From The Page To The Screen by Mo O’Hara
All authors secretly dream of selling the rights to our books and having them made into hugely successful TV shows or movies. Don’t we? … Don’t we?
Maybe not. What would change?
I mean who am I kidding, if Spielberg calls I’m not going to hang up on him but what is lost or gained by bringing a book from the page to the screen?
I would say that the page to screen adaption can have benefits both artistically for ‘the story’ and for building an audience for the original book.
Some books gain a new life when a film version of a story comes out. People go back and rediscover the story in its original form. Some movies that are based on books actually stand alone as a very different but strong work in their own right. Movies as diverse as Forest Gump, The Shining, Holes , Gone With The Wind or Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory are good examples of how a movie version can stand on its own artistically.
People can get very snooty about books being ‘pure’ while movies can be seen as ‘tainted.’ In my mind they are both media for storytelling. I would add Theatre into the mix here as well.
For example, War Horse is being read by thousands and thousands of children and adults that would never have discovered it if it weren’t for the National Theatre production and subsequent Spielberg film. All the ‘War Horses’ are different emotive stories. All stand alone.
Even a hugely well known story like Roald Dahl’s Matilda can enjoy a new audience and a new life in the medium of musical theatre. What would Roald Dahl think? Well, in a way, that’s not the most important question. We keep our rights to our work that we create but also ,as art, we put our books ‘out there’ to be seen, felt and absorbed by the public. If some of them want to re-imagine that art in another format then isn’t that just art expanding organically? ( Kind of like a storytelling Big Bang)
Most people have very strong opinions about movie versions of popular books. Here’s a fun experiment to try. Next time you are at a literary event just work into conversation the phrase, ‘Yes, I much preferred the movie of Harry Potter/ Lord of the Rings/Fault in Our Stars ( or in less literary circles ) Twilight.’ Then note the sharp intake of breath and tutting. Equally if you go to a Star Wars convention and say you prefer the spin off books to the original movie you will be up against some very unhappy Chewbaccas and Storm Troopers.
People tend to think original is best but in a lot of ways original is simply original.
The other positive effect of movie versions that I have observed in my own home is that the movie leads the viewer back to the book. My son (a reluctant pre-teen reader) was daunted by reading the Hunger Games even though he was very interested in the subject and in the buzz about the film and books. The book itself ‘looked too hard.’ When Catching Fire came out last year he was old enough to watch it so we went along with my daughter as well. As soon as we walked in the front door from the cinema there was practically (well ok, ACTUALLY) a scrum to get the copy of ‘Mockingjay’ off our bookshelf.
We ended up downloading a kindle copy too so they could both read it at the same time. The movie gave my son the impetus to tackle a book that ‘looked hard’ because he desperately wanted to find out what happened next. In anyone’s book, that’s got to be good. He picked up a copy of ‘Fault in Our Stars’ from the library recently. Again, not because of reader recommendations or reviews but because he had seen a clip in an Ed Sheeran video. He devoured the book in two days.
So taking a book from page to screen doesn’t have to destroy it, ruin it or lessen it.
It just might expand it, refresh it and find it a whole new audience.
So in case you are reading this Mr Spielberg… if Hugh Jackman is ready to star in the movie musical blockbuster version of my books then I am ready to sign on the dotted line!
Mo’s book for 7+, “My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish” was published with Macmillan in Feb 2013 in the UK and in July 2013 in the US. Her second book in that series (My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish The Sea-Quel) came out in July 2013 in the UK and in winter 2013 in the US. She also wrote six books in the Ladybird series “Puddle the Naughtiest Puppy.” Mo worked as an actress and as a storyteller, touring theatres and schools all across the UK and Ireland. As well as her stories for children Mo has also writen for radio and theatre and has performed her own comedy material in London and Edinburgh.