When it comes to film adaptations, I love to read the book first to get a feel for the original vision, then go see how closely the screenwriter either stuck to it, or if they at least nailed the vibe. Man, when those two things hit....music, baby.
I was a freshman in college when I saw the first trailer for Peter Jackson's film adaptation of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Lost my friggin' mind, yo. He rocked that entire trilogy and even with the extended 3+ hour director's cuts, I wanted more of Middle Earth.
...and then we have the, erm, blatant expoloit--I mean, Hobbit trilogy. What the heck? That didn't need to be three movies, dude, as clearly evidenced by this good ol' animated Rankin Bass version. **To be fair though, I'm still grateful for a) This incredible scene of the dwarves singing Misty Mountains Cold, b) Martin Freeman rocking the Bilbo role, and c) All of The Cumberbatch.
We all have that friend who insists the book was better than the movie. (And, let's be honest, I'm probably that guy). So what gives? Why does it seem so difficult for Hollyweird to get it right more often than not?
'Cause it's harder than it looks, friends.
Full disclosure: I'm a bit biased on this because I started writing screenplays before switching to novels. At the time, I thought screenplays would be easier for their simplistic descriptions of action and setting rather than scripting pretty prose for paragraph after paragraph.
The truth is, writing a screenplay is just as difficult, possibly moreso for adaptations due to the pressure of fan expectation involved. Would you really want to be the guy responsible for screwing up one of the Harry Potter adaptations?
We all have our favorite scenes in books we read and pray the screenwriter/studio includes it in the final product. The art is in the choosing.
The wise and glorious editor of all my novels, Annetta Ribken, has often told me how flash fiction is a fantastic training ground for authors. Bound by such a limited word count, you have to make each and every word matter to get your story across. There's some debate about attribution for arguably the most famous short story ever, but most give credit to Hemingway for this six word story:
For sale: Infant shoes. Never worn.
Sure you could feature an entire movie or book around that concept, but those six words boil it all down to everything we need to know.
That's really the point of this post - there's always a way to whittle story down.
For film, it's basically required. Something I've been relearning all over again these past couple weeks.
That's right...I'm writing a screenplay. Adapting, really. Two of them - The Grave of Lainey Grace, and Salem's Vengeance.
I recently learned about the Academy Nicholl Fellowship screenwriting competition, which a friend suggested I should submit to. Most of you reading this will know that I've been editing the third book in my Salted series, Salt Away, recently, and that I like to jump around with projects to keep fresh perspective. This screenwriting competition has provided me that time frame, so I can start back in on Salt Away this week. Granted, my chance at winning one of the five fellowships offered annually are around 0.000714%, but you miss 100% of the shots you don't take, right?
The point is that in these adaptations, I've found a fantastic challenge that's reenergized me, and I would pass it on to other novelists and aspiring writers. If you have any interest in screenwriting, do this: take your novel (and/or a book that you love for practice) and adapt it into a screenplay while forcing yourself to deliver a cutoff mark of 120 pages (or the equivalent of a 2-hour movie). Better yet, see if you can get it down to 90-100 pages.
Sounds easy, right?
It ain't...but it's fun.
Author. Actor. Rascal.