From Oscar-feted films such as The Last King Of Scotland and Notes On A Scandal to the new wave of fantasy films led by Eragon, book adaptations are scoring at the global box office and reaping critical acclaim. The literary option market is showing no sign of deflation, with producers hungry for the right material.
In the UK, Film4 has perhaps been busiest, with some of the hottest novels of the past 12 months on its slate: Zadie Smith's Orange Prize-winning campus novel On Beauty, Lionel Shriver's emotional drama The Post-Birthday World, Steven Hall's ambitious textual tale The Raw Shark Texts, and Tom McCarthy's taut psychiatric thriller Remainder.
Film4's head of development Katherine Butler says books offer a 'leg-up' to producers: 'You have the material in your hand, can send it out to directors and talent, and build something that looks like a film very quickly. Book projects can move faster.'
Her view is echoed in the US by Nick Harris of Los Angeles agency Rabineau, Wachter, Sanford & Harris (Rwsh). 'Books-to-film is definitely as strong as ever,' he says. 'As an agency, our three big films last year were all adaptations - The Last King Of Scotland (which Harris handled when he was at AP Watt), Little Children and The Prestige.'
Harris recently sold the rediscovered Second World War masterpiece Suite Francaise to Kathleen Kennedy of the Kennedy Marshall Company, as well as the Princess Diana conspiracy thriller The Accident Man to John Goldwyn/Paramount. 'Producers want either high-concept genre fiction, or non-fiction with a very strong story,' he says.
The blurring of boundaries between film and television projects has also meant an increase in interest from TV producers looking for high-profile material. 'TV appears to be trying to catch up with film,' says Roz Kidd, head of development at SMG Productions in Glasgow. 'Film directors are working on TV films, and projects that start for TV are being picked up by film companies.'
At the Blake Friedmann Agency in London, film specialist Julian Friedmann says he is looking for writers who can work across books and scripts. 'Entertainment industries are coming closer and closer together - we all need each other. Versatile writers don't have to re-invent the wheel,' he says.
Some other agents believe the market has been less frenzied since the start of 2007. Lucinda Prain of the William Morris Agency in London says the big Hollywood players are busily developing previously optioned projects: 'People have been looking to solidify their slates.'
Sole agent Lucy Luck has just sold Ewan Morrison's debut novel Swung, about a Glasgow couple who experiment sexually in an attempt to save their relationship, to Gillian Berrie and director David Mackenzie's Glasgow-based Sigma Films. Mackenzie's Hallam Foe, a literary adaptation starring Jamie Bell, premiered at the Berlinale.
'It's interesting how difficult a market it is,' Luck says. 'Everyone is looking for the next hot property, but it takes so many parts to commit to make a film adaptation work, and the work involved is considerable.' She counsels caution: 'If an option is offered without a decent package then it's unlikely the project will get far.'