Sea Change was released into the world in 2009, and now, television viewers can watch it on Lifetime! Below, the New York Times bestselling author of Sea Change, Aimee Friedman, shares what it's like having her book made into a movie! Be sure to scroll down to see some of Aimee's photos from her time on the set! (Click here to read a conversation between Aimee and one of the screenplay writers, Liz Scudlow.)
As an author, it’s always fun to dream about your book being adapted for film or TV. You never think it’s actually going to happen. But in the case of my novel, Sea Change, it did! And I’m still pinching myself.
I wrote Sea Change back in 2009, inspired by a lifelong love of all things ocean and mermaid. (The initial seed of the idea was a gender-swapped version of “The Little Mermaid.”). The book is about Miranda, a level-headed girl who comes to a place called Selkie Island. The island is rife with legends of sea creatures. Miranda doesn’t believe any of it . . . until she meets a handsome local boy named Leo, who MAY be connected to these legends himself.
Shortly after the book was published, I got an email from a producer who wanted to option the book. He saw it having the potential to be something like a “supernatural Dawson’s Creek.” I was thrilled. After hiring a lawyer to review the contract, I happily signed the option agreement. Then I waited...and waited. And waited some more. That producer and his partner teamed up with more producers, and pitched the idea around Hollywood, and got lots of polite passes. Years passed. The option was renewed. More time passed. The producers stuck with the idea, and called me with occasional updates, but there was no real movement. My hope began to wane. I got busy working on a new novel (Two Summers, which came out last year).
And then...in the spring of 2016, I received a life-changing phone call. The producers had teamed up with the TV network, Lifetime, and they were going to start filming Sea Change that summer in Nova Scotia! Oh, and did I want to come visit the set? “Yes, yes I do!” I replied once I’d regained the power of speech.
In a haze of joy and disbelief, I flew up to Halifax, clutching copies of Sea Change that I’d signed for the cast and crew. Arriving on set was truly magical. There it was—my fictional Selkie Island, come to life: the fog and beaches and ferryboats. And there were the characters I’d dreamed up, all those years ago, at my desk. When I met Emily Rudd, the actress playing Miranda, I basically burst into tears; she was exactly as I’d pictured Miranda in my head. And I felt the same way when meeting Skyler Maxon, who plays Leo. The whole cast was perfect. And there was the crew, bustling around, talking into head-sets about these characters: who needed to be in makeup, whose turn it was to film. Few things feel more surreal than seeing the recreation of a world that up until then, has only existed for you on the page.
Of course, a lot of material from the book was changed. For instance, in the book, Selkie Island is off the coast of Georgia, but in the movie, it’s off the coast of Maine. (Which works perfectly with the Nova Scotia backdrop). There are also some additional supernatural elements in the movie that are not there in the book (no spoilers!). I totally understood and welcomed these changes. Film/TV is a wholly different medium, and many aspects often need to be altered to fit better. While the book will always be my baby, the movie version belongs to the brilliant people who worked together to create it, and I trust their vision completely.
I was lucky in that the cast and crew couldn’t have been kinder or more welcoming. They set me up with a pair of headphones and my own chair in “video village” (where the director and the cinematographer, along with producers and screenwriter, sit and watch the filming on small screens). It was fascinating to get a crash course in filmmaking. I saw firsthand the huge amount of work it takes, and just how many people come together—from the actors to the director to the assistant directors to the producers to the folks driving the golf carts on set —to create two awesome hours of television. It was also amazing to see how decisions were made on the fly; how bits of the script got rewritten in minutes in order to accommodate time or weather conditions. Everyone was a total pro, and remained in good spirits throughout. I just sat back and tried to soak it all in, so grateful to be allowed this peak behind the curtain.
On my last night there, I joined the cast and crew out for a festive dinner. One of the producers gave us all T-shirts that said Selkie Island on the front. What an amazing gift—and memento.
I wore that T-shirt this past Sunday night, when the “Sea Change” movie premiered on Lifetime. It was an epic and emotional evening, especially when the words “Based on the novel by Aimee Friedman” appeared on the screen! I loved watching the movie in its entirety—recognizing scenes that were similar to the book, admiring others that went in new directions. And it was also awesome to see positive feedback pour in over email and all over social media.
It’s so meaningful that Sea Change has found this new life, after a long journey from page to screen. It’s a good reminder to have patience, faith, and to believe in, if not mermaids, at least magic.