View Full Version : Writing a screenplay from a book
July 2nd, 2007, 06:27 PM
Have you ever seen a film based off of a book and thought, "I could have written a better screenplay adaptation than that"?
I know it's not a traditional novel, but during Spider-Man 3, I couldn't help but think of different ways to have adapted the Venom plot & kept it in sync with the other films.
Jeremy Leven wrote an article (http://www.movingpicturesmagazine.com/featuredarticles/themedarticle/easyaspi) for Moving Pictures Magazine that really is an eye-opener. This should be required reading for screenwriters. At least, it helped me a lot. Hope it helps some of you out there, too.
Article (if the link is broken):
July 2nd, 2007, 09:01 PM
I have no real plans to go into screenwriting, but the author's take is interesting.
Comic books are easier to adapt than novels, I would think. Already in visual form, the text primarily dialog with some narration tossed in. While you'd have to put a little extra work into forming the script, you basically have your storyboard right there. (However, scarcely any adaptation tries to be quite that faithful to the original.)
By the way he talks about things, though, I don't know if he was just oversimplifying for the sake of the reader or if his views of what works in film are that narrow. If it's the latter, I take his commentary with a grain of salt.
July 2nd, 2007, 10:36 PM
Oh, there are adaptations faithful to the originals, all right. 300 and Sin City from comix and you don't need to know the comics to see the splash pages on screen.
Harry Potter an excellent job of presenting the book as imagined. Narnia as well.
A novel is just to long to make a cozy screenplay, is generally the case. LOTS of films from short stories work really well. (Especially if they're by Phillip Dick :-) Comics are also the same "size" as film and do well. Books for children, like Wizard of Oz or Black Beauty, same deal because they are longer, but have less content to be brought across.
July 4th, 2007, 05:14 PM
Hmm, I would argue that most of the Harry Potter movies were mediocre adaptations. They cut a lot of character development in order to make room for longer Quidditch scenes.
I usually feel as if I could write better adaptations than what I see on screen. :o One of my ambitions in life is to become a screenwriter. But I don't believe every single adaptation is awful. Like Lin said, the 300 was great. I think Frank Darabount did a good job with The Shawshank Redemption, and I hope to see a good version of The Golden Compass on screen this November. There's a few other movies I would hold up as good adaptations. Interview With a Vampire, Apt Pupil, Jurassic Park, Silence of the Lambs. Most recently, they did a decent job with King's short story 1408.
But the list of bad adaptions is a looooong one.
If I was a major screenwriter, things would be different! :)
July 4th, 2007, 11:53 PM
No they wouldn't. Most novels are adapted by major screenwriters.
For major producers with major investors.
July 5th, 2007, 02:09 PM
Oh, come now. I meant that I would do a much better job than the average Hollywood screenwriter. At least, I like to think that I would!
I'd at least like a half million $ budget to find out ... but while I'm at it, I may as well wish for Tor Books editors or a major literary agent to read my novel manuscripts.
July 5th, 2007, 04:47 PM
You miss the point. Why would you get your way when talented professionals don't?
July 5th, 2007, 07:46 PM
I don't think it's necessarily true that major screenwriters don't get their way in Hollywood. It's true to some extent. It's certainly true for smaller names in the industry. Some films have as many as 30 screenwriters in the mix, and it's true that studio execs have been known to override screenwriters and make dumb decisions.
But some screenwriters have a lot of power. Terry Rossio & Ted Elliot. M. Night Shyamalan. Charlie Kaufman. There are a few screenwriters who really do get their way in the film industry. As long as I'm speaking hypothetically of being among their number, I'm talking about this type of screenwriter ... the type that are Hollywood gold, so to speak.
July 5th, 2007, 08:40 PM
And what makes you think you'd be Hollywood gold? Maybe you've got the chops for it, but is anyone going to recognize your ability?
If you want power, you'd better have the director's hat (or at least his ear). It's telling that you use M. Night Shyamalan as one of your examples. Note that he isn't just the writer of his films. He's also the director and, in most cases, one of the producers, too. If you want power over a film, you better aim for one of the power roles. You want to see how much power a writer has? Take a look at some of the shooting scripts of your favorite movies. Very few are identical to what you see on the screen (even when the writer is also the director). You may write a terribly faithful adaptation, but who says that's going to be the finished product? You can rant and rave, threaten to sue, try to block the movie, but chances are, you won't accomplish what you set out to do.
By all means, if you've got stars in your eyes, give it all you've got. However, the odds are stacked against you, even more so than playing the traditional publising market. At least there, what's yours is yours and not likely to see much alteration. The movie biz isn't nearly so considerate to the writers. That's how it is and it's not likely to change.
July 5th, 2007, 09:10 PM
Believe it or not, my eyes are already opened to reality. I live in L.A. & work in the industry.
All of my posts were hypothetical ... aka, fantasizing. I don't have the sort of power it takes to get movies made. I can only hope I will, someday.
BTW, Brad Bird's script for "The Incredibles" is remarkable accurate to what you see on screen. It's word for word.
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