Friday, December 14, 2012

The Secret to a Great Book-to-Screen Adaptation

I do not own this picture.
I AM SO EXCITED TO WATCH THIS MOVIE!! I am going to see it tomorrow (Saturday) night, and I can't wait. Why? Because the Lord of the Rings movies are the best book-to-movie translation I have ever seen. I actually found the movies easier to get through and to comprehend than the books, and yet, the movies captured the Lord of the Rings spirit.

I'll give this Secret by having Lord of the Rings as an example, partially because it is an AMAZING example, and partially because I'm super excited about The Hobbit.
So what does make a good book adaption?

This mastery lies in the fact that a lot of the actors and actresses, and screenwriters and directors are big fans of the book. This is CRUCIAL to a good book-to-screen adaption, and it is evident in the movies.

The second reason the Lord of the Rings movies are so good is because of the director, Peter Jackson.

I paint, and you artsy people out there might appreciate this quote from my favorite painter: "One can freeze frame Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” at almost any point and see a master designer’s work." Basically, every frame of the movies could be made into a darn good-looking painting. That is INCREDIBLE. Whenever I watch the movies, I try to find a frame which does not show good design, and I cannot find it. This is why a good director (who matches the tone of the book) is so important.

The first thing I wondered when I heard of this movie (The Hobbit) was who the director was. If Jackson hadn't been directing this movie, I would have been incredibly wary (and that's an understatement). But he was the director, and all my worries vanished. This is the power of a good director.

If any of you worry (like I do) if your future books will be turned into a bad movie, remember two things:

1. The people who work in the movie should be big fans of your book and should share your vision. I can't tell you how important number 1 is. Just think: if the people working on the film do not share the book's vision or do not LOVE it, how can they make a good movie off of it? Try not to agree to a movie contract just because it is the 'only' offer. For me at least, no movie is better than a bad one.

2. Pick an awesome freaking director which matches the tone of your book. LOTR has an epic tone, and Jackson's style of direction depicts this. Each director has a different style; most would be able to pick Jackson's out of a line-up.
Think of the good movies based off of books (Perks of Being a Wallflower, Harry Potter, etc.) and then think of all the bad. There is a LOT of bad. Don't be one of those; remember the two tips above :D

As a caveat, do NOT go all totalitarian and try to control everything; books and movies are two separate mediums, and most directors know more about movies than most writers. If you trust the director you signed with (as you should....), then trust him/her. Give a few helpful nudges along the way but let the movies and the books be their separate entities.

Now, back to writing (so we can make movies off of them ;) ).

Any concerns about movies based off of your books? Would you, or would you not agree to make a movie off of them?


  1. I just don't want the SyFy Channel making movies of my books!
    Jackson was a big fan of the books and it showed. Originally del Toro was going to direct the Hobbit, and I think he would've done a good job as well.

  2. Oh man... isn't that the dream? To see your characters played on the big screen? *If* --like you said--if it's done well. I definitely would prefer no movie to a bad one. And some of my favorite authors have turned down movie deals for that reason. I'm sure the Hobbit is fabulous!

  3. I don't think you get much say who the director is when they make your book into a movie, unless you're a best seller author. :)

  4. I think your point #2 is critical. I loved the first two Batman movies, directed by Tim Burton. His vision was perfect. By the time they got around to the fourth (George Clooney as Batman) they tapped Joel Schumacher to direct. And, in MY opinion, he largely was responsible for how lame it was.

    I hope you enjoy Hobbit, and look forward to hearing your thoughts.