Dreamworks Animation to make Thimblerig’s Ark Film? I’m BUSTING!

I thought I couldn’t get any more excited than I did last week, when my post What’s Wrong with Christian Filmmaking went viral.  It was an amazing few days, with over 90,000 people having visited my blog in a little under a week, and the article being reposted by actor Kevin Sorbo (Hercules, God is Dead) as well as writer Jefferson Bethke (Jesus > Religion).  What I didn’t realize when it was going nuts, was just how nuts it was going to get.

Thimblerig's Ark Cover ArtOn Sunday afternoon (China time), I received an email from a man named Alex Boese, who said he was a producer at Dreamworks.  Apparently, with the renewed focus on faith-based films brought about by films like Son of God, Noah, God is Dead, and the upcoming Exodus, my article had made the rounds in Hollywood until someone on Facebook shared it with him.  Boese wrote that he read the blog and appreciated what I’d written, but as he was reading, the cover of Thimblerig’s Ark caught his eye.  It’s featured pretty prominently on my blog, and it doesn’t surprise me, as the cover was a fantastic job by seventeen year old up-and-coming artist, Burton Booz.   Intrigued by the cover, Boese went ahead and downloaded the book out of curiosity.  Here is what Boese said in his email:

I asked April, my eleven year old daughter, to give the book a glance, since she is often my barometer for what kids will like and not like.  This was around 7 PM on Thursday night.  When my wife went to get her ready for bed at 8:30, she was so deep into the story that my daughter didn’t hear my wife telling her to brush her teeth.  We let her keep reading, and by 9:30, she’d read the whole book.  She ran downstairs and asked if I could give her the second book.  You should have seen the sad look on her face when I told her there wasn’t a second book yet!  At that point, I knew I’d found something!

Friday morning, Boese took Thimblerig’s Ark up the chain of command at Dreamworks, until it landed on the desk of none other than Jeffrey Katzenberg himself that afternoon.  That’s right – on Friday, March 28 – the day Noah was released in the US –  the CEO of Dreamworks Animation was given a copy of my own version of the ark story, and Boese wrote that Katzenberg “absolutely loved it”!!!

katzYes, you read that correctly.  Jeffrey Katzenberg – who has been responsible for Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, and lots more – loved Thimblerig’s Ark.

I’m busting here.  BUSTING!

It’s all a bit of a whirlwind to me, and I don’t claim to understand everything that’s going on at this point, but if I’m reading this correctly, then it seems like Dreamworks – through this Mr. Boese – has made first contact in an attempt to negotiate some sort of deal for the rights for my first novel.  With the apparently success of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, it seems like the world’s most famous floating zoo is no longer seen as a hazardous film investment, and Aronofsky’s film was definitely not family fare!  I’m currently trying to find a good entertainment lawyer to help make sure I do things correctly, and I’ve made a few contacts with a law firm based out of Hollywood called the Iocus, Blague, & Witz Entertainment Group, but we’ll see where it goes.

I wonder if Katzenberg will talk his good friend Mr. Spielberg into directing it?  The way things have been going lately, I actually wouldn’t be surprised.

I’ve put up a copy of Boese’s email on an image hosting website, and you can read in detail by clicking here.  Meanwhile, we’re scheduled to have a Skype conference at 2:00 PM Los Angeles time, which will be about 5:00 AM tomorrow morning for me.

COULD THIS GET ANY MORE CRAZY?!?

Oh, and by the way… since it appears most people don’t click links…

Thimblerig's Ark April 1

 

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You Know About Noah, But Have You Heard The Animal’s Story?

3/20/14

By Nate Fleming

Nate Fleming’s debut novel Thimblerig’s Ark is a middle grade novel inspired by the writings of C.S. Lewis, the book of Genesis, and an Irish pub song about why the unicorn missed out on Noah’s Ark.    During its two free promotional days on Amazon in March, Thimblerig’s Ark reached the top ten of free Kindle books in the Children’s Fantasy and Magic genre, and the top thirty in the Children’s Literature & Fiction genre.

Nathan Fleming still remembers the day the idea for Thimblerig’s Ark came to him.  He was sitting in Tommy Condon’s Irish Restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina, when the band started singing a song about the unicorns missing out on Noah’s Ark because of their foolishness.  “I had a hard time reconciling this idea of unicorns getting left off the ark because they were acting too silly to be bothered,” Fleming explains.  “I’d always imagined unicorns to be noble and somewhat dangerous.  Then the idea came to me that I could try and tell a more serious version of the animal’s story.”

Fleming began the novel in 1999 when he moved to his wife’s native country of Kazakhstan.  Over the next several years, he’d work on the story when he had the time, also being busy founding and directing the Kazakhstan English Language Theater, the first English language theater in Central Asia.  As the story went through various incarnations, the characters and situations changed, but the unicorns remained the anchor to the tale.

Most surprising to Fleming was the hero, who turned out to be extremely unlikely – a con-artist groundhog named Thimblerig.  In the novel, the groundhog is not only in danger of being washed away by the flood, but he’s also in danger of losing his soul because of his lack of concern for the animals of the forest.  “The story is really Thimblerig’s story,” Fleming says.  “He starts out trying to run the ultimate con on the forest’s suckers, but he is finally confronted by how destructive his own selfishness can be, and he’s forced to change or lose it all.”

The decision to complete the story came fifteen years later when Fleming and his wife, Koolyash, found out they were pregnant with their third child.  “I’d been trying to write the story for so long, and realized that it was easier to start something it than to finish it.  When we found out we would be having another child, I was convicted to complete it so that my children would have something that they could one day read to their own children.”  Fleming set the goal to finish the novel by the time the new baby was born, and when baby Noah came into the world, the manuscript was complete.

Fleming currently lives in Chengdu, China, with his wife and three children.  Besides being a writer, he also works at an international school where he teaches reading, language arts, and drama.  “Living overseas for fifteen years has given me a unique perspective on the world, and, I hope, the experience makes my writing more accessible to readers from all over the world.”

Nate Fleming’s middle grade fantasy, Thimblerig’s Ark, is available exclusively for Amazon’s Kindle.

www.thimblerigsark.com

 

Noah Review Asks: What About the Animals?

I started out to write a blog entry chronicling the reviews that are starting to come in for Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, and had already linked to one particular review and pulled out some good quotes, when I came to the review from The Hollywood Reporter, and everything I was doing came to a grinding halt.  In the (mostly positive) review, film critic Todd McCarthy says:

If anything, the animals get short shrift here. Noah never has to go out and gather them; hundreds of them just show up, as if they’d experienced the same vision as Noah’s (ed: read Thimblerig’s Ark!), push aboard the waiting ark and promptly go to sleep, not to reawaken or be seen again until the voyage is done. This not only comes off as something of a cheat — after all, it’s always interesting and fun to examine the occupants of the world’s first and most famous temporary zoo (ed: read Thimblerig’s Ark!), especially given some of the fanciful and/or extinct critters the filmmakers ever-so-briefly put on show here — but it’s also a convenient way to avoid the dilemma of explaining how the animals got along so well for the duration without eating each other (ed: read Thimblerig’s Ark!).

***Note that the parts in parenthesis and the italics for emphasis were obviously added by the author of this blog.***

I want to focus on the three highlighted statements:

Thimblerig's Arc_2

Thimblerig’s vision of a world-ending flood, the flood of Noah.

1)  The animals in Aronofsky’s film just show up as if they’d had Noah’s vision.  We’ve known since the trailers started rolling out that Noah receives his knowledge of the impending flood by way of a vision from God.  In Thimblerig’s Ark, the groundhog Thimblerig has similar visions, but it’s not surprising that both stories would share this idea.  Dreams and visions are a common enough trope in stories as a way for the divine to communicate with the worldly.  It’s just very interesting that Mr. McCarthy picked up on it with reference to the animals, and mentioned it in his review.  (Read Thimblerig’s Ark!)

2)  Mr. McCarthy says that it’s always interesting to look at the animals in “the world’s first and most famous temporary zoo”.  I read that statement and felt rather giddy, because that is exactly what Thimblerig’s Ark does!  The story doesn’t bother so much about what they are (green alligators, long-necked geese) as much as in who they were.  They are fully-realized characters who struggle with their situation as much as any human character would.  (Read Thimblerig’s Ark!)

3)  In the review, Mr. McCarthy says that Aronofsky has the animals show up and promptly fall asleep, side-stepping any attempt to explain how the animals got along in the ark during the voyage.  Thimblerig’s Ark asks this same question, and not only doesn’t side-step it, but jumps straight in feet first and answers both the why and how of it.  (…you know what I’m going to say…)

This excites me, because I’ve thought for a long time now that my novel could be a quietly good supporting novel to this huge epic film, and this review confirms it (I wonder if Mr. Aronofsky would be interested in writing a forward?  Maybe I should send him a request).  And I hope that if you have actually cared enough about this subject to read this far down, that you will help in my grass roots efforts to get the word out.   Here are two big ways you can help:

1)  Download Thimblerig’s Ark from Amazon!  This may be the obvious one, but it needs to be mentioned.  Download it, and then read the book, and then go and make a review on Amazon.

2)  Share the download link with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, wherever you like to lurk.  Encourage them to run, not walk, and download the book!

Thanks to anyone who will do this!  I sincerely hope that you enjoy the story, and that it increases your enjoyment of the film (if you go see it), and helps deepen your thoughts on the story of Noah’s Ark in general.

Aronofsky’s Noah Bows In Mexico… So, How Is It?

So, Noah has finally premiered, on March 10 in Mexico City and it will apparently play in several different countries before finally opening in the United States on March 28.  When trying to figure out why the film premiered in unlikely Mexico City, some have said that it was a strategic choice because of Mexico’s large Catholic population.

When asked why Mexico City was chosen as the film’s premiere locations, director Darren Aronofsky said, 

When the distro asked me where I wanted to have the premiere I said I wanted to have it in Mexico, because I love Mexico. As you know, I have come here many times. In fact, I have been here three times this year.

The economic decision (getting a largely religious audience in your corner from the get-go) seems to make more sense, but I suppose the fact that the director likes the country is as good a reason as any.

And what was Mexico’s response?

…Mixed Reception…

…Luke-Warm Response…

The articles linked above show that people generally liked it, but that it was thought to be slow in parts.

There were a few reviewers on hand, and they were apparently not permitted to officially review the film until it is released in the U.S.   Some did do a bit of tweeting, sharing their initial thoughts, which were pretty positive and upbeat.

And while this is not from Mexico City, I did come across this interesting tweet:

Thornbury is the president of King’s College in NYC, and is – from everything I’ve heard – a pretty solid theologian.

So what does all of this mean?  It means that the plot continues to thicken as we head towards general release.

Now, if I could only get them to post my picture on their Noah fan art website…

Thimblerig's Ark Cover Artwork by Burton Booz

Thimblerig’s Ark Cover
Artwork by Burton Booz

And don’t forget!  Thimblerig’s Ark will be available for free download on March 15 from Amazon!

 

Noah Film Taboo in Muslim Countries

Apparently, Egypt is not the only place where Aronofsky’s Noah will not be seen.  Reports have been coming from other Middle Eastern countries who are refusing to show the auteur director’s vision of the Biblical character of Noah, for the very same reasons.

Several nations ban the release of Noah because of the film’s depiction of Noah the prophet

Thankfully, there haven’t been any more reports of threats to “destroy” theaters should the film be shown.  But this just continues to add to the interesting dilemma that exists with American filmmakers trying to tap into the lucrative religious market in the United States.  Overseas markets are a pretty substantial chunk of the returns on major films these days, and when the subject of the film is religious, the overseas response has to be taken into consideration.

The BibleAnother recent film with obvious religious overtones has been Burnett and Downey’s Son of God, which is a film about the life of Jesus.  While well-received among Christian audiences, the film has been largely panned by many as being poor filmmaking about a good subject.  But will the film play well in Muslim countries?  Apparently not, since most Muslim countries consider Jesus a prophet, and therefore taboo for filmmaking.  But how much do Muslim markets matter to the final numbers?  Not much, apparently, as the films are being made and released in any market that will have them.  Even under threat of theaters being destroyed.

This is one of those moments that I’m glad to be a lowly little author trying to get a book published, rather than a studio executive, trying to market a controversial film.

Clerics Seek Noah Ban in Egypt

This blog has spent many days linking to stories about Darren Aronofsky’s upcoming Noah film, and how some folks in the U.S. have been criticizing it on religious grounds, largely sight unseen.  I gave the example of one group that has even started an ineffective and silly online petition to try and force Paramount to change the movie altogether, to make it more to their liking.  On this blog, I’ve repeatedly made the point that people should wait for the film to come out before criticizing it.

In other words, they should have a common sense response, and not an inflammatory response.

But, it turns out that the American religious audience response to news of Noah has been pretty tame compared to the response of Muslim clerics in Egypt, according to a story that came across my laptop this morning.

The story can be found here.

According to this story, some Egyptian clerics have stated that Aronofsky’s Noah should be banned in Egypt.  Their argument is that the character is a Islamic prophet, and prophets should not be represented in art, to avoid creating confusion among the audience.  The story quotes Sheikh Sameh Abdel Hameed as saying:

Depicting prophets in art is a “crime; not art, that is harmful to the image of prophets… Depicting prophets opens the door for doubting the behavior of prophets … Actors cannot accurately mimic the behaviors, manners and appearances of prophets. 

If the story had stopped at that point, I would have thought it an interesting footnote to the ongoing conversation about the intersection of religion and the arts.  Oddly enough, this call for banning Noah reinforces the truth that Bible characters are not only sacred to Christians, and that in a pluralistic society, we all have to hold onto characters like Noah somewhat loosely, because we don’t own them.  In other words, in a free society, Darren Aronofsky should have the freedom to film his interpretation of the story of Noah, and the audience has the freedom to register their like or dislike by paying to see the film or choosing not to do so.

But then I read farther down in the article:

Other scholars have called for “destroying” any movie theatre that displays the blasphemous film.

wait-what-meme-rage-face

I don’t know what to say about that, except that suddenly our little angry blogs and petitions don’t look so bad.