A few days ago I posed a question on my Facebook Timeline: Why is it that so many of the films on offer these days are so disjointed? Surely I’m not the only one who has noticed the glaring gaps in the storylines – or am I?
What I was talking about, which no one commenting actually picked up on is the fact that when it comes to making a film from a book, if the majority of film goers haven’t read the book before hand, they are highly unlikely to wonder why those responsible for what they are looking at on the silver screen, nearly always select specific elements of the original written work instead of adapting the story in its entirety. The only people who would pick up on the problem are usually writers like you and I. The vast majority really couldn’t give a damn!
Why does the film industry do that? Because when you/we hand over the film rights to your/our book(s) we’re giving them carte blanche to do whatever they like!
As writers we all need to deliver a complete storyline. To do anything less is unacceptable. The average reader certainly won’t appreciate a storyline full of holes! Yet screen writers, directors and producers like to kid themselves that they can get away with cutting often key elements to a story in favour of inserting something that you the author did not include in the book. I would argue that in effect what they are doing is depriving the viewer of experiencing the story the way the author intended!
Very few directors are strong enough to say no to those who scream “cut that scene!” usually for reasons of so-called morality. To give you a for instance think about the trouble Alfred Hitchcock had with his film based on Robert Bloch’s book Psycho, when the sexually repressed US censorship board at the time refused to issue it with its certificate allowing it to be shown in US cinemas saying the shower scene showing Janet Leigh’s naked calf, shoulder, face, neck and upper back, prior to being brutally murdered, was somehow indecent. What was over the top was seeing her being subjected to a frenzied knife attack. I still can’t watch the scene for that very reason. Take a look for yourselves before you read on…
Let me be clear – I’m not talking about a film maker merely expressing interest in the option to buy here which hardly if ever leads to them going any further. I’m talking about someone in the world of film actually handing over cold hard cash for the right to turn your book into the next screen hit.
Be warned, once bought you have no say in what they do with it. Unless you are as strong-willed and high profile enough like J.K. Rowling, who refuses to be dictated to by moviedom’s many idiots.
One of the few directors to almost include everything from a book, or in this case books, was New Zealand’s Peter Jackson when he gave us the Lord of the Rings trilogy. However he did later decide to expand Tolkien’s extremely short novel The Hobbit into three separate films by adding a lot of extra material that simply isn’t in the book.
So – once film rights have been bought, directors can get away with anything. Before the idea of selling the film rights to your book blinds you, think about the fact that you will lose control over the way your book is being portrayed on the silver screen…