What’s the Future for Film Adaptations in Hollywood?

12 Sep

4th article in our 7- week series on Film Studios Marketing Tactics

What’s the Future for Film Adaptations in Hollywood? We’ve heard it before, “the film isn’t as good as the book.” What do novelists think about film adaptations? What are some of the opposing views? Some novelists prefer a hand off approach while others like to be more involved in the process. In this article we will look at which one is most effective in producing a successful film. Plus what does the future hold for film adaptations in this economy?

This year a number of books were adapted into screenplays.  They include Cosmopolis, Cloud Atlas, Les Miserable’s, The Hobbit, Life of Pi and The Great Gatsby.  How do screenwriters and directors prepare when adapting a novel? Some screenwriters read a book once and never refer to it again, while others take the source material very seriously.[1]  According to an article entitled Adapt This, it states:

“… For every instance in which a rough, indifferent attitude (or the pretense of one) toward the source material resulted in a successful film, there are plenty of others in which the screenwriter and/or director took the original very seriously, such as Nelson Pereira dos Santos, who used the pages of Graciliano Ramos’s novel as the shooting script for his beautiful Barren Lives (1963).”

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child have written 11 novels together. The book The Relic was adapted in 1997 and a New York Times Bestseller. They find the idea of adapting their own novels is boring. However, the film The Relic had four different screenwriters when it was over. It grossed 34 million domestic at the box office and was in theaters for 6 weeks.[2] Here’s an excerpt from an interview asking Preston and Child what they think of screenwriting.

We rarely, if ever, discuss ahead of time the cinematic aspects of a novel we’re writing. Fiction and film are different: Novels written for the movies are often lousy works of fiction, just as movies that slavishly adhere to the written word are often lousy movies. But when I write, I pre-visualize every scene down to the last detail, which may give my writing a cinematic quality.”[3]

Preston goes on to mention,

Neither Linc nor I had any experience writing screenplays, nor did we have the desire. Writing a screenplay of a novel we’d already written would be boring—like writing the novel over again.”

What’s the future of film adaptations? Today film studios find it safer to adapt then invest in original screenplays even though it’s more expensive to buy a novel due to there underlying rights to a book according to article Adapt or Die? By Carl Wilkinson. Producer Tim Bevan states.

“Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Bevan says that investors will always look at the whole package – script, actors and director. But a novel gives them a bit of confidence. “They feel, ‘Oh yeah, that’s safe because it’s worked before,’ which is not the most imaginative way to go and may well be a fault of cinema today,” he says.”[4]

The truth is investors like adaptations because they make money and audiences like them because a novel offer a greater depth of characterization. But on the flip side, if one genre and story is a hit then filmmakers will make multiple films like it. According to Adapt or Die? It states,

The success of Harry Potter led to a scramble for “the next Harry Potter” – that turned out to be Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. With that multi-million dollar franchise now at a close “the next Twilight” (or “the next-next Harry Potter”) is Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games.”

Is honoring the source material the key to a successful film adaptation? True, there is a ton of pressure from fans and studios to mirror the source material as much as possible. However, the fact is it takes an amazing screenwriter to visualize and enhance certain plot points without thinning out the story.[5] Can a filmmaker please both the reader and film audience of a popular book? Should a reader complain if the filmmaker did not give them something new if they want a film to mirror the book exactly?

See also: To Market, To Market We Go: Film Franchise Campaign Strategies

Please join us for a discussion Thursday 9/13/2012 @7pmE/12UTC

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48 Responses to “What’s the Future for Film Adaptations in Hollywood?”

  1. Comic Relief September 12, 2012 at 3:39 PM #

    “They feel, ‘Oh yeah, that’s safe because it’s worked before,’ which is not the most imaginative way to go and may well be a fault of cinema today,” he says.”

    Great article OB! You have brought up a topic that I believe many simplify. By discussing the topic you give us an opportunity to look at the many reasons film adaptations have a history of success and failure in feature filmmaking.

    Can’t wait for the discussion.

    • Open Book September 12, 2012 at 6:55 PM #

      Thanks CR!

      What makes a good film adaptation to u?

      • Comic Relief September 13, 2012 at 8:42 AM #

        If it is good, I think like others I want the original material to be respected.

        My novel reading history, isn’t nearly as good as I would like it to be yet I have read all of these books in the past and appreciated the movies adapted from them as well.

        • Wuthering Heights
        • The Grapes of Wrath
        • A Streetcar Named Desire

        • Comic Relief September 13, 2012 at 8:43 AM #

          Special thanks to Wikipedia.

          • Open Book September 13, 2012 at 7:01 PM #

            hahahaha! Wiki is great.

  2. Comic Relief September 13, 2012 at 10:16 AM #

    OB,

    Here is a question for you. Why can’t audience members accept that an adaptation is a new creation?

    • Open Book September 13, 2012 at 7:07 PM #

      Well if the book is really popular u have more people stirring the pot to replicate the novel exactly. I think if a book is really detailed it makes it hard for audiences to accept any surprises. But this is just my feeling. Anyone can weigh in as well.

      • ozzie20 September 13, 2012 at 8:20 PM #

        For me, I think knowing whether it was a “word for word” adaptation or a loose adaptation would help to know what to expect. I’m not sure how or even if that is at all possible, lol!

        • Open Book September 13, 2012 at 8:29 PM #

          That’s a good idea Ozzie. I think it’s possible to articulate that when promoting the film. They did that for Cosmopolis and it worked well.

          • ozzie20 September 13, 2012 at 9:29 PM #

            I’m so glad you understood what I meant! I feel like everything I have said tonight is complete gibberish, lol!

  3. Comic Relief September 13, 2012 at 10:16 AM #

    OB,

    Here is another question for you. Why can’t audience members accept that principle actors drastically change our reception of literature in a dramatic context?

    • Open Book September 13, 2012 at 7:18 PM #

      Not everyone who sees a film adaptation has read the book before hand. I think its more likely that a person will read the book after seeing the film. Anyway, I think its important that a screenwriter captures the essence of the book while giving audiences an enhanced visual experience that surprises them.

      • Open Book September 13, 2012 at 7:23 PM #

        Ooops! This answer was for the question below.

  4. Comic Relief September 13, 2012 at 10:17 AM #

    OB,

    In terms of questions here’s one more. Doesn’t the audience’s response to literature impact the quality of our (including the author) respect for the original work of art?

  5. Comic Relief September 13, 2012 at 2:45 PM #

    I’m not trying to exhaust you. Since you haven’t answered me yet I hope you don’t mind if I open more questions up to others. I’m extremely interested in the topic though I now know I may not be able to make to the discussion? I will read and ask questions later regardless.

  6. Comic Relief September 13, 2012 at 2:46 PM #

    OB (or anyone else),

    Recently you have said some books are too good to adapt? What exactly does that mean? You said that about “The Bronze Horseman.”

  7. Comic Relief September 13, 2012 at 2:47 PM #

    OB (or anyone else),

    I know you think this is important, yet I have to ask? Is there a criterion for a book to be good enough to make an adaptation from? What in terms of character, narrative, plot or conclusion distinguishes a book that would make an adaptation from and those that are not.

    • Open Book September 13, 2012 at 7:31 PM #

      I would say a book that is dense but not long and has cinematic properties written into its narrative. A novel that takes u 10 hours to read can pose a problem in that it’s difficult to condense it down to a 1hour and 40 min. film and maintain its essence.

  8. Comic Relief September 13, 2012 at 2:48 PM #

    OB (or anyone else),

    Is there a criterion for book adaptations that you personally prefer?
    o Black list winners?
    o New York Times best seller?
    o Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award winner
    o Balint Balassi Memorial Sword Award winners
    o The Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year winners
    o Candide Preis winners

  9. Open Book September 13, 2012 at 7:00 PM #

    Hi Everyone,

    Welcome to our discussion tonight!

  10. parisienne September 13, 2012 at 7:05 PM #

    Hi Everyone!

    OB,

    Awesome article! I think CR asked all the questions I was thinking. LOL!

    • Open Book September 13, 2012 at 7:09 PM #

      Hi,

      LOL!! I have a question for u?

      What makes a good film adaptation to u? Everyone can chime in on this question.

  11. parisienne September 13, 2012 at 7:15 PM #

    A good film adaption, IMO, allows me to feel the same exact emotions I felt when I read the book. Those emotions should translate to the screen if its done correctly.

    • Open Book September 13, 2012 at 7:21 PM #

      Some would argue everyone experiences different emotions from a book and therefore its hard to satisfy everyone. In this case is it better to listen to fans of the book or trust the filmmakers vision?

      • parisienne September 13, 2012 at 7:32 PM #

        IMO, a little of both but don’t let one get more say then the other. The fans are the ones who are more emotionally connected anyway. The film maker while being emotionally connected to see the entire thing in a bigger picture so they don’t necessarily have such a deep emotional investment. I hope that makes sense.

        • Open Book September 13, 2012 at 7:38 PM #

          Yes, it makes perfect sense. Do u think fans of the book are likely to agree on what’s appealing about a popular novel. Some identify more with the characters while others are into the plots and sub plots. How can a filmmaker please mixed audiences?

          • parisienne September 13, 2012 at 7:56 PM #

            Take Twilight for example, while it sometimes is visually appealing. People connected with Edward and Bella through the books first and foremost. Then came the movies, the connections that were in the book did not translate to the film at all, IMO. So the screenwriter and film makers had to figure out other ways for the audience to connect. Wether that be through the music, the location, the CGI. It has fallen flat in the emotional content so they had to create “false content” (Robsten) to boost the film emotionally.

            • Open Book September 13, 2012 at 8:06 PM #

              Do u think emotional content is easier to translate in adult films then in films for young adults? Do u think Twilight had more adult themes in the book that was not marketable for PG-13 audiences?

              • parisienne September 13, 2012 at 8:13 PM #

                OB,

                When you say “Adult Films” my mind goes some place different. LOL!!!!!!!!!!!

                As far as the themes of Twilight, I don’t think that it was marketed for adults and I don’t think that it was marketed for teens either. I think it was marketed purely on a ficitional standpoint and when they saw the kind of turn out they had and what they had to work with in terms of a fan base that is what they marketed.

                • Open Book September 13, 2012 at 8:20 PM #

                  Ooops! Sorry, I guess I should retract that and say rated R. Hahaha!

                  I really think the books are dealing with heavier issues then it recognized and weren’t prepared for. It’s true the entire marketing campaign was all over the place so they pushed whatever they could.

  12. Open Book September 13, 2012 at 7:44 PM #

    Do u think a character written in the novel as one ethnic origin should be changed in the film adaptation? Do u think a characters essence would be drastically different if the ethnicity is changed?

    • parisienne September 13, 2012 at 7:51 PM #

      No, I don’t think that ethnicities should be changed. That in essence is telling people that they are not good enough as they are.

      • Open Book September 13, 2012 at 7:59 PM #

        o.k. so u probably know where I’m going with this. In the Hunger Games fans of the book were unhappy about AA characters. What are your thoughts?

        http://thegrio.com/2012/03/26/hunger-games-react-negatively-to-black-characters/

        • parisienne September 13, 2012 at 8:15 PM #

          Seriously what is the deal with AA characters in a film? The color of one’s skin should not be taken in to consideration in any matter. What should be taken into consideration is how the African American community is still viewed in the present.

          • Open Book September 13, 2012 at 8:34 PM #

            What I can’t understand is how it’s acceptable in the book to have Katnis be of olive complexion yet in the film fans are in an uproar. IMO I think the people who were upset did not read the book. Otherwise, the book would not have become popular.

            • ozzie20 September 13, 2012 at 8:46 PM #

              I think you are very correct there OB!

          • ozzie20 September 13, 2012 at 8:36 PM #

            I was reading the boards over at IMBD for Catching Fire, the next book and film, and saw someone complaining about the lack of different races cast. This was when casting had only just started!

            • Open Book September 13, 2012 at 8:39 PM #

              How long ago was that? Did they cast for all the films all at one time?

              • ozzie20 September 13, 2012 at 9:13 PM #

                This was right at the beginning of casting when basically all we knew were that the actors for HG were coming back to film CF. The other roles (new characters introduced in CF) hadn’t been cast yet. I was like give them chance to do the auditions and then announce them! It was another have they read the same book I did because I remember there were characters with different skin colour. Anyway, filming has just started and the cast is ethnically diverse again, so there was no need to worry! I can’t wait to see it!

  13. ozzie20 September 13, 2012 at 7:49 PM #

    Great article OB! It’s an area I’ve always wondered about. 🙂

    • Open Book September 13, 2012 at 7:53 PM #

      Hi Ozzie!

      Thank u!

      • ozzie20 September 13, 2012 at 8:03 PM #

        Hi OB! How are you?

        • Open Book September 13, 2012 at 8:08 PM #

          I’m good, can’t complain!!

  14. parisienne September 13, 2012 at 8:23 PM #

    Everyone,

    I’m going to go for the night! Great Article OB!

    • Open Book September 13, 2012 at 8:24 PM #

      Goodnight Paris!

      Thanks! TC!

  15. Open Book September 13, 2012 at 8:45 PM #

    Everyone,

    I’m going to go for the night. Thanks for great questions and discussion. I will check back later to answer more questions. Goodnight!

    • ozzie20 September 13, 2012 at 9:35 PM #

      I better go too. Sorry for my slow replies and anything that doesn’t make sense, my brain is being wierd again, lol! Take care everyone! 🙂

  16. littlebells September 13, 2012 at 8:54 PM #

    Crap, crap, crap!!!!! I’m late!!! Argh! Getting caught up.

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