Monday, July 12, 2010


Among the stress and joy of adapting to the life that grows forward around me, I suddenly feel the need to adapt a book into a screenplay.

Okay, maybe the feeling did not occur so suddenly, but it has suddenly become apparent to me. I think a combination of things has led me to this conclusion. For starters, I've watched Pride and Prejudice, the 2005 version with Keira Knightly and Matthew MacFadyen, twice through in the past week (once with the commentary). I really like how it was filmed. It's full of beautiful one-shot scenes and great music. And, of course, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite books.

I've also been reading The Blind Side by Michael Lewis, after having watched the movie. It has surprised me with how much football background the author uses (two whole chapters to start), because the movie seems to target a completely different (more feminine?) audience than the book. I'm not finished with it though, so I can't judge it in it's entirety yet.

Another chunk of my time lately has been spent reading Screenwriters on Screenwriting by Joel Engel. In Engel's conversations with Ted Tally (writer of screeplay adaptations for Silence of the Lambs and All the Pretty Horses), the two talk about why book adaptations can be useful in gaining an audience with film producers.

Tally says:
"Somebody already published this book, so it must have something -- at least, that's what they figure. Even if they haven't read it, they assume there must be something to it; there are at least existing stories and characters. I think the vision of the original writer gets monkeyed with less; therefore, an adaptation is more likely to be made than an original script."

If you are an avid reader, your mind is probably screaming "Why? The book is always better!", which is an honest reaction to many movies. However, I urge to to rethink the way you look at the two. Books and movies are two completely different mediums. Trying to make them look exactly the same is like an artist trying to carve a sculpture using paintbrushes. You have to use different tools to make a movie than you do to write a book.

The simple truth is, adapting a novel is a great skill to hone for a screenwriter. At the least, it's great practice, because it takes some of the pressure off from having to create a story and characters. You just have to figure out how to put them on the screen. I really enjoy coming up with stories "from scratch", but the process of adaptation seems to be a wonderful way to test my technical screenwriting skills.

As of today, I'm halfway through writing a short film (a funny peice currently titled "Strike Me Now"), and I have about five scenes of a feature length written, too (and the rest mapped out in paragraphs and outlines). There are other stories floating around, somewhere between my brain and my computer, that need to be developed more, too. But, now that I've come to the conclusion that I'd like to try my hand at adapting a novel, I need to figure out which book I want to study for a few months.

I'd like something new, geared toward young adults or teens, but not having anything to do with vampires. Actually, a simple but realistic tale of life on Earth would be great. Any suggestions?

The one that I'm thinking of doing is a book by Melody Carlson called Just Another Girl. It's a 224 page young adult novel. I read it several months back, to get a feel for the genre. The official description on is below:

Aster Flynn is stuck. She has to spend all of her "free" time with her younger sister, Lily, who, though fifteen, is mentally handicapped. At age seventeen, Aster should be hanging out with friends, dating boys, and working at a fun job. But her dad's MIA, her mom is always at work, and her older sister Rose is too self-centered to give her any help. It's not that Aster doesn't love Lily--it's just that for once she'd like to be able to be a normal teenager. So when a cute popular guy seems to take an interest in her, Aster hatches a plan. Somehow she has to get her workaholic mom and deadbeat dad to be the parents Lily needs so that Aster can have a life of her own. But can she ever get her parents to start acting like adults? Is this new guy worth the trouble? And, most importantly, will Lily get hurt in the process? With its real-life characters and struggles, Just Another Girl will immediately draw teen girls in. Author Melody Carlson knows how to write to girls just where they are.

What do you think? Should I go for "Just Another Girl"? Or, have you read any other books lately that you think would make a great movie? I'd love to hear some feedback!

1 comment:

  1. This isn't for young girls, but would make a great movie: Treason by Don Brown. Another interesting book that might translate well into a movie is Rooms by James L. Rubart.