There are many issues that come between writers and productions crews when turning the vision of a story into a silver screen medium. In this article, I am going to detail what I feel the magic writers bring to books and compare it to the magic directors and producers have in theaters. I hope with this outline that some will learn to better understand how good books become bad movies.
The first example I will begin with is "Fifty Shades of Grey". This movie was highly anticipated because of the popularity of the book written by E.L. James. Reviews of this movie came crashing down as fans who poured out into the halls ways were thoroughly disappointed on average. Now there are several articles going around the internet on how the director and producer did not get along with the author during the film's making. It is a studio public relations mess.
I have not seen the movie or read the book. I can imagine from other books into movies I have seen what went wrong. People understand the movie will never end up being like the book; however, people do want to get some sense from the movie that they got from the book. You can not take a sexually explicit story that provokes reader imagination and then give those fans a movie that is basically just watered down smut with some dialogue that is supposed to be meaningful to a plot.
¤ How can filmmakers create a great movie from an amazing book?
1. Preserve the sense of the story in the movie, at all costs.
- People who read books for sexual or gory content, do so because they know their imaginations will not sugarcoat any of the details the writer they read helps them envision. That is why people get mad when they see horror stories (like Resident Evil) end up as action thriller movies. This is part of why I feel George R.R. Martin is a successful author, he provides enough details to give readers a vision of his content while leaving enough blank spaces that require imagination. Many directors and producers go wrong filling in these blanks with generic ideas. Turning rated R franchises into PG-13 movies is an example of this.
2. Take the original writer's advice if you make them go through to trouble of appearing on set during production.
- I can only imagine what kind of nightmare it must have been for E.L. James to see her vision become nothing more than a wet dream. I feel even worse for the actors and actresses trying to further their career on product that is getting such a bad reputation. It is being reported that even the screenwriter has not seen the flick. I understand directors and producers must cater to studio shareholders; yet, I feel that it is forgotten sometimes who the real movie maker is and who should have the final say with what. The reason behind the film creators not listening to writers when they could have probably comes from that. This bothers me because shareholders or executives typically have no movie making or story writing expertise. These are the people responsible for holding back talent due to marketing purposes and do not deserve to have the opinions money buys for them.
3. Major plot line differences should happen towards the end of the movie.
- I respect the Jurassic Park series and how that was made from books into a successful movie franchise. They were able to take a character from the first book who was killed during the story and have him return for the second film because he did not die in the original movie. The books differed a great deal from the movies; nonetheless, the filmmakers fully preserved the essence of how readers felt as they watched the movies.
I saw "Jurassic Park" the movie before reading the book and from that experience, read "The Lost World" before it became a movie.
With that said, I feel most franchises do not have the capacity to do that with how some concepts are presented. There are a few flicks that have given viewers the repeat sense of elements of what Jurassic Park filmmakers did, without that success. Making changes too early in the plot line does influence how a tale will end. Jurassic Park successfully did this because Michael Crichton excluded his main characters from opening sequences. When people see too many major changes early on, it is easy to feel as a viewer there is no way a similar ending off the story is possible.
4. Take on the challenges of the most difficult scene creations.
- Mistakes happen and not everything comes out perfect. Movies when they were first being made, looked unrealistic enough where many people would never in their whole lives take certain titles seriously. Directors and producers should create product that is more their design than the input of everyone else without being concerned about heckling. It is better to try and fail so that lessons can be learned instead of not trying at all or allowing others to dictate that process.
In Jurassic Park, the ripples in the puddle were generated from a single plunk on a guitar string below the puddle.
Not fulfilling this step is one angle where the sense of the original story can be led astray. Many "Lord of the Rings" readers were discontent about many of their favorite encounters not being included in the lengthy movies over other content.
5. Accepting the fact the movie story will never be as solid as the book; yet, still making a real movie instead of an extended commercial.
- Most books the way they are written would make movies over 6-12 hours long if everything was included. When "Gone with the Wind" was in theaters, they had a recess in the middle of the movie during the feature presentation because it was so long being around a few hours in total. That movie was still only a fraction of it's story.
I feel in order to make this step work, you must follow number four. I think there is no excuse for studios to produce lengthy commercials for books. Taking too much away from the sense of the story re-iterates this issue for many people. For example, the "Star Wars" prequel trilogy deprived too many of some sense of the originals. There is a reason Jar-Jar only made an appearance in the second film. Larry Wilmore on "The Nightly Show" even calls the episode VII trailer, Disney's latest toy commercial.
This kind of scat breaks my heart.
6. Cater to your target audience, not the vague general masses.
- I feel many people are not finding it worth going and seeing movies anymore in theaters, to include myself. It makes marketing sense to want to intrigue people with advertising to come see the movies and to fill the seats with as many rears as possible. With the progression of special effects and display technology, we should not be seeing so much censorship from concepts.
Something I got irate about was the "Rated R special release of "Alien V. Predator" on DVD. That movie could have made way more money attracting the older crowd from the 1980's then trying to make it appropriate for teenage viewers. That crowd will never enjoy the vision shown to them because it was nothing like what I got from movies when I was younger. Taking successful rated R franchises and making PG-13 titles out of them, makes them nothing more than a bunch of automatic flops.
This step here is another way the "Fifty Shades of Grey" movie went wrong. They tried way too hard to get people who have never read the book to see the movie. Due to the fact none of the people who read the book liked the movie, no one wants to see it anyway.
This step is where "Game of Thrones" is doing it right. While it is known that George R.R. Martin is becoming unhappy with how the show is going, HBO has an understanding of what people want to see from this series. HBO is set up for ten seasons and is nearing the end of the book series current content progression. George R.R. Martin is not writing his content fast enough to keep up with the show production now and because of that, it makes a little sense why HBO would move forward like this.
7. Stick to the genre of the original story.
¤¤¤!This one is for you Paul W.S. Anderson. Thank you for ruining Resident Evil...a successful horror story video game franchise around virus-based zombies that he made into an action series. Video games becoming movies have had it hard enough at it is in the past before all that. I strongly dislike all those movies because with the few exceptions in the latest two...the filmmakers have failed to capture the survival horror aspect of Resident Evil, which is what fans seek in that game. Resident Evil 5 + 6 have both been mocked by original fans for being too much more of an action and shooter theme over survival based. Some feel the movies have senselessly rewarded this bad behavior and I agree.
I sure hope Capcom does not let you ruin Castlevania like this as it has been rumored to potentially do. There are tons of examples of this out there; however, this one is so bad I feel I do not even need to list any others to make my point.
8. A leader is also a team player.
-Directors and producers must remember they represent everyone who is underneath them to the documented world. Real leaders treat those below them as equals unless issuing consequences for negative actions. The end result of any film impacts everyone's careers. In the event that studio shareholders and production staff(to include the original writer) disagree, nothing should be made final regardless of deadlines.
It is better to publish nothing at all than to waste everyone's time and money on a bunch of garbage. At one point, Hollywood will see executives get pushed back from the creativity and editing process due to this. Real leadership will never allow bad material to represent the hard work of everyone who gave their blood and sweat to the production.
9. Do not ever mess with the morale of the story.
¤ This applies to re-makes too. Neve Campbell's character (Sydney Prescott) at the end of "Scream 4" says it best.
"Don't f*ck with the original."
This should be basic; yet, this is here because I have seen it time and time again. This goes back to preserving the sense of the tale that is supposed to be told. Too many early changes sets a trap for this. There are a lot of great movies out there ruined by endings that do this.
If "Of Mice and Men" had ended any other way in the movie than it did in the book, I would have been pissed about wasting all of my time watching it.
10. Remember why you started making movies.
-Sometimes we come across hurdles in our creativity process. People talk about what is known as "writers block". When you have monetary interests conflict with the imagination, it takes away from the end result. Our imagination and freedom of expression should come before making generic features that people do not care any more or less about anyway.
Most good directors and producers have a passion for making movies and shows. It pays them good money; but, that is not the purpose behind doing what they do. There are some people who know how to make sure they make a solid production just about every time they publish, like Stephen Spielberg.
People can tell when someone's heart and soul goes into something versus a production that is there just to make the money.