So you’ve read a bunch of “how to write a memoir” books and you’re ready to start writing (or perhaps you’ve already completed your memoir). Could it be made into a movie? Will it grab Hollywood’s attention? Let’s look at what it takes by analyzing a memoir that has recently been optioned for a movie.
“Unlocked: A Journey From Prison to Proust,” by Lou Ferrante, will be published by HarperCollins in March. Ferrante, who is from Queens and is a former member of the Gambino crime family, spent 10 years in prison for armed robbery. While in prison, Ferrante, who was born Catholic, converted to Judaism. He spent his time reciting Jewish prayers, following kosher dietary laws and, get this, even wore a yarmulke in the exercise yard. And, for the first time in his life, Ferrante began to read books. Upon his release from prison two years ago, Ferrante began the aforementioned memoir, which is an account of his transformation from violent mobster to religious Jew.
Hollywood Comes Calling
Through a friend of a friend, Ferrante sent a copy of his memoir to actress Lorraine Bracco, who played Dr. Jennifer Melfi on the “The Sopranos.” Ferrante’s intention for sending Bracco the book was to get a little publicity. You can imagine his surprise when she called him with an offer for the film rights. This is the first book Bracco has optioned for a movie, and she intends to seek input from David Chase – who created “The Sopranos,” and Nick Pileggi, who penned “Wiseguy” and “Casino.”
Why This Memoir Will Make a Great Movie
One thing that stands out about Ferrante’s memoir is its originality. Yes, there are many mobster memoirs out there, but one thing is for certain: none of them are about a mobster who converted to Judaism. This is fresh subject matter. It’s also a story of redemption – a topic that has universal appeal. And finally, the memoir is a story of courage. That Ferrante renounced Catholicism in favor of Judaism could put him in harm’s way. Why? Because it could raise the ire of fellow Italian mobsters who might see him as a traitor.
Does your memoir contain similar elements? If so, it has a shot at being published and possibly being made into a movie. Of course, there is no guarantee. In fact, there is no guarantee that Ferrante’s book will ever get past the development stage. Or it could languish in development hell for years. But, the point is, it got Hollywood’s attention, and major players are behind it. Someday Hollywood might get behind your memoir as well.