touring the festival circuit. If there is an annual film festival near you, keep an eye on it in case Something Like Summer is included. Better yet, write them and let them know you’d like to see it! If you don’t have a film festival near you, once the movie finds a distributor, it will of course be made available through all the usual channels. DVD/Blu-ray and online streaming through sites like Netflix are all likely. That will probably happen in the second half of the year. For now, you can keep up with the latest news and developments at the official movie site, or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Or hey, you can start now with the books themselves. You’ll find more info on the first one here including the four chapters of the audiobook for free! Thank you again to everyone who came to the premier, and to the droves of people who toiled to make this film a reality. It wasn’t a miracle that saw this project through to completion. Instead it was a lot of hard work, and I’m eternally grateful to everyone involved with the movie for bringing this story to new audiences, and for helping to spread a much needed message of love.

 

Links for…

Q&A after the film (and Jay on the left)

Q&A with Cast and Crew

 

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