Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day 2 continued. After I got out of my workshop, I went to meet my mom at a discussion of her choice. This one was about stars dying/blowing up. Bor-ring! I'm not a fan of real astronomy. I kind of felt like I was back in a college class. My butt was falling asleep and I was struggling to stay awake. Plus, I kept glancing at my watch. Even my mom, who does like real astronomy, thought the talk was a little boring, too. Oh, well. Can't enjoy them all!

We headed to lunch after that, then Mom went up to the room and I went to Adapting Prose to Scripts and Comics. The panelists were: Mario Acevedo, Frank Fiore, Melinda Snodgrass, and Gary Jonas. The most important thing they stressed on this panel was that books and movies are completely different media, so, no, they are not going to be the same. (Melinda even said that those movies that do try to stick to the book are usually very boring for her to watch. In fact, she said she absolutely hated Watchmen. I thought that was going a little far, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion.) When converting a novel into a screenplay or comic, the most important aspect is finding exactly what the story is about. Since movies and comics have time and page constraints, you can't have all the different side stories and multitude of characters like you have in a novel. Sometimes, the main story isn't very interesting, so the screenwriter will chose another path to take. This is why some movies seem to be completely different from their book counterparts. They also said that detailed descriptions of the setting have to be tossed. This is because it's up to the director to envision the setting of your story.

They talked about how each screenplay is only about 120 pages long and mostly dialogue. If you can't tell your story in just conversation, it probably won't translate well onto the screen. It was so fascinating to hear these people talk because they were all authors before they wrote screenplays or comics. They weren't bothered that the movie would be different from the book, they actually encouraged it. They said that most authors they worked with were very receptive to how their books were translated onto the screen, and, of course, annoyed by those who didn't like it.

They talked about films that were better than the book (I don't remember what each one said, all I remember was Melinda liked the Gone with the Wind film better than the book), and they talked about books that were better than the movie. They talked about what books they would like to make into a film, and pretty much all of them wanted to do a Heinlein book. Stranger in a Strange Land was one, and one of them wanted to remake Starship Troopers (which, for the record, is a fabulous B film. The bugs are awesome, but the human actors have a bit to be desired. And, by the way, the film is absolutely nothing like the book, with the exception that soldiers are fighting bugs). Melinda wanted to redo A Princess of Mars (by Edgar Rice Burroughs), but she would never do it because it has been done horribly too many times.

There was one point in time that I thought I wanted to translate one of my books into a movie or a comic, but I'm not sure anymore. I don't know that I could pare the story down to the basic elements. I don't know that I'd want to. I was one of those people who would get upset when the movie didn't stick to the book, but after listening to the panel, I think I can get over that. Now when I watch a movie made from a book, I'll think about the poor screenwriter and the challenges they faced getting that story onto the screen. Plus, when you look at the process of making a film, the story isn't yours anymore. Yeah, the basic elements are there, but they aren't your words or your vision, they are the vision of the writer and the director. Even with a comic, the artists have a say in what they think your world should look like. More than likely you have input, but they are the artist and know what can and can't be done. A book will always be yours.

Tomorrow: panel on Zombie-lit.

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