Cameron MacLaren, Producer Behind 'Invisible Monsters' Adaptation
And the option goes to...Interview by Dennis Widmyer
I believe it started in 2001, when a young filmmaker named Jesse Peyronel optioned what many of Chuck's die-hard fans would call his boldest and best book: Invisible Monsters. Movie media quickly picked up on the option and it seemed like things were on the fast track for entering some sort of production phase. Turning over a scripted draft that both Chuck and his agent, Edward Hibbert, were very pleased with, Jesse very quickly got to work trying to find funding for the film via Miramax Films. Parker Posey was tentatively on board to play Shannon and things were moving along. Then the inevitable drop in news happened, signaling the echoing cry of what is so accurately called "movie purgatory".
In 2002, Jesse resurfaced on our radar again. He had renewed his option on the script to give funding another go. But again, nothing seemed to come of it and the closest story we had to go off for any production future for Monsters was a UK based company that was interested in doing an animated featured of the film.
Then, word around the campfire was that the film was on the move again with Jessica Biel being touted for the female lead and such names as Val Kilmer and Bill Crudup being mentioned for male leading and supporting roles.
That was about four years ago.
During that time actor turned filmmaker, Clark Gregg, managed to write and direct Choke. And even with the cache of having names like Sam Rockwell and Angelica Huston on board, the film took Greg over four years to gain funding for. In the end, it had a very meager budget of about 2.5 million and didn't succeed well at the box office.
Even though Fight Club had become a cult phenomena, news on many of Chuck's other adaptations was growing precarious. And buzz on Invisible Monsters possibly gracing the big screen was scarce. Until now.
Cameron MacLaren first entered our world in March of 2008. He was looking to get in contact with Chuck's agent about optioning material. I pointed him in the right direction and it wasn't until March 2009 that I heard from him again. This time he seemed to have a renewed passion and was looking to option Invisible Monsters. Unlike most people who contact me about this sort of thing, I could instantly tell that Cameron wasn't dicking around. He had every intent of acquiring the rights to make this thing, so I helped him again and did what I could to facillitate the process.
The third time I heard from Cameron, it was March again (Cameron must like the Spring) and this time, things had greatly progressed forward. Cameron now had the option. He had a website set up. A Facebook Page promoting the movie. And I had even had a solid phone call and confirmation from Chuck's agent that he was the man. They were both very excited about him. The option was real and Cameron was full steam ahead.
Dennis Widmyer: Tell us about yourself and your background in film.
Cameron MacLaren: I studied film at York University in Toronto where I specialized in screenwriting and producing. I established a company under the name MacLaren Productions Inc, which I’ve produced several short films under over the past few years. The most successful of the slate has screened at international film festivals as well as received a distribution deal with Shorts International Ltd. I’ve worked in the entertainment industry as a script coordinator and producer’s assistant which has provided me with considerable knowledge in development and pre-production.
DW: A lot of people in the past have optioned Invisible Monsters but have been unsuccessful in getting it into production. What are you going to do differently?
CM: My company will take advantage of the Internet and all of its possibilities. We will use the mass popularity amongst Palahniuk and non-Palahniuk fans of the book to leverage considerable interest in the production of the film. By showcasing society’s interest in the adaptation of the novel, investors will have a greater security in financing the production, and allow our distributors to more accurately gauge the areas of demand for the film. Securing the financing and distribution are the key components for independent films to reach production and I feel our company has implemented a strategy that will succeed as long as fans voice their opinions. It is the fans and their opinion that will trigger this independent film into production. Therefore by becoming a member of our social networking site on Facebook (“Invisible Monsters Film”) and demanding the film on our website www.invisiblemonstersfilm.com fans can access privileged information and updates regarding the development of the film. This will allow them to have a greater influence in the decisions made for the film and result in a greater film for all.
DW: I don't think anyone reading this knows who you are or has heard of your previous work. Is that daunting for you, with such a popular project like Invisible Monsters?
CM: Absolutely not. Film is a collaborative medium, and the people who are involved in that collaborative process generate the film’s success. I have the utmost confidence that, as a person with impeccable judgment, I will begin the development process and involve the necessary people during the appropriate phases of production.
DW: Have you adapted the book to screenplay yet, and if so, has Chuck and/or his agent read it yet?
CM: We are currently on a third draft of the script, which is being reviewed by our story editor at the moment. Chuck has not had the privilege of reading a draft and the situation will remain as such until we have a final draft. I am very confident he will be impressed with what we’ve developed as we have specifically maintained his original tone for which, we feel, adaptations frequently ignore.
DW: Do you also plan on directing the film yourself?
CM: The subject has been presented on several occasions but I will respectfully avoid answering it with a definitive yes or no answer. Let me assure you that I will do what is in the best interest of the film and if that requires a more recognized, professional and highly skilled visionary to bring this world and characters to life, I will not allow myself, or anyone else for that matter, to step in the way of that opportunity.
DW: How long is your option, and what sort of timeline are you working against? In other words, what are your goals and what needs to happen next?
CM: Because the material has been shopped around town before, we won’t spend a considerable amount of time in Hollywood. I will measure its reception very quickly and assess which route we need to pursue next. Having said that, we will begin principal photography in Vancouver during the spring of 2011.
DW: I know it might be very early in the process, but if you could, tell us what actors you see in some of the main roles.
CM: As it stands, talent will be cast based on the decisions the key creative and production team decides at the appropriate time. Having said that, many factors have and will influence my personal judgment and decide whom I will suggest to the team at that time. Factors such as a discussion page on the film’s Facebook site have presented a few great suggestions by fans. Also the popularity of those suggestions amongst other fans is what I take in to consideration. But above all, I feel the greatest factor lies in the working relationship between our director and the talent. Therefore should I be presented the opportunity to direct with the appropriate budget, I would approach actors whom I truly respect, but I would more likely than not cast an unknown actress in the lead role.
DW: What would your ideal budget, shooting format and locations be for this production?
CM: Trends in the film industry categorize those with a greater ability to recoup and profit financially lie within budgets either above $5M, $1M, or below $500,000. Even the very few success stories to flourish with production budgets less than $5M were most often genre films. Invisible Monsters is not a genre film, and it will not be marketed as such. Just as Fincher fought Fox, who wanted to market Fight Club as an action film, I will fight the same fight and guarantee Invisible Monsters will be marketed with the same tone Palahniuk incorporated in the novel. The opposite situation was proven with Choke which could have been a greater success, had it been made for $1M with a style that could be marketed to the appropriate audience. Instead Searchlight relied on the cast to carry the market appeal, which resulted in a $3M film having a difficult time finding their target audience. Therefore the ideal budget will be above $5M or around $1M. As for shooting format, this will clearly reflect our budget. I have shot films on 35mm, RED and 16mm and have seen beautifully shot features on all three formats. But ultimately the final decision all depends on the creative team, style and budget. As for locations, I am from Canada, which harbors a very successful and lucrative tax incentive for output production deals with foreign financed films. Therefore as it stands, Vancouver, British Columbia is the ideal location to shoot a greater percentage of the film but to those who have read the novel we all understand that it is, at the heart, a road movie and should reflect that in the locations.
DW: What can Chuck's fans do to help?
CM: Support the film through all phases of the production. Not just support but also promote this film to every person they know. By joining our Facebook group “Invisible Monsters Film” and demanding the film on our website www.invisiblemonstersfilm.com fans can access privileged information and updates regarding the development of the film while discussing and influencing decisions with the production. This film will succeed or fail on the level of support generated by the fans. That is why it is crucial to achieve the greatest level of support from as early as possible. The greater the support, the greater influence the fans will have over decisions in the filmmaking process, which will ultimately lead to a greater film.
Traditional films follow a mold established since the beginning of the studio system, and as we’ve seen with current market trends in North America, this system is collapsing (Chuck beautifully captures this feeling of capitalism failing in his novels) and therefore it is fitting to attempt a similar strategy with financing and ultimately producing Invisible Monsters.
DW: Chuck has a lot of books that haven't been turned into films yet. So why Invisible Monsters?
CM: I read the novel several years ago and being the curious filmmaker I am, I wanted to know who was handling this very delicate yet profound subject material. After uncovering every detail available to public knowledge, and realizing the film still had yet to be made, I called Chuck’s film agent and asked if the option had expired. It had and there began more research into seeing if this project, having attempted to be produced before, had a chance of being financed and made. To my team and myself, it made sense to pursue it due to the volume of intrigue and popularity amongst fans. My fascination and admiration for Chuck’s work also influenced that decision but I just felt this material needed the outcome it deserved. It is a beautiful story of self-discovery told in such a unique way. It is one that has never been seen on screen before, and when produced accordingly, will break many boundaries within the independent sphere of filmmaking. That is why I have chosen to adapt Invisible Monsters and could not have chosen a better novel.