Tuesday, 17 January 2012

We both share the same goal

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Author Douglas Adams had been trying for many years to bring The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy to the big screen when, in December of 1997, a deal was made with Disney to do exactly that. Initially Adams was understandably delighted, but by April of 1999 — after multiple rewrites of his screenplay in response to minimal, unproductive communications with Disney executive David Vogel — he had become incredibly frustrated with the project's progress.

During the return flight of a fruitless trip to L.A. that month, close to boiling point, Adams expertly wrote the following letter to Vogel, complete with a comically long list of ways for him to get in touch.

The letter worked, and a productive meeting between the two subsequently took place. Sadly, Douglas Adams passed away a couple of years later, three years before the finished movie was released.

(Source: The Salmon of Doubt, via Lee Kemp; Image: Douglas Adams, courtesy of the Guardian.)

Douglas Adams
48 Bloomsbury Terrace
London, Nl-6TS

April 14, 1999

David Vogel
Walt Disney Pictures

Dear David,

I've tried to reach you by phone a couple of times. Perhaps it would have helped if I'd explained why I was calling: I was in the States for a few days and thought it might be helpful if I came across to L.A. so that you and I could have a meeting. I didn't hear from you, so I'm on a plane back to England, where I'm typing this.

We seem to have gotten to a place where the problems appear to loom larger than the opportunities. I don't know if I'm right in thinking this, but I only have silence to go on, which is always a poor source of information. It seems to me that we can either slip into the traditional stereotypes — you're the studio executive who has a million real-world problems to worry about, and I'm the writer who only cares about seeing his vision realised and hang the cost and consequences — or we can recognise that we both share the same goal, which is to make the most successful movie we possibly can. The fact that we may have different perspectives on how this can best be achieved should be a fertile source of debate and iterative problem solving. It's not clear to me that a one-way traffic of written "notes" interspersed with long, dreadful silences is a good substitute for this.

You have a great deal of experience nursing major motion pictures into existence. I have a great deal of experience of nursing The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy into existence in every medium other than motion pictures. I'm sure you must feel frustrated that I don't seem to understand the range of problems you have to contend with, just as I feel frustrated that I haven't had any real creative dialogue with Disney about this project yet. I have a suggestion to make: Why don't we actually meet and have a chat? I could be in L.A. for next Monday (4/19) or early the following week. I would invite Disney to bear the cost of this extra trip over. I've appended a list of numbers you can reach me on. If you manage not to reach me, I shall know you're trying not to, very, very hard indeed.

Best wishes,

Douglas Adams

Email: dna@tdv.com

Assistant (Sophie Astin) (and voicemail): [Redacted] (between 10 A.M. and 6:00 P.M. British Summertime)
Office fax: [Redacted]
Home (no voicemail): [Redacted]
Home fax: [Redacted]
UK cell phone (and voicemail): [Redacted]
US cellphone (and voicemail): [Redacted]
Other home (France): [Redacted]
Jane Belson (wife) (office): [Redacted]
Film agent (US) Bob Bookman: [Redacted]
Book agent (UK) Ed Victor (office): [Redacted] (UK office hours)
Book agent (UK) Ed Victor (office): [Redacted]
Book agent (UK) Ed Victor (home): [Redacted]
Producer: Roger Birnbaum: [Redacted]
Director: Jay Roach (Everyman Pictures): [Redacted]
Jay Roach (home): [Redacted]
Jay Roach (cellphone): [Redacted]
Shauna Robertson (Everyman Pictures): [Redacted]
Shauna Robertson, home: [Redacted]
Shauna Robertson, cellphone: [Redacted]
Robbie Stamp, Executive Producer (UK) (office): [Redacted]
Robbie Stamp, Executive Producer (UK) (home): [Redacted]
Robbie Stamp, Executive Producer (UK) (cell phone): [Redacted]
Janet Thrift (mother) (UK): [Redacted]
Jane Garnier (sister) (UK) (work): [Redacted]
Jane Garnier (sister) (UK) (home): [Redacted]
Jakki Kelloway (daughter's nanny) (UK): [Redacted]
Angus Deayton & Lise Meyer (next-door neighbours who can take a message) (UK): Work: [Redacted], Home: [Redacted]:

Restaurants I might conceivably be at:

The Ivy (UK): [Redacted]
The Groucho Club (UK): [Redacted]
Granita (UK): [Redacted]
Sainsbury's (supermarket where I shop; they can always page me): [Redacted]

Website forum www.douglasadams.com/forum