Secrets to Film and Book Adaptations

Written by: Charles Matthau

Summary: Learn the secret to a successful film adaptation.

Adaptation is not the same as reproduction, and the film and book versions of a story may not be comparable. The best adaptations are usually faithful to the book with their own takeaways, Fight Club being a great example. Adaptation doesn’t involve a team of writers sitting in a room, trying to make their changes fit into the existing story. It involves a thoughtful analysis of the strengths that the original medium possesses, and what can be brought to film. Sometimes, it’s as simple as an idea or a moment, but whatever it is has to form the basis (and interest) for a film.

First, writers must create an outline that includes every major plot element, especially a list of the major cast and some details on interesting secondary characters. It’s common to make notes of original lines in the text that capture the feeling or the rundown of plot beats. Production teams usually distill the story into its main beats, which paints a clearer picture of the book or story’s over-arching theme. Once that has been discerned, the team need only figure out which of these elements will work for film and eliminate those that do not.

This is because books can tell stories in an in-depth way that movies cannot hope to match. The presence of internal dialogue, description and other elements common in fiction has the effect of stretching time. Slow motion works well in action films, but not in a drama. Understanding the strengths of your genre is key to a successful sequence.


 

Bio: Charlie Matthau owns and operates the Matthau Company, which produces television shows and feature-length films.