Archive for Adapting a novel

Have a great idea for a screenplay? Congratulations! You are one step closer to having a great screenplay…but only one step. No less an authority than George RR Martin, author of the saga, A Song of Ice and Fire, which includes Game of Thrones, testified to this in a recent interview in Rolling Stone magazine:

“Ideas are cheap. I have more ideas now than I could ever write up. To my mind, it’s the execution that is all-important.”

He also downplays the importance of having a totally new idea:

“I’m proud of my work, but I don’t know if I’d ever claim it’s enormously original. You look at Shakespeare, who borrowed all of his plots. In A Song of Ice and Fire, I take stuff from the Wars of the Roses and other fantasy things, and all these things work around in my head and somehow they jell into what I hope is uniquely my own.”

Martin suggests that history is a great starting point:

“History is written in blood, a gold mine – the kings, the princes, the generals and the whores, and all the betrayals and wars and confidences. It’s better than 90 percent of what the fantasists do make up.”

Perhaps the moral is to steal your ideas wisely and apply your creativity not only to the story but how you tell it. One final encouraging word note from Martin:

“The big secret about writing screenplays and teleplays is that it’s much easier than writing a novel or any kind of prose.

Of course even if he’s right, that doesn’t mean writing screenplays is easy…

For more about this fascinating writer, here’s a twenty-one minute interview:

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Bob Gale

One more tip from Bob Gale (“Back to the Future”) from his interview in the March 2011 issue of the UK’s Writing Magazine:

“…It is very difficult to sell original material to producers or studios because the financial risk they take is so enormous. These guys are much more likely to take on something that someone else has already shown some belief in, so if you can get a book published or a community play staged or a short story or a radio play out there or any other exposure through any other medium to give it some credibility, the movie business is far more likely to pick up on it from that point than it is from cold.”

I know that’s kind of a bitter pill if your passion is for screenwriting, but I agree with him. When I started out, there was a brisk trade in spec scripts. Studios actively looked for gold in the slush pile. These days the studios are focusing on the big franchises (superheroes, vampires and others that can spawn sequels) and getting a spec script considered has become challenging.

This is not to say that it’s easy to get a book accepted by a publisher or a radio drama sold to the BBC. However, you do have more options via the internet. You can self-publish and if you’re willing to promote like crazy there’s a reasonable chance that people will take notice. You can produce a short film, or a radio play yourself. You can link up with a drama group (pick carefully–a bad production will kill your project).

All of these add up to a lot of extra work, but that’s the name of the game.

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Keith Moon

Parodies of children’s books seem to the flavor of the month—first “Go the f**k to Sleep!” and now it’s “Good Night, Moon,” which says good night permanently to the dead Keith Moon, drummer for “The Who.” interviewed the two writers, Bruce Worden and Clare Cross. Considering the nature of their book, I was surprised to read that, “The authors explained that their children had a large influence on the book. Worden said he is usually motivated to produce something when he sees gaps in the “kinds of media that are out there” for his son’s age group and feels that he should fill in these gaps. On the other hand, Cross explained that she writes to leave something for her children. “I like to think of my work as a part of me that my kids can hang onto after I’m gone,” she said.”

I wonder whether this will lead to a feature film that is a parody of a kids’ movie. There have been lots of parodies of horror films and some other genres but to my knowledge there’s not been one of children’s films (although some elements of films like “Tangled” might qualify). Failing that, it could be a great genre for a short.

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