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Akuma
12-31-2005, 07:46 AM
So my recent ignorant puzzlings have turned to Hollywood. I realized, due to my reliable teenage enlightenment, there are many many fantastic books out there, but a lot of them are vague titles compared to the blazing hype movies draw.

I also wondered, how come only a portion of these books make the conversion to movies? It doesn't matter if the movies themselves were successful or not, but what made those books especially fit for film? How come certain books are translated to film while others, despite great writing and plot, are left on the book rack?

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, I think, would superbly make the translation. It was well written, has hilarious lines, suspenseful action, even that cliche stunned black guy who gives an awed, "Day-um!" Butcher pulled these things off with flying colors, but I'll drool about him another time.

But I was just wondering how come many beautiful books never see the silver screen? Is it the money angle? I'm sure the movie industry is watching the current trends, but can a great story be blocked by what's hot and what's not? Or does the screenwriting maul a story before it's rejected?

I know there are certain exceptions of course. Some brilliant books would be horrible on screen. I can't imagine sitting through Walden: The Movie. I'm not sure I would make it halfway before stabbing myself with a soda straw to distract myself from the pain. And if there is a movie of it already, well, one can always whore the story into a sequel.

Walden 2 Extreme: Taking Back Transcendentalism!!!
Ah, Thoreau, how you would roll in your grave...

Sorry, I get side-tracked. Anyways, what are your thoughts on the matter? Feel free to add books that would (or would not) be successes as movies.

emeraldcite
12-31-2005, 08:00 AM
One problem is that books and films function differently. Sure, they both deal with images, but books are not image after image, and film isn't great at conveying internal dialogue.

Sometimes the changes in character that take place in a novel might be too subtle for the screen. Also, some of the action in a film would be heavy-handed in a novel.

Imagine trying to film everything in a Harry Potter novel. You couldn't do it. Not only would it be obscenely long, some of it just wouldn't work.

FolkloreFanatic
12-31-2005, 08:17 AM
Imagine trying to film everything in a Harry Potter novel. You couldn't do it. Not only would it be obscenely long, some of it just wouldn't work.

I respectfully disagree. A really good screenwriter could do it.

With SFX being what it is these days, I don't think Harry Potter would be the most difficult book to film, though it might be the most costly. Plot-driven stories, no matter how fantastical, are easier to convert to the screen than character-driven ones. If you don't believe me, measure the success of Stephen King's novels vs. their onscreen counterparts. Arguably, the most successful translations of his work were his more plot-driven pieces (The Dead Zone, Needful Things) and his novellas (The Shawshank Redemption, Apt Pupil), with The Green Mile being the anomaly in this trend.

The average consumer won't pay to watch eight hours straight of any film (I would, but I'm an exception). The production costs make filming an entire book impractical.

It's deciding what scenes to film and what to cut that irrevocably alters the tone of movie from the foundation of its book.

ChaosTitan
12-31-2005, 08:28 AM
The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, I think, would superbly make the translation. It was well written, has hilarious lines, suspenseful action, even that cliche stunned black guy who gives an awed, "Day-um!" Butcher pulled these things off with flying colors, but I'll drool about him another time.

So does this mean you haven't heard that SciFi Channel has commissioned a pilot series based on these novels? ;)

http://www.scifi.com/dresdenfiles/

-Kelly

Shadow_Ferret
12-31-2005, 09:55 AM
I respectfully disagree. A really good screenwriter could do it.

I don't think they meant special effects-wise, I think they meant time-wise. Movies can't possibly portray everything in a novel without ending up being a marathon sitting of 5, 6, or more hours. Movies, because of their accepted length of 2 hours, usually just focus on the main plot and eliminate all the various subplots and interplays and character development.

Lyra Jean
12-31-2005, 10:25 AM
Mini series...you have to love them.

maestrowork
12-31-2005, 10:50 AM
Short stories make better movies than novels, which make better miniseries. The best Stephen King's movies were adapted from short stories/novellas. It's not to say novels can't be made into movies, but not that easily. First, novels are usually too complicated for a 2-hour movie. So the screenwriters would have to cut dialogue, subplots, character development, etc. Then they have to contend with fans of the novels -- many "purists" would decry "unfaithful" adaptations. Faithful adaptation is very difficult to do well -- the visual medium has to capture the brilliance of the written one (how do you translate the wonderful prose of the author to a visual style that does the book justice?). Dialogue has to be streamlined; the plot has to be restructured; and it's all show, no tell.

Also, there's a cost issue -- to bring a novel "faithfully" to the big screen, the film may run long (over 2 hours) -- production cost would accelerate exponentially. Then there's the market -- people usually don't want to sit for more than 2 hours at the theater, unless the material is well-known or loved (Pride & Prejudice, LotR, Harry Potter, etc.)

Studios buy options all the time. But whether the book actually turns into a film depends on so many different things.

Akuma
01-01-2006, 02:14 AM
So does this mean you haven't heard that SciFi Channel has commissioned a pilot series based on these novels? ;)

http://www.scifi.com/dresdenfiles/

-Kelly

Omygawsh! Too cool! I can't wait! http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/smilies/biggrin.gif

Jamesaritchie
01-01-2006, 05:40 AM
There's only room for so many feature films each year, and many films are original, no book involved. There's simply isn;t room enough, time enough, or market enough to make more than a fraction of books into film. Even with TV thrown in, there isn't enough room, time, or market.

So most books made into films are going to be ones that have a name on the cover that can draw fans, regardless of how bad the movie might be.

FolkloreFanatic
01-01-2006, 06:40 AM
I don't think they meant special effects-wise, I think they meant time-wise. Movies can't possibly portray everything in a novel without ending up being a marathon sitting of 5, 6, or more hours. Movies, because of their accepted length of 2 hours, usually just focus on the main plot and eliminate all the various subplots and interplays and character development.

...which is what I discussed in the rest of my post. ;) That being said, it depends on the audience. The longest movie ever was about 29 hours, I think? Maybe 25.

maestrowork
01-01-2006, 08:25 PM
T
So most books made into films are going to be ones that have a name on the cover that can draw fans, regardless of how bad the movie might be.

Not necessarily. There are a lot of "obscure" books that caught filmmakers' eyes and got made into movies (many of them from Indies). "Sideways" and "Big Fish" come to mind. Sure, there are blockbusters such as "Memoirs of a Geisha" and "Cold Mountain" or "Bridges of Madison County." But Indies filmmakers are always more interested in smaller, obscure, but great books.

Jamesaritchie
01-02-2006, 03:58 PM
Not necessarily. There are a lot of "obscure" books that caught filmmakers' eyes and got made into movies (many of them from Indies). "Sideways" and "Big Fish" come to mind. Sure, there are blockbusters such as "Memoirs of a Geisha" and "Cold Mountain" or "Bridges of Madison County." But Indies filmmakers are always more interested in smaller, obscure, but great books.

There are always exceptions, but by and large, the more popular the book, the higher the odds it will become a feature film. Many indie movies are made from less well-known books largely because they can't afford the movie rights to more popular books which can cost more than the entire budget of an indie film.