Authors on Adaptations: Screenwriters Edition

Hey, fine readers! It’s been a week, but I’m back at it again with them links to cool and multiperspective-oriented articles!

Yeah, so let’s get started on another edition of “Authors on Adaptations”.

The perspective of a screenwriter is far different from that of the one who wrote the original text. If the burden of the original creator is trust and being bastion over their original ideas and themes, than the screenwriter’s is making sure that the characters and ideas are honored without the cost of wasting the new medium nor the possibility of a new audience.

In several ways, I’m inclined to say the job of the screenwriter is harder than that of original creators’, just because when a film adaptation fails, it is on them as well as on the director. It isn’t easy, balancing the goals of creators, producers, established audiences, and wider movie audiences. How do screenwriters deal with that kind of pressure? Let’s hear about it from screenwriters themselves.

Adaptation Rules from Screenwriter James Hart

James Hart worked on Tomb Raider (the Angelina Jolie one, not the Alicia Vikander one), Muppet Treasure Island (the best onscreen adaptation of Treasure Island honestly), Francis Ford Coppola’s “Dracula” (a personal favorite), and a crapload of other adaptations. He’s written a really good list of do’s here, that will make you say “why didn’t I think of that?”

Preview: When my son and I were adapting Cat’s Cradle and Sirens of Titan, Kurt graciously let us into his home and helped us solve character and narrative problems we were having with adapting his genius novels and characters to the film narrative form. At one point, Kurt pointed to his bookshelf and said “I wrote the novel. It’s right there. I’ve done my job. Now it’s your turn. Go make a good movie.”

Adapting a Play – Down the ‘Rabbit Hole’

David Lindsay-Abaire wrote the play “Rabbit Hole” — about a couple who finds their life unraveling after the death of their young son — and was also charged with adapting it for the big screen. In this interview, he gets candid about writing it the first time, writing it the second time, and working with the likes of Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, and John Cameron-Mitchell of Hedwig and the Angry Inch fame.

Preview: I said, “Look … Rabbit Hole is very close to me and important to me, and I don’t mind it just being a play. I don’t need to have a bad version of the play turned into a movie because then it will live on and people will only know the movie and that would suck.” They said, “We have no interest in turning this into something that it isn’t. We want to make sure that you are 100 percent behind everything that happens leading up to filming, and then during filming, and then after filming. We want you to be part of that process. We want to be true to your story.” And, y’know, people say that and they don’t always mean it or they may mean it but then they lose sight of it later for whatever reason, but I crossed my fingers and they stayed true to it.

Watch: Screenwriter Jim Uhls on Adapting ‘Fight Club’ for the Big Screen

Nothing by Chuck Palahniuk’s is particularly easy to read, both because of his heavy themes and style of writing. It stands to reason then that nothing of his is any easier to adapt. Nevertheless, Jim Uhls successfully wrote a screenplay that pleased Palahniuk, the notorious director David Fincher, and audiences of all generations. In this video, he discusses the making of the film and adapting in general, right down to the nitty-gritty details.

Preview: Well any novel has the advantage of being able to describe both external behavior, and internal behavior, as well as any exposition … screenplays don’t have that luxury at all, it’s just watching external behaviors. SO even if you’re faithful to a novel, and a scene feels like it’s faithful to a novel, if it works onscreen, you have made changes to it. Because you’re not using an internal narrative to describe an internal process.

Luke Davies, Oscar-nominated screenwriter of ‘Lion’
Rising screenwriter talks writing for the year’s most uplifting flick

Under The Radar

Luke Davies is responsible for screenwriting one of the most tearjerky, amazing films of 2016: Lion, starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman. In this interview, he talks about the unique process of making a film that is biographical — that is, one wherein you are not just adapting characters off a page, but real life people who still walk, talk, cry, and laugh today. Protip: read the part about when he interviewed Saroo’s mom, and try not to end up crying on your floor again

Preview: I think she’s been in a constant elevated state in the four or five years since then. The whole thing was weirdly awkward, not only because I was making her cry a lot, but also because it was this tiny room and there wasn’t any furniture. So I was sitting with an interpreter on the bed, and Kamla was sitting on the bed along with Saroo, and it was a tiny space, and it was all being filtered through an interpreter, who wasn’t crying. It was an exhatusine situation on so many levels. But it was also intensely gratifying because I felt there was a light bulb going off over my head. The grief and sorrow and joy was just electric, and I knew the film had to feel in the end— the same way it felt seeing her that day.

From Book to Big Screen: An Interview With Robin Swicord

Robin Swicord worked on the onscreen renditions of Matilda and Little Women that we watched to death when we were young, but she also worked on Oscarbaits Memoirs of a Geisha and the Curious Case of Benjamin Button. In this interview, she describes her life, her writing process, and how her own screenwriting style has evolved.

Preview: I wrote sixteen drafts of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a screenplay that later became a basis for the screenplay by Eric Roth, which eventually got made as a movie, twenty years after I began. The work I did informed the film in its entirety, yet my take was sufficiently different that it made me return to my own screenplay with a feeling of love and nostalgia—perhaps not so much for my work, but for my experience of writing and finding my way in that piece.

How Gillian Flynn Adapted Her Biggest Novel, “Gone Girl,” Into Her First Screenplay

Who doesn’t know the “Cool Girl” monologue? Those iconic lines spawned from the imagination of Gillian Flynn, who is responsible for a horde of other novels that explore the dark psyche of women. When Flynn was tasked with adapting her bestselling novel for the film, in effect writing her first ever screenplay, she tackled it head-on. Here, she talks about the amount of work that went into making sure her words worked on well onscreen as they did on paper.

Preview: “It was a fun, masochistic challenge to look at this 500-page book, and say, ‘Well, I’m going to have to lose about two-thirds of this,’” Flynn says. “I did a first draft of what I really wanted to include, and it would have been the length of a mini-series, basically. You really have to be extremely disciplined in a way that no novelist ever, ever has to be. You have to make every scene not just do one thing but do about eight different things.

Making “Room”: An Interview with Novelist and Screewriter Emma Donoghue

While a truly good film, 2015’s “Room” is hard to get through because of the heavy subject material. The woman who wrote both the original novel and the scrip, Emma Donoghue, tackled the whole affair with deftness and delicateness, as we looked through the eyes of a young boy who has no idea about the truly cruel situation he and his mother are trapped in. Donoghue gets technical in this interview about her approach to the book and how she ensured it would get the treatment it deserved.

Preview: Screenplays accrete material. I remember when Lenny said to me that in the screenplay, at some moment where the family were gathered, “Oh, you can just write, ‘they chat amongst themselves.’” And I thought, “No, no!” He said, “They’re going to improvise anyway.” His point was to trust that the actors, by the time scenes are being filmed, have the characters; they have thought hugely about them, just like the designer did, just like the costume designer did. You have to accept that you have now taken on a bunch of collaborators and they get the story just as much as you do and you have to let them bring their creativity to it.

Unlocking Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre: An Interview with Screenwriter Moira Buffini

Focus Features

How do you adapt something that’s been adapted before, and that has a fan base stretching literal centuries that need to be pleased? That was Moira Buffini’s problem. Her rendition of “Jane Eyre” that came out in 2011, directed by Cary Fukunaga and starring Mia Wasikowska in the titular role, was a critical hit. Her discussion here about how she personally viewed the book and how she changed the structure to accommodate onscreen magic were all integral to that success.

Preview: [How did you deal with all the previous adaptations of Jane Eyre?]
I made myself not watch them. I feared I would’ve sunk under the weight of other people’s ideas. So instead, to get a sense of what came before, I watched the odd chunk on YouTube. I watched a ten-minute section of the 80s version with Timothy Dalton. And then there was the one from the 90s with Charlotte Gainsborough, and I watched a 10-minute chunk of that. But Cary Fukunaga and I both loved the Orson Welles version of Jane Eyre from 1944. That one was so beautiful and the language was so rich, I found it very inspirational. In doing my version, I tried to keep Charlotte Bronte’s language without updating it. Her 19th century language is unusual on the ear. But why not have it? It is just beautiful. And Cary really liked that. We both tried to be very true to the original language.


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