Innovative strategy readies local author’s book for film debut

July 19, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

‘Chambers’ fans can score a walk-on role in films

The time-traveling teenagers in “Chambers” — a nascent e-book series from local author Sarah Gerdes — use a combination of textbook smarts and street savvy to navigate different epochs in history.

Sarah Gerdes

The team behind the novel is using a similar approach to promote “Chambers” as a multimedia experience. Before the e-book was released in May, plans for a film already materialized — due to a relentless pursuit by Gerdes and a chance to create a big-screen adaptation alongside “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” producer Lucas Foster.

The latest phase in the innovative book release is due to roll out July 22, as Gerdes and Foster host a series of events at area technology sellers. The top prize for attendees is a chance for a walk-on role in a film under development by Foster’s company, Warp Entertainment.

“I like the idea that you can have a cross-media experience,” he said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles. “You can read the book, see the movie, play the game, maybe even go to the live destination, and they’re all different experiences, and they add to each other in some manner.”

The effort to launch “Chambers” and offer walk-on film roles represents a marriage of content, retail and technology — a departure from traditional book and film releases.

“We’re now getting to do something that’s never been done before,” Gerdes said.

The early publicity push differs from strategies employed in the past, because unlike other films, the flick based on Gerdes’ book is still in preproduction.

“The difference between books that I pass on and books that I want to spend years of my life and tens of millions of dollars trying to turn into movies is when they have some kind of verisimilitude or authenticity to them, where it is relatable,” Foster said.

If you go

Meet ‘Chambers’ author Sarah Gerdes and Hollywood producer Lucas Foster — and enter for a chance to win a walk-on role in Foster’s films — at the following ‘Chambers’ release events:

July 22

  • 5-7 p.m.
  • Fry’s Electronics, 800 Garden Ave. N., Renton
  • The grand prize drawing and announcement are at 6:50 p.m.

July 23

  • 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Fry’s Electronics, 800 Garden Ave. N., Renton
  • The grand prize drawing and announcement are at 12:50 p.m.
  • 4-6 p.m.
  • Microsoft Store — Bellevue Square, 575 Bellevue Square
  • The grand prize drawing and announcement are at 5:50 p.m.

July 24

  • 2-4 p.m.
  • Microsoft Store – Bellevue Square, 575 Bellevue Square
  • The grand prize drawing and announcement are at 3:50 p.m.

From Middle Ages to modern day

“Chambers” is the initial offering in a planned series about a time-traveling brother-and-sister team, Cage and Mia. The opening tale thrusts the teenagers into medieval China.

The setting is more akin to something Indiana Jones encountered than the typical fare for teenage readers.

“I really like the sort of teenage adventure genre, whatever you want to call that. People call it ‘young adult novels’ but it’s like a weird misnomer to me,” Foster said. “They’re not adults. They’re teenagers and they’re not adults, young or otherwise. They’re teenagers who go an adventure — and it gets bigger and bigger.”

“Chambers” layers fictional characters atop a historical base. In the book released in May, Cage and Mia encounter a Ming emperor lifted from history.

Though “Chambers” offers adventure and fantasy aplenty, the e-book also addresses real-life issues, such as absent parents — something reflected in the novel. The intent, Gerdes said, is to impart a constructive message about the characters overcoming obstacles.

“I think that hope is missing. I think there’s a lot of skepticism and doubt and fear and uncertainty about the world — what’s going on and what’s happening,” she said. “Can we have hope and love when we’re a teenager or a young adult when we should be experiencing life and we should be having fun?”

Transforming from page to screen

The duo in “Chambers” is less reliant on gadgets and more apt to use sharp wit to solve a problem. Gerdes said the choice to create such savvy characters is intentional.

“I think a lot of modern kids are stuck in these indoor pursuits — videogames and cellphones and computers,” Foster added. “What I really like about ‘Chambers’ is, it has none of that stuff. It’s just entirely about old-fashioned, primal stuff — survival stuff that you learn as a kid and learning to use your brain.”

The sibling dynamic in “Chambers” also offers a contrast to the relationships presented in popular series directed at teenage readers.

“We are in the era of ‘Twilight’ and whatever, and everything is about love affairs for 15-year-olds,” Foster said. “I like that it’s more pure than that, that it’s just a brother and a sister who are trying to figure out what happened to their dad.”

Gerdes continues to toil on the next books in the “Chambers” series as the initial release is transformed into a film. The next challenge is to adapt the tale from the page to the screen; Foster said the source material offers a strong foundation.

“There’s this bromide about screenwriting, which I think has a fair amount of truth to it. The screenplay is the top 10 percent of the iceberg, and the rest of the iceberg is below water, and you can’t see it but it’s there,” he said. “The thing about starting with a book is, it’s a gigantic iceberg full of information for you to tap into. You only may use a subset of it, but the fact that it’s there informs everything and makes it feel like it has more weight and more gravitas and more timelessness.”

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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