What Makes a Good Film Adaptation?

Article by Ria Amber Tesia

Go to the cinema and guaranteed that at any given time, the cinema listing will include either a remake of an old film (yawn) or adaptation of a blockbuster. There are hundreds of film adaptations released every year, the more successful ones of recent times being ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Twilight’. Of course the success of the adaptation varies from project to project. I think the ‘Harry Potter’ film series was astoundingly brilliant, which was in part owed to a dedicated team and astute scriptwriters. Unfortunately I can’t really say the same about the ‘Twilight’ series. Whilst the first film nailed the tone, character angst and ethos of the book, the ensuing films did little to quell my growing unease that a book series I adored had been trashed (but that’s another story for another day). With the upcoming release of ‘The Hunger Games’, I thought film adaptations was a topical subject to chat about. I’m currently ploughing my way through Suzanne Collins’s best-selling dystopian saga in time for the upcoming release this week. It’s a real page turner and I can’t wait to see the vision of director Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Pleasantville) to see how he tackled this meaty script.

Being a writer, I would like to focus on the progress of the script for a book’s adaptation to its silver screen outing. Of utmost importance is the script’s authenticity and how faithful it remains to the book. I strongly believe that any literature, be it canonical, classical or a contemporary multi-billion best-selling series, should be respected and adhered to as closely as possible. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for embellishment, but to alter huge events (Jodi Picoult’s ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ springs to mind) is plain wrong.

To Kill a Mockingbird

Lord of the Rings

Great Expectations

Being an analytical writer, apart from loyalty to the book, I also tend to notice certain nuances, like character development and tone of the film, which is largely down to the scriptwriter. It is the interpretation of this person which is another significant point that can make or break a film. The scriptwriter has the enviable task of really understanding the book and getting that message across in an efficient and succinct manner as possible. How the tone of the film is relayed to team members (i.e. producer, director, editor, cinematographer and a hundred other hired hands) is of utmost importance. If the scriptwriter doesn’t ‘get’ the book, chances are the film adaptation will be a half-hearted attempt and lacking the true soul of the film. The director too, plays an immense part in the making of an excellent film adaptation. Being in charge of casting and choosing the right characters to make the film as ‘real’ as possible are just two duties which every good director tries to follow. Again, the director must understand the book, its meaning, intonation and really get under the skin of the book’s characters in order to give the film gravitas it deserves.

These are just a few key points in making a decent adaptation a stonkingly excellent one. I will be writing more on screenwriting in the upcoming weeks and welcome any script-writing questions. Have a wonderful week guys!

Comment below to tell us your favourite film adaptations.


See full feature with Ria Amber at http://businessboombolton.com…. and follow the lady herself on her website at http://ambertesia.com/ and on Twitter @Ria_Amber_Tesia.

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