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The plot thickens for 'Sacred Books' series

David Michael Slater's tomes capture attention of movie producer and screenwriter
by: Jaime Valdez David Michael Slater is eager to see how his controversial 'Sacred Books' series will translate to the big screen.

David Michael Slater's controversial 'Sacred Books' series is heading to Hollywood.

A film combining the first two volumes of the six-part fantasy adventure series, 'The Book of Nonsense' and 'The Book of Knowledge,' is being pitched to movie studios by producer Kevin Bannerman and screenwriter Karen Janszen.

The two are in the process of attracting actors to potentially star in the film before knocking on industry executives' doors.

'We'd like to have talent attached to the project before going to the studios to make our pitch,' Bannerman said Wednesday.

Both Bannerman and Slater are hopeful.

'I'm nervous and excited - it seems to be a more real possibility,' Slater said of his books being transformed into a movie for the big screen. 'I'm thrilled with the idea of the movie.

'A movie would mean more people would hear about the books and open up a new world.'

The young adult series is fraught with suspense, hidden clues, bizarre twists and ancient texts, which threaten to tear apart the world of teenage twins Daphna and Dexter. The combination could prove to be just the right mix to attract financial backing for the film project - and ultimately, movie audiences of all ages, especially teens.

As a longtime language arts teacher in Beaverton, Slater understands the secret to capturing the interest of teens is to engage their curiosity and intelligence by hooking them with a blend of unusual references, mysterious clues and a dark, suspenseful plot packed with action.

Because the story is based in the Hillsdale area where Slater and his family live, local readers have the advantage of recognizing the neighborhood streets Daphna and Dexter run up and down as well as several Multnomah Village haunts. Locals will recognize references to Gabriel Park, the U.S. Post Office at the bottom of the hill, Village Coffee and the Multnomah Arts Center - to name a few.

And, if a studio picks up the project, film crews just might invade Portland.

'They could film anywhere, but that would be really neat to have this movie filmed right here,' Slater said.

While the idea of swinging by the set after teaching at Beaverton's Health and Science High School is appealing, he trusts the instincts of both Bannerman, who worked on both 'Lion King' and 'Curious George,' and Janszen, whose screenwriting credits include 'Dolphin Tale,' 'Gracie,' 'A Walk to Remember,' 'The Matchmaker' and 'From the Earth to the Moon.'

'I haven't seen their take on the story, but I'm impressed with their track record,' Slater said. 'I would not presume to know their business.'

Q and A with Producer Kevin Bannerman

Producer Kevin Bannerman recently took time to talk about the 'Sacred Books' movie project. Here's what he told the Beaverton Valley Times:

How did you discover the 'Sacred Books' series?

A team of producers that I was working with on another project asked me to look at 'The Book of Nonsense' as a potential animation project. After reading it, I told them I didn't think it made sense for animation, but I liked the book in general. They were about to go into production on something, so they told me I was free to run with the book if I wanted to. That's when I contacted David.

What was it about 'The Book of Nonsense' and 'The Book of Knowledge' that appealed to you?

I see the books as a 'tweenage DaVinci Code,' wherein the protagonists get caught up in a mystery and big adventure and have to figure out what the truth is. I loved the relationship of Daphna and Dex in the book and that their sibling relationship was complicated by his secret, dyslexia. I also loved the idea of the old folks - the 'seven dwarves' - seeming to be innocent but actually secretly involved in everything going on.

What made you decide to tackle the project of bringing the twins' story to the big screen?

Again, I think the story is marketable in that it exhibits the classic story structure of someone innocent being pulled into a big mystery/adventure. They have to figure out what is true, who are their adversaries and who are their allies, and often discover that things aren't always what they appear to be. I find that a very appealing story to tell.

What has the process been like so far?

It has been terrific, although it has by necessity moved slowly. David has been generous in his belief in me as a producer on the project, and I am excited that the books attracted the interest of a writer as good as Karen Janszen. We have had to make some rather significant adjustments to the narrative to bring the first two books in line with a movie's structure, and we have also had to work around Karen's busy schedule. We are all very excited to be at the point where we are about to expose the project to the studios.

What has it been like to work with David?

David has been great in understanding that we have to make changes from book to screen adaptation. He has exhibited great confidence in Karen's judgment. I think David is a writer possessing a strong imagination, and I hope to reward that by getting the movie onscreen, which of course is always a challenge. 

What has the response been by others in the industry to your take on the 'Sacred Books?'

We are on the verge of pitching the story to the studios, so all I can say is that the writers' agencies responded to the idea, and a strong, in-demand writer responded to the books. That is very gratifying, to find that others respond to and share your vision. Now, to convince the studios to put up the money to further develop it and eventually to get it into production.