Friday, November 14, 2014

Different isn't bad when it's done well

I’m reading a John Hart novel.  I’m writing my own novel.  (Not nearly as good as his.)  It’s really showing me just how different novels and screenplays are.  He’ll spend two paragraphs describing a scene, vividly and well, but in a screenplay I’d have to do it with a single sentence, reduce it to the most visceral part.  That’s the advantage and bane of many pages.  I’m a feature length script into the book and have barely passed the introduction.  It’s why books are almost always better than films.

I’m playing a game with the book.  It’s called, “How would I turn this masterwork into a screenplay?”  It’s making me do the sort of analysis that high school English teachers dream about.  BTW – Mrs. Odell, if you are reading this, I still don’t think you’re right about the black pot in Red Pony but I’m mature enough now to let it go.

Novels are hard to transpose to screen.  That’s why a lot of films start with the words, “Based on the short story XYZ.”  Last weekend I watched a movie based on a children’s book.  It was nothing like the book.  Really.  Not the least bit.  That’s okay.  Alexander’s Bad Day was still fun.

If you like Steve Carell, you will like the movie.  If you don’t?  You won’t.  I haven’t met anyone who is indifferent about him (sort of like Woody Allen) so I don’t see a need to comment on that further.  Instead, let’s look at book to screen conversion.

1         * Almost the same title.
           * Has a character named Alexander.

Differences (described from movie):
1         * Doesn’t take place over a single day.
2         * Has magic involving birthday wish.
3         * Takes place in the burbs.
4         * Alex isn’t the guy with the bad day.
5         * Has crocodiles and male strippers.
6         * Is about Steve Carell.

It’s sort of like how The Perfect Storm is based on a true story but 75% of it is a total fabrication, including most of the conflict and character development.

I loved it because it was fun and exactly what was advertised.  Nobody in it expected to win an Oscar.  My wife called it her new favorite movie.  Different isn’t bad when it’s done well.

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