From page to screen

Evison’s ‘Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving’ becomes ‘Fundamentals of Caring’ with Paul Rudd

Jonathan Evison

Jonathan Evison

It’s been a few years since author Jonathan Evison finished writing “The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving” but now new and old fans have access to his work in a new medium.

In late June, Netflix began showing writer/director Rob Burnett’s adaptation of Evison’s 2012 novel under the shortened “The Fundamentals of Caring.”

“It’s the new distribution model,” Evison said.

“Now it’s in (150-plus countries) and (encroaching 100 million people). This way, an independent film has way more chances to get eyes on it.”

For writing, Evison splits his time between Sequim and Bainbridge Island with his latest work “This is Your Life, Harriett Chance!” coming out last year through Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. It has a familiar setting for locals as it centers on a 70-plus-year old woman living in Carlsborg.

Evison admittedly is more of a book guy than film connoisseur saying, “I love films but not too many have changed my life.”

Netflix bought the film rights to the “Fundamentals” film about a month before its debut at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year in Utah, Evison said,

Both the film and novel follow Ben, a grieving father, who becomes a caregiver for Trevor, a young man with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Evison writes that “Ben Benjamin is a character who has lost virtually everything — his wife, his family, his home, his livelihood. Broken, stripped down, stricken and without hope, Ben is a shadow of his old self.”


Paul Rudd stars as Ben and Craig Roberts as Trevor in the film, with Selena Gomez co-starring.

Evison said he didn’t have nor want want involvement with the adaptation so as to give Burnett more control. Most of his input for the film was for Burnett seeking characters’ motivation, Evison said, while on set it was more about actual caregiving, which he did at one point for a living.

“I had to introduce him to the things the characters were based on,” Evison said.

“I’d show Paul how to lift him and this is how we brush teeth. We’d go through the daily things. It was more reality based.”

“Fundamentals” diverges from the book as most films do from the source material focusing more on a road trip and less on the day-to-day ritual and Ben’s backstory.

But Evison, who saw it twice at Sundance, says the movie was a lot of fun.

“(Burnett) treated the book with a lot of respect,” Evison said. “He departed some. Certain characters changed. It was more of a road movie. But I had a good experience the first time I saw it. It was funny. Touching.”

Fans let him know there was some anticipation out there with book clubs gathering to watch, which he says “is almost better than a theater.”

Evison held off from an advance viewing online after promising Burnett he’d wait for the premiere.

But the author admits he doesn’t have Netflix or cable for that matter.

Evison has watched it online though with a friend who has a subscription.

“I wanted the experience of watching on a computer,” he said.

Seeing his work adapted has created some first-time experiences including seeing the film “take-over” IMDB, the Internet Movie Database, and big promotion.

“I was stuck in traffic in LA, and I look over and see a giant billboard with the movie,” he said.

“Thousands of people were crawling through traffic seeing this. I was thinking they really promoted it.”

From screen to book

As the movie comes up to a month after its release, Evison said it’s hard to tell so soon if readers are picking up “Fundamentals” and his other works.

His most recent trek though was for pleasure down south with family to sites like Legoland. But writers always are working in some regard.

Evison said he’s always listening/looking for interesting conversations or instances. He jokes with friends sometimes wearing a shirt that reads “Careful, you might end up in my novel.”

His next book is done — “Mike Munoz Saves the World” with a release date coming soon, he said.

He’s working on something new for him as a follow-up, a “creepy, playful, dark noir about a small-town sheriff.”

It’s been finished twice and thrown away twice, he said.

Evison was struck with an epiphany while in his garage writing notes and searched for an old draft he sent to his agent. He didn’t like the draft and reworked it.

“I realized, I’m in total control. I just know it so well now,” he said.

Through the summer, Evison continues to write and will teach a workshop at Centrum in Port Townsend next week. For more information on the writing conference, visit Find Evison’s books at local retailers and online.


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