"I happened to have a copy of 'Austenland' in my car, which is really weird because I never carry my books around," Hale said. "But I wanted to give her something because she paid for lunch, and so I thought, 'Oh well hey, here is this book.' It never crossed my mind that she was going to want to make it into a movie because it wasn't like anything she had done before."
Hess returned to her home and read the entire novel overnight and eventually called Hale expressing her desire to make the book into a movie.
They began writing the screenplay together. The two worked together off and on for a couple of years.
"We would just sit in a room and pitch lines at each other, and if it made the other person laugh, we would write it down," Hale said. "Working with a veteran screenwriter was so educating for me. We had a blast."
The change of scene was exciting and new for Hess as well, who usually writes screenplays with her husband.
"It was so fun," Hess said. "I'm used to writing with Jared and it gets very close. You can't just escape after you've had a disagreement; you have to actually go home with that person. So it was really fun to have a new sensibility, and she knows her craft so well. It was lovely."
Once the screening is over, both Hale and Hess will hope that "Austenland" is bought and distributed. As for the future, Hale's secret wish is for the sequel, "Midnight in Austenland," to also be adapted to the screen. But for now, she is enjoying the moment.
"I would love to do this all over again. I had so much fun," Hale said. "It's exciting because you make something, first the book and then writing the screenplay, and then you spend a year making the movie, and so after all that work you just hope that it will get a chance to get out there and be seen. So to have it so hugely embraced by Sundance and the people attending Sundance — it just seems like such a gift."
Sarah Sanders Petersen is an intern for the Deseret News, where she writes for Mormon Times and does other feature articles. She is a communications major and editing minor from Brigham Young University.
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