Local indie film producer to adapt Knight's book
When UCF alumna Vanessa Blakeslee and her book publisher were going over the film rights section of the contract for Blakeslee's first book, Train Shots, the two shared a laugh at the idea.
But in the summer of 2014, the possibility they once laughed at became a realistic prospect when independent film producer and Central Florida native Hannah Beth King reached out to Blakeslee with an interest of adapting Train Shots into an indie film.
After graduating in 2005 with a master's degree in English and creative writing, Blakeslee signed her first book contract with Burrow Press, an Orlando-based book publishing company, for her first work.
Since then, Train Shots has received an Independent Publisher's Gold Medal for short fiction, according to a press release.
"I was thrilled and rather surprised," Blakeslee said in a press release. "As a literary writer, you certainly don't publish your first story collection with the expectation that a filmmaker might adapt it.
"To see your work inspire an artist from another medium is incredibly meaningful and affirming in a way that receiving critical praise and awards doesn't touch."
In an interview, Blakeslee said that her book is comprised of 11 unlinked short stories with some set in the Orlando and Winter Park areas. She said King reached out to her with an interest in taking a Florida-based subject for a film project.
"The stories really resonated with her having grown up in the [Winter Park] area," Blakeslee said. "She has her own vision and she certainly has full artistic license both contractually and [with] my blessing to take elements and characters from [my stories] and move them around however she wants. ... It will be interesting to see what she comes up with."
Hannah Beth King first heard about Blakeslee's book when she was visiting her mother in Winter Park. She said that a friend at a local Winter Park bookstore handed her a copy of Train Shots because he thought King would be interested in Blakeslee's work.
"When I got to the last story in the collection, an idea hit me. I could connect many of the characters thematically," King said. "I knew I'd stumbled onto my next project," she said.
King said she plans on using eight stories from Blakeslee's book, and she will set all of the stories in Central Florida.
"I'd love to film it on location in Central Florida, specifically in Winter Park, College Park, Apopka and the surrounding neighborhoods of Downtown Orlando," King said. "So far I've maintained the essence of the characters and their dramatic situations, but I've made a lot of changes, too. The characters now relate to one another and the stories intertwine."
King expects to get Train Shots off the ground in 2016 after she completes her current film project, Dirt Roads. Blakeslee said that they intend to feature the film adaptation of Train Shots at independent film festivals.