Kwantlen instructor’s book becomes a film

The Riverbank stars Canadian acting veterans Rick Roberts and Kari Matchett.

The Riverbank stars Canadian acting veterans Rick Roberts and Kari Matchett.

By Max Hirtz
[culture editor]

Genni Gunn, a Kwantlen creative writing instructor, recently had her novel Tracing Iris turned into a movie called The Riverbank. We had a chat with her about the adaptation process.

Kwantlen creative writing instructor Genni Gunn. (Photo Courtesy Kwantlen)

The Runner: Did you find it difficult letting a screenwriter adapt your work?

Genni Gunn: No, I didn’t. The reason why I didn’t is because that particular novel has a bit of history. I started that novel as a screenplay, took it through development… and at the end of it, I felt like I — it didn’t feel complete to me. It didn’t feel like it was the full thing that I wanted to say about that particular topic. So I thought, No, I’m just going to write a novel. So I wrote the novel, and then, interestingly enough, it got optioned almost immediately, as soon as it was published. So somehow, maybe, it just wanted to go back to being a screenplay. The fact is that I had already spent five years with that topic and that story, so I was quite happy to let someone else interpret it.

TR: Was this your first venture into the world of film?

GG: It was certainly the first film that’s been made of my work, yeah. I went for a couple of days to just watch the filming.

TR: What was that like?

GG: I thought that the actors were… perfectly suited. I couldn’t have picked them better for the characters in the book. It’s a very simplified version of the book, and there are several characters who have been collapsed into one. That kind of thing. There’s lots of stuff missing from it, but that’s okay because I understand film is a different medium. But what I did like about it was that they managed to maintain the father/daughter relationship, which in the book is really important. And that came across in the movie. I thought that was really well done. It’s quite beautiful actually. It’s very moody and very evocative. I thought all of that was great.

TR: Would you recommend that young writers be open to the idea of optioning their works?

GG: I would think so. I mean, I think getting a film made out of your book — or story, whatever — the chances are super slim. I feel incredibly fortunate that this project went through. I think it’s a great way to get people to read your books as well, because if they like the movie, they may be curious about it.