Hollywood has gobbled up book rights during the pandemic. Here’s why | Entertainment

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One benefit of television is that it gives creators more freedom to adapt novels that don’t necessarily fit the structure of a two-hour, three-act movie, said Bruna Papandrea, the Australian founder of production company Made Up Stories.

“For TV, it’s so much about world-creation and voice,” Papandrea, who specializes in book adaptations, is executive-producing projects including a miniseries based on “Nine Perfect Strangers” by “Big Little Lies” author Liane Moriarty. “Something TV can do brilliantly, much more so than film, is evoke specificity of voice.”

At the beginning of the COVID-19 shutdown, buyers were most interested in bidding on feel-good stories, said Mary Pender, an agent in UTA’s media rights division, which represents book authors, magazine writers, life rights, podcasts and other underlying material.

One of the agency’s early sales during the pandemic was Indonesia-based author Jesse Q. Sutanto’s book “Dial A for Aunties,” which Netflix is turning into a romantic comedy with “Fresh Off the Boat” creator Nahnatchka Khan.

But as the production pause dragged on, the deals expanded beyond lighthearted fare to a wider variety of genres, including thrillers and heavier literary fiction.

“That was probably until May-ish, when we realized (the pandemic) was going to continue, and the floodgates just kind of opened on everything again,” Pender said. In August, UTA announced an agreement for Issa Rae and David Heyman to make “Ghost in the Machine,” Tanya Smith’s upcoming white collar crime memoir, for Netflix.

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