Road Trip Wednesday: Film That, STAT!

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question. This Week’s Topic: What is it that makes some books seem ideal for a film translation?

There’s a lot of overlap between writing and filmmaking for good reason. After all, without story, there’s no movies. And if you consider all of the move industry-esque things that writers must do nowadays, the lines are even more blurred:

  • Pitching/Querying: Succinctly answering the question, “What is it about?”
  • Loglines: Boiling your story down to the “hook.”
  • Plotting/Outlining/Storyboarding: Mapping out your story, beat by beat.
  • Promotion/Marketing: Platform, Platform, Platform.

Does a book have to be outstanding to make a great movie? Nope. I point to THE GODFATHER, FIGHT CLUB, and JAWS as evidence of movies that transcend their source material. Alternately, many great books have been rendered unrecognizable by overzealous directors, producers, and screenwriters (see LEMONY SNICKET’S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS, BICENTENNIAL MAN, and THE GREAT GATSBY). [Just my opinions, mind you. Give me yours in the comments. :)]

It seems that the best book-to-film adaptations happen when the creative team honors and/or enhances the original work rather than crapping all over it with completely new storylines, whitewashed characters, and overworked CGI.

Considering how rabidly pissed book and movie fans are about recent film adaptations like THE TWILIGHT SAGA and THE HUNGER GAMES, turning books into movies definitely isn’t easy. But when done right, it makes you appreciate the uniquely awesome power of storytelling even more.

Some bad books make great movies, some good books’ movies flop. What are your favorite/most detested film adaptations?

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10 comments

  1. I think it works best when the author is part of the movie team. Especially in series books. If not all the books are out yet when the movies start (like Harry Potter), the author can clue them in on aspects of the book that must make it into the movie in order for the full story line to make sense.

    Unfortunately, I’ve heard that a lot of studios aren’t willing to pay consultation fees to the author.

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    1. I wonder if they refuse to pay because they think the author will want too much creative control or they’re just cheap? I’d try to get the author on board simply because he or she will bring the book’s fans with them. I’m more likely to see an adaptation if I know the author supports it.

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  2. I think The Hunger Games might be my favorite adaptation thus far. My one gripe is that Katniss’ flame dress looked like it came from a prom clearance sale. Wait, two gripes. Gripe number two has to do with Katniss’ ethnicity. But that’s a whole nother can of worms.

    Worst…Hmm good question. I can’t really think of one that’s offensive enough that I hate it.

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  3. That’s the problem. When you start messing with a book that already has fans the director etc need to get it right. Sometimes i find I can separate the two, ignore it as a book and just watch it… but other times I miss everything they’re not saying. These are often the parts of the book i liked best.

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    1. Yeah, I can’t figure out why all the bits I like seem to get cut from adaptations. I usually can suspend my disbelief a great deal but sometimes you’re like WTF just happened?!

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  4. Ah I know exactly what you mean. Some directors just go off on some crazy vision changing the entire story… BUT some are loyal to the book, the writers and the fans and do what they can to do the book justice. I think filmmakers should be really passionate about a story before making it into a film, that means they’re more invested into making the film great

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  5. I love the Percy Jackson books and put off seeing the movie because it looked so different than the books. Finally I watched it, and while it is definitely different (older mostly), it was still amazing. I love both the books and the movie.

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