Books into Movies pt 2 [ Memoir Writing Series}

Following on from yesterday’s post, based on lecture notes from Dan Watanabe, I was looking at the process of adaptation from book to screen and this idea that you either come from the Selznick line of thought and adhere accurately to the book or you capture only the essence and make significant changes which is the Hitchcock way.

Both of these methods have created hugely successful box office successes and both have equally created films that ‘bombed’.

While many think the book is generally better, some films have literally delved into the core of a book that was a best-seller and enhanced it in the film and Dan cites Rosemary’s Baby as a good example. The movie was directed by Roman Polanski.

There is always a challenge when a book is based on more of an internal monologue since the screen adaptation now needs to turn this into ACTION.

But it is still possible to capture the paranoia in this book and translate it to the screen. To work, the audience must also feel the paranoia.  As such some great movies like Rosemary’s Baby have become iconic, so much so that they overshadow any subsequent remakes.

To return to the point that often the more literary novel does not translate to the screen, it is noteworthy that often the great movies are made from the not so great books (and this includes best-sellers) and Dan cites Jaws as a good example of this.

What was interesting was thinking about Harry Potter which while remaining faithful to the book, did not necessarily capture the spirit — why is that? Dan claims that the books conveyed a sense of vulnerability in the characters, not having self-confidence which is part of the characters’ journeys, in particular Harry. In the books there is a sense of being ‘less than’ and not being capable, and the journey is part of overcoming this. The movies (the earlier ones in particular) are more about story and special effects, whereas Dan claims, the book is more about feeling like the loser and coming to the realisation that you are not. Interesting. What do you think? Have you even thought about it in this way I wonder?

So, let’s say you want to make a movie, right… identify the buyer of the best-selling book, and try to appeal to those readers. Try to capture the spirit of the book in the same way, but always be mindful that when working in a different medium the story telling will change.

And there endeth Thursday’s insights.

Tomorrow something completely different. So different, even I don’t know what it is yet!

From Movies to Books



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