Today on the Barnes & Noble Teen blog, we’re pleased to welcome the lovely and hilarious Lance Rubin, author of the Denton Little series, which kicked of with his 2015 debut Denton Little’s Deathdate. This month, the series got an official adaptation—on Snapchat! Rubin swung by to talk about the process of going from book to screen, especially on social!
“Snapchat does scripted shows?” I asked.
“They’re just starting,” said the producer I’d been developing the Denton screenplay with. “Short episodes made for mobile viewing.”
“About 5 minutes each.”
“Wow. Okay. Yeah. Wow.”
Over the past three years, I’d adapted my novel into a screenplay, and it had taken me a while to accept that not all the events of the book would make it to the screen.
Case in point: the first draft of the screenplay was 220 pages long. Considering one page equals about a minute of screen time, that would have been a three hour and forty minute movie. [Editor’s note: most traditional screenplays are under 120 pages!] An Avengers movie could probably get away with that, but dark comedy Denton certainly couldn’t. It would have to be at least half that, maybe shorter.
Many months and many dead darlings later, I got there! But to now adapt that screenplay into Snapchat form meant it would have to be…even shorter?
Snapchat’s plan was for the first season to cover the entire book in ten 5-ish-minute episodes. That’s right, about fifty minutes of content—the equivalent of one episode of Stranger Things—to cover the entire book.
It was hard to process.
It didn’t help that I’d never actually been on Snapchat.
I am a 37-year-old father of two small children, but I’ve never felt as old and out-of-touch as I did the day I decided to finally check it out. It was an anxiety-provoking experience, causing me to question all of my technological abilities and wonder if I had, in fact, ever been young. How do I snap at someone? How do I snap at everyone? Didn’t Insta-stories steal this idea from them? So why do I understand Insta-stories AND NOT THIS AT ALL?
Luckily, understanding how to use Snapchat and being a cool person are not prerequisites for having a book turned into an original series!
As I began to understand Snap’s vision for Denton, alongside Insurrection Media’s—the awesome production company that made the show—I got really excited about the idea of working in this brand-new medium, short scripted content that finds teenagers where so many of them already are.
Denton Little’s Deathdate—titled for Snap as Denton’s Death Date (kind of a relief to bypass the ongoing Little’s/Little confusion)—is a darkly comedic suburban story (with a splash of sci-fi) that takes place in a world just like ours, except everyone knows the day they will die. We follow protagonist Denton as he prepares for his impending death—the same day as Senior Prom!—and realizes way too late that he may have been living his life all wrong.
Since talented TV-writer Jason Ubaldi was brought on to write the episodes, I thankfully didn’t have to do the darling-killing this time. I was an Executive Producer, though, involved in the development, casting, and overall process, and it was really fun, a definite highlight being my LA visit to the set.
As a former actor, in my fair share of extremely obscure indie films, it was breathtakingly surreal to step onto a set and realize everyone—cast, crew, director, producers, craft services, grips, PAs, other movie lingo I can’t remember—was working together to bring to life a story that came from my brain.
I feel grateful for that moment and also for the talents of director Matt Kazman and the wonderful cast, all of whom brought so much heart and humor to their roles, especially Jeremy Shada (Denton), Gustavo Gomez (Paolo), Inde Navarrette (Veronica), and Alexis Lombardi (Taryn).
All ten episodes dropped this past Saturday, and I’m delighted by how they turned out. And, in case you’re wondering (as 95% of the people I talk to about this are), the episodes will not disappear after twenty-four hours. I mean, I don’t think they will…? You should probably watch them soon just in case!
Back in 2015, I never could have predicted this adaptation for Denton, as the option literally DID NOT EXIST. And there’s something thrilling about that, about being a creative person during this time when the entertainment landscape changes before our eyes every other day. My next YA novel, Crying Laughing, comes out in November, and who knows how that one might eventually be adapted? Maybe thirty-second image-bursts uploaded directly into your brain. Terrifying. But exciting too. And I’m very glad to be on the ride.
You can catch all ten episodes of the Denton’s Death Date series on Snapchat now!