I've always been interested in adapting a novel for the screen, but am constantly frustrated by movie-goers' moan: "It's not as good as the book!"
Argh! A movie is not a book and a book is not a movie. Durr. Everyone knows the difference - you'd have to be half mad, surely, to think a visual medium and a psychological medium are one and the same? However, yet again and again you hear people say "Well that wasn't in the book", "They changed this or that or the other" or my absolute pet-hate, "It's just not the same, the atmosphere's changed"!!!!
It seems, to be deemed "successful", an adaptation must follow the same events as the book these days - yet we've seen again and again that these so-called "transpositional" adaptations are not the best kind of movie. Take Harry Potter for example. I'm not a fan of the books, they're too reminiscent of "The Worst Witch" for me as an eighties' kid, however, hats off to JK Rowling: she's got her market well and truly pinned down and movies of her books was the next logical step. However, the pace of the movies are long and arduous, the dialogue highly expositional with Deus Ex Machinas all over the place and nearly every single one finishes at the end of term Mallory-Towers-style. Yuk! For me, it's the ultimate screenwriting nightmare.
There are two other kinds of adaptation that are largely ignored by screenwriters at present in favour of the "transpositional" style and these are the "Commentary" adaptation (where the story is taken from the book, but a "new slant" is spun on it, so new audiences of a different generation and/or original readers might enjoy a different interpretation) and the the hardly-ever-seen "Analogical" adaptation, where only the "seed of the story" is taken - its inner theme and meaning/essence, so that entire characters, scenes, events etc can be rewritten or even dispensed with altogether.
Both involve risks (will an audience like it?), so of course there is no wonder - most movies after all are adaptations; why risk money on an original screenplay when you have a "trial run" as a novel first? (That's just my own twisted and cynical view, but I have no doubt it's true. So there.)
Audience goers are not passive; anyone who says the only choice cinema-goers have is buying a ticket or not is mental in my book - not least because males aged 15-25 years are still the main target audience for theatres. What about the women, the children? I've lost count of the number of children's movies I've HAD to take my children to because I've promised - and then spent two hours biting the back of my hand to suppress a scream (Harry Potter a case in point). As well as this "rabbit in the headlights" approach on whether you're a good parent or not due to your ability to not die whilst watching such drivel, market research in the form of past DVD and video rentals, novels bought, web forums and sites visited, movie books like Halliwell's film guide consulted, even children's games seen or people overheard talking in the street by potential and established screenwriters all have a part to play in whether a movie is written, optioned and/or sold.
So... If I obtained the rights to a novel for its adaptation, or was commissioned to write one on behalf of a production company, would I stick to my guns and say "Well, ONLY if it's a commentary or analogical adaptation, give me some artistic license, please".
Yeah, right - I'd probably be shown the door.
I think it would be more a case of "Show Me The Money", Jerry Maguire style. Well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right? Works for JK Rowling ; )
What's YOUR favourite adaptation and why?