I first met author Tiffany L. Warren at a writers conference in Charlotte, North Carolina several years ago and since then she has continued to be a source of inspiration in my writing life. In fact, at one of her Faith & Fiction Retreats, that she held in Atlanta in 2010, was where I received my first book deal so I continue to support her in all of her creative endeavors which has included novels, writing retreats, stage plays and now A MOVIE based on on her novel of the same name ‘The Favorite Son,’ which will stream on on BET+ on May 6! Below is the original synopsis:
Do family, faith–and fame–go together?
They’re handsome, smart, and musically gifted. Brothers Camden and Blaine Wilson have put their talents together and founded a gospel group. The quieter one, Camden is the songwriter, while charismatic Blaine is the performer. At first, their Reverend father is against the idea–until Blaine, his favorite, wows the congregation at a church revival. Sure enough, once the reverend witnesses their effect on the crowd he wants them there every Sunday. But he may have set the stage for trouble. . .
As the group’s popularity grows, so do the groupies–and promiscuous Blaine is more than happy to share his love. Gigs across the country, meetings with music execs, a chance to sign with a major label, and a sexy new band member bring new connections–and dangerous new temptations. Soon, a slew of rumors and a shocking betrayal threaten to destroy the group–and the brothers’ relationship. But one event is going to rock their world forever. Do they have enough faith, forgiveness, and brotherly love left to find harmony once more?…
I interviewed Tiffany about how ‘The Favorite Son’ was made into a movie. If you’re an author who wants to see your book made into a movie, this is a must-read interview! Read it, and then share it!
1. Your first book “What a Sista Should Do Paperback” debuted in 2005 and how many books have you written since then and where does “The Favorite Son” fit in?
Since my first book, I’ve written over 30 books. I think about 31 or 32 books. I need to do another count. Every interviewer asks me that question, and I never have the right number. (laughter) ‘The Favorite Son’ is in the middle. Before I wrote ‘The Favorite Son,’ I wrote a lot of young adult novels so that ratcheted up the number a little bit. ‘The Favorite Son’ was my adult third book with Kensington. I had started out with Walk Worthy Press and then went to Grand Central. When I took my adult fiction to Kensington, I wrote a few faith-based titles before I switched over so ‘The Favorite Son’ is like in the middle of those.
2. Of all of the books you’ve written, how was “The Favorite Son” chosen to be made into a BET movie?
So what happened was during 2020, a lot of the movie and TV executives were not working. They were at home reviewing all of the stuff they had been emailed about so it just came along at a good time for this. Someone gave me a referral to the team that does book-to-film projects at BET, and honestly, they looked at pretty much my entire backlist. They narrowed it down to two books ‘The Favorite Son’ and ‘Chocolate Dreams’ they were interested in putting on their 2021 schedule. But the movie producer they had selected was more interested in ‘The Favorite Son’ so that’s how it happened.
They had a slot where they wanted a faith-based project, and I had a faith-based project for them. It’s not that one book is better than the other, it’s just, ‘What are we missing in our programming for the upcoming season?’ and ‘What can we get produced in a short amount of time’ because I started talking to BET in October 2019. But there was a little bit of a lull time in there, but things picked up right when COVID had us go into lockdown. The summer of 2020 was when things started really started rolling. We’re going to sign this deal. This is the production company. And they are going to be shooting the movie this year. I didn’t think it would happen that fast. They started shooting in December and finished up in January.
3. You mentioned on Facebook that a faith move which involved moving your family to Texas where you knew no one led to “The Favorite Son” becoming a movie. Please share this story!
Yes! When we moved to Dallas, Texas, which was about 2007, we didn’t know anybody. We knew we wanted to do stage plays. The first order of business after we found a place to live, a baby sitter and a job, was, ‘How we do a stage play?’ because we had done a stage play in Cleveland, Ohio. We turned my very first book ‘What a Sista Should Do’ into a stage play. We lost a lot of money, but it was so much fun. It was like the best thing we had ever done. So we were wondering, ‘How do we do this so that we either break even or even hopefully make some money from this?’ because we really enjoyed it! My husband likes the producing side, and I love the directing and writing side.
And the reason we chose to move to Dallas is because we thought stage plays could be successful there. We had narrowed it down to Dallas and Atlanta. Dallas has a huge network of gospel singers and megachurches, like Atlanta, but we felt like maybe Atlanta was over saturated even though I do have a lot of family there. But when we got to Dallas, we found out that everyone was doing stage plays there too! (laughter) My oldest child was in the third or fourth grade so she wasn’t old enough to care for the rest of her siblings so I needed a babysitter. But the serendipity of God. I just walked up to a stranger in Wal-Mart, a woman, and asked her if she knew someone who had a daycare. She just looked like she would know. She said, ‘My mom watches kids!’ I was like, ‘Oh, Wow!’ Daycare is super expensive, and we had five children. She charged us like $300 bucks a week for all five which is like unheard of. So that was God.
Also, we started making connections with people who worked on stage plays in Dallas. We used to have rehearsals at our house. And one Sunday, one of my cast members came to my house and she had a toothache. And she had a problem with one of the lines. She said something like, ‘Oh y’all are going to say that in the church?’ I remember thinking, ‘Why is this girl in my house?’ (laughter) I don’t know if she even remembers this. But I knew she didn’t feel good so I got her a blanket. I think we gave her a pain reliever. And my connection and friendship with her led to other opportunities.
So in 2019, I went to the American Black Film Festival in Miami. I found out I was going to Miami at the last minute. I was actually there for work, but whenever I travel, in my downtime, since I’m away from my family, I try to find a way to make it worth it on all fronts. I may attend a book club meeting or go to an event, and I found out about the film festival. So this actress from my stage play helped me to get into the film festival at the last minute because the tickets were sold out. And we really knew each other by then because we had served together in various capacities at The Potter’s House where Bishop T.D. Jakes is the pastor.
At that film festival, I got some advice from Roger Bobb, who used to work with Tyler Perry. He had done a session, and after the session, there was a long line of people waiting to ask him questions. Like it was wrapped around the ballroom. So I wanted to make sure I asked a short question, but I wanted it to be a strong question as well. I said, ‘I’m listening to all of these sessions, and they say that the networks are looking for book-to-film projects. I have a huge backlist. What should be my first step? Should I write scripts or should I write treatments for every book and try to get those sold?’ He said, ‘You want to write scripts for your books even if you don’t think you are good at writing scripts. You want to write scripts because the one thing that holds a lot of movie projects back is because they don’t ever get to the script phase where they have a completed script that’s good enough to be filmed.’ So I went home and started writing scripts, and I went through the process of having my scripts reviewed.
There’s a reputable website called The Black List (blcklst.com), and this a nugget for aspiring screenwriters, this website is a repository for scripts. And the scripts that are rated high are recommended to Hollywood producers. They create a list of the top 10 screenplays that are not produced so producers can take a look at them. They also offer a review service so I got my script reviewed just to see if it was good enough to start putting feelers out. The review that I got back was very promising. I got a 7 out of 10 on the very first script that I submitted which is excellent for it to have been my first script. That script is still sitting on my laptop but it gave me enough confidence to start trying to reach out to people in the industry.
Since I knew someone at BET, that actress from that stage play rehearsal from my house, I asked her if she would refer me and she did. And then it went from there. And that was the serendipity. She showed up at my house one day with a toothache, and several years later, she’s helping me get a movie deal!
4. Tell me about this cast: Rotimi as Blaine the favorite son, Jonathan McReynolds as Camden. How do you feel about this casting?
They are perfect! Rotimi is amazing! He is perfect for Blaine, and I would have never thought of him in this role. I was a ‘Power’ fan so I all I could think of is him in that show being a rat! What I liked about him in this role is that he elevated the scenes with the other actors. Johnathan McReynolds was actually my recommendation to be Camden. He’s the protagonist. In the book, they are twins, but in the movie, that’s not the case because they don’t look alike. (laughter) But they are very close brothers.
I wrote this book when I was actually singing in the choir at The Potter’s House, and we had an incredible worship leader who was such a good man. He was all about God and all about worship. So a little bit of Camden was taken from him. That spirit of, ‘I’m gonna run away from all of these women who are clearly out of pocket because I’m faithful to my wife and children.’ I love that so I wanted that character to kind of embody that purity. So Camden is the moral compass of the book. I recommended Jonathan McReynolds for this role but this is his first acting role! When I met him at the recording studio, I told him that I didn’t have anything to do with the casting except for him! God put him on my spirit because I had never even heard of him. But I was looking on YouTube, and I was like, ‘Who is this with this voice of an angel?’ So we were at the recording studio, recording one of the songs in the movie, and I told him the story of how I recommended him to BET. But of course I found out they already knew him because he’s one of the hosts for ‘Sunday Best.’ But I just kept hammering them about Jonathan McReynolds. So he said, ‘Oh, I have you to blame for this.’ (laughter) I said, ‘I will take the blame.’ And he did a tremendous job. Him and Rotimi in their scenes together were just magic. So I’m looking forward to everyone seeing it.
Tell me more about Anthony Evans Jr.’s role as Royce London?
It’s crazy because I didn’t even know that Anthony Evans Jr. was going to be in the movie until we did the table read. He’s another one who embodies that spirit of worship, and it was just a blessing that they were able to get him.
KeKe Wyatt’s role as Ivy Whitlowe?
She was just amazing! Of course, her singing is amazing. I’m so glad this movie gets to showcase so much music. I’m a huge fans of musicals. ‘The Sound of Music’ is my favorite movie. And ‘The Five Heartbeats.’ Those kind of movies I will watch over and over again.
Your book that became a stage play ‘The Replacement Wife’ is kind a twist on ‘The Sound of Music,’ right?
Yeah, I’m trying to write a movie script based on that book right now.”’
5. How did Robin Givens come on as director of the film?
Robin Givens had a relationship with the producer of the movie, Swirl Films in Atlanta. Swirl Films co-produced the movie with BET. And Robin Givens was an amazing director. She was looking for those emotional moments in every scene that she could pull out. She saw things that I didn’t even see, and I’m the one who wrote the book. She actually, and I told her this, she helped me with my screenwriting. So now, I’m trying to put those emotional moments in my scripts. I’ve come across Hollywood people who are not nice. I’m a warm and open person. I don’t network with people. I make friends. I don’t know how to work a room. That’s not authentic to me. I was just so surprised with how nice and open and giving Robin Givens was because she didn’t have to be. She could have just handed me a headset and told me to get out of her way. Even in the pre-production, she asked me my opinion about music. I felt blessed to be included at that level because every writer doesn’t get to experience that.
6. Where was the film shot?
It was shot all around Atlanta. At a couple different churches in Atlanta. One church was off of Cascade Road so some people who live over there or go to church there may recognize the church in the movie. I was only on set for two days so I wasn’t at all of the locations. (Maybe Cascade United Methodist Church) The film was done in 13 days during COVID. They had COVID testing every two days for the cast. Before I got to set, I had to quarantine and could not come on the set without a negative test result. And when people weren’t in a scene, they had to mask up, and they even had the face shields. Even the extras.
7. What is your top word of advice for authors who have book-to-film aspirations?
The same advice that was given to me. Take the time to learn about screenwriting. Take a class. Read a book. ‘Save the Cat’ by Blake Snyder is what I recommend to people wanting to learn about screenwriting. Take a stab at writing a script yourself. A producer can’t do anything with your novel until it is a script. Of course, there are a lot of movies based off of a book that the author had nothing to do with. But if you write the script, you can get paid for the script and the book rights. Why leave money on the table? If you can write a book, you can learn now to write a script. I wrote the first draft of the screenplay for ‘The Favorite Son’ but a lot has been changed, massaged and added to since then. The young lady who they brought on to edit Patricia Cuffie-Jones is great! She is a screenwriter. But writing the first draft is important. It’s important for your writing credits.
Also, educate yourself on the film business and what TV networks and streaming content producers are looking for. There are so many opportunities that were not there 10 to 15 years ago. Just because it’s not a Hollywood blockbuster doesn’t mean you can’t have a wide audience or won’t be paid quite handsomely.
If you haven’t read the book, here’s your chance to get caught up! A special movie tie-in edition of the paperback will be available soon. For more details, click HERE…
A note from Tiffany:
I hope you will support the film by hosting your own private watch party on May 6th, at 7:00pm ET, and then join our Zoom After party with cast members! Follow me on Facebook (@authortiffanylwarren) and IG (@tiffanylwarren) to find out the details. Not on social media? Join my text community by texting MOVIE to 216-868-4053 for movie exclusives. We’re going to be giving away a ton of prizes at our after party, so you don’t want to miss it!
So y’all let’s support Tiffany & “The Favorite Son” on BET+ on May 6!