The topic this week is: Would we like to be asked to do the novelization of a movie, or why not? If so, what movie.
Many movies are based on stories, novels or based on plays, but quite a few are also original screenplays.
I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: Anyone who writes should read “Writing Movies for
Fun and Profit” by Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant, two very successful writers of very successful movies.
In this incredibly interesting book, it is outlined what happens to a story or novel when it is ‘optioned’ by a production or movie company… and how little say most of the original writers have in anything that is then done ( or not done) to, or with, their work.
I am sure that most writers would like to see at least one of their works be made into a movie, and just in case, you’d better be ready for the realities of what will happen to your work, and how it will be out of your hands once you take money for the ‘option’.
Most writers have no clue.
Even if you never want to have any writing of yours produced, but if you just like movies, you should read the book. It is fascinating how many people are involved and how many hands a piece of work can go through, and how much can and will be changed, often just for the sake of change, by the next writer who comes in to work on the screenplay.
That all having been said, I will also reiterate the fact that there are some great writers who have taken some terrible stories and made wonderful movies out of them, like making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. “Forrest Gump” and “The Time Traveler’s Wife” are two which I have mentioned before and are the best examples I can give. Both books have unlikable characters and less than savory scenes, yet both movies are among my absolute favorites because of the lovely changes made by the screenwriters.
So, do we deconstruct a movie that has raised a bad story to new heights? I think not. Do we try to reinvent the wheel when a movies is made from a good book or story?
Why would we do that?
We now have to find a movie from an original screenplay and write it as a novel. Gee, if the movie is good, why try to improve on it?
I suppose we might like to see more depth to parts of movies. The “Superman” movie of 1978 with Christopher Reeve is one that needed to be cut so much that many subtleties were brushed over or cut out, so that one might be a good choice. I love that movie.
Phyllis Thaxter and Glenn Ford’s Ma and Pa Kent were wonderful, and we could have seen more of their characters, how they longed for a child, how they hid the spaceship, how they dealt with Clark’s powers. Noel Neill and Allyn Kirk played a young Lois Lane’s parents, when little Lois spotted a teenage Clark Kent outrunning their train. The scene was cut so short that most people didn’t even notice what was going on. Fleshing-out what Lois thought and how they convinced her it wasn’t real could be interesting. (Neill played Lois Lane in the 1950s Superman series; Kirk played Superman in the very first movie ever made of the superhero.)
What led up to the destruction of Krypton, Jor-El, the father of Kal-el (Superman) and the bad interesting guys he exiled, (which showed up more is the sequels), could be delved into more. But gee, all that was probably done in the comic books over the years.
I ran though the Wikipedia listings of Oscar-nominated original screenplays and was not moved by many to even consider trying to improve on them, nor did I find many that I would be interested enough to try.
And I was amazed at how incredibly few of them that I have seen from the last fifteen years or so; I am picky about the time I spend on movies.
One original screenplay that made it huge was “The Sixth Sense”, but who would dare to try to keep up the tension in that, or in “The Usual Suspects”? (They are also among my favorite movies.)
I might be moved to add more to the stories of possibly the two best animated movies:, “Ratatouille” or “The Incredibles”, but actually, they are finally coming out with a sequel to The Incredibles, so I’m late on that one.
Perhaps I would be tempted to do a full story of “Memento”; do you know it? A man has lost his abilities to make new memories, but he is trying to find out who caused his brain damage and killed his wife. It’s gritty, a bit hard to take, but I was very moved by it and would have loved to have seen more, and I would amend the end.
Frankly, I am more grasping at straws here, being rather at a loss.
I wish we had learned what prompted this topic. I’d love to see the mindset and example that came to The Fox who had the idea.
With my mind running on my own examples, I think I want to find old Superman comic books!
Lots of great material here.
I need to get that book by Lennon and Garant. Might come in handy someday, as I’ve often wondered what the silver screen might make out of some of my stories.
I liked the film Forrest Gump, but never read the story (though I’ve heard other people say, as you did, that the film was much better). I’ve also heard that about the Bridges of Madison County — of which I’ve seen part of the film, but read none of the book.
Having been a long-time fan of Superman — both the TV show and the comic books — I also loved that first movie with Chris Reeve. And, like you, I wished they’d spent more time with Ma and Pa Kent. Loved that scene with the original Lois on the train… did not realize her husband was the much earlier Superman!
Enjoyed the movie, Sixth Sense … and I cannot imagine how those special scenes would be played out on the printed page.
We really seem to be of like minds, Jeff. Don’t bother to read Forrest Gump; I know you would be as upset by the characters as I was .(Forrest is a big, stupid oaf who just hit and blocked for Bear Bryant.He and Jenny were ‘at it’ in college and she threw him out for constantly being stoned. As you can imagine, it is all terrible.None of the charming interactions in world affairs, either.)
I read the “Writing Movies” book from my library, although I’d love to have a copy as a ‘loaner’. If your library doesn’t have it, get it through an inter-library loan from mine, Nelson County. I cannot recommend it more highly to any writer. ( I have used the inter-library loans often.)
Other than Forrest Gump and the 1978 Superman, I’m not familiar with the movies you mentioned. But I agree – why would we want to deconstruct a well-told story?
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I don;t know. This was Angie’s idea and I would love to see what she had in mind. Although ,as I said there are a few that I might like to see more of the story, but ?
Wait, you haven’t seen The Usual Suspects? The Sixth Sense? Or the animated ones? You should give them a shot.