Adapting a book into a Film By Janet Lee Chapman
Writing a film is a different art form to writing a book. A screenplay will evolve from the first draft onwards with input and collaborations from the film director and the creative team. The process is somewhat like renovating a house; the kitchen may end up in the attic, while the bedroom may be where the living room is, while still staying true to the book as the story translates into the medium of film.
The story now appears like a series of scenes in three dimensions,
using pictures, music, sound and colour.
First of all, the screenwriter will immerse themself into the book and re-read it a few times to get to know the story, characters and their story arcs, and the two main themes, in-depth. Next, they will create a list of pivotal moments and scenes that drive the story forward. Different screenwriters use different techniques, everyone finds their path. Traditionally, the way is to use cards for characters detailing key points about them, e.g., emotional, unemotional, sarcastic, tall, fat, thin, motives, etc. Afterwards, the plot is written as a film treatment – from start to finish – including every scene, opening to closing scenes with Acts 1-3/4 in between. All in the present tense, as if you’re watching it on the screen. After approval of the film treatment by the client and the agency, it’s time to write the first draft of your script and using a professional screenwriting program is the best way forward.
The average length of a film is an hour and forty-five minutes. One minute is equal to one page of the screenplay. Some elements of the story stay, and some might be cut out; some will be added to tell the story on screen in the best way for the most dramatic effect. The film will begin as far into the story as possible when the best timeline for the events is decided upon. Twists and turns of the plot will be emphasised as surprise is essential in keeping the audience involved in the action, as is building emotion as the narrative of the plot is driven forward.
For a movie, we may lose some of the incidental characters as we don’t have the room/time to include them all, only the main ones that drive the plot forward. This will enhance the central theme and the main characters in a movie. Of course, if the book becomes a TV series, some can be kept in the story to enhance it.
The screenwriter will endeavour to stay close to all the
main elements when writing the script,
it’s just that a film is a different medium from a written book,
and when making a movie, the main criteria –
is to SHOW, NOT TELL the story.