As a Literature major I was interested in the number of films at Sundance this year that were originally books. Two Mothers, The Spectacular Now, and COG all are adaptations of written work. When taking a novel and turning it into a screen-play I found that there are multiple things to keep in mind:
- Keep in mind who your audience is: If your film is showing at Sundance for example, and the original novel is a full on comedy, you might need to add a more dramatic element to the film, as this is the main niche of independent films.
- Separate yourself from your novel: If you are the author and you are in creative collaboration with the screen-writers then try and detach yourself from the novel you wrote. Not every detail of your work will make it into the film, and its important to keep in mind that not everything you wrote is compatible on screen.
- Sustain the mood of the original work: Recreating the original work with your own creative freedom is important, but so is sustaining the mood that the novel set is also important. Straying too far from the message or tone, will easily lead you down the path to an unsuccessful film.
- Visuals and Imagery: A lot of books are heavy in description and create great imagery and this is key when looking for a novel to turn into a film. Dialogue is also a must! While books rely solely on words, film relies more upon images. If a book doesn’t paint a picture when you read it, it’s going to be hard to recreate the setting.
- Research: The reason I love reading is that I get to create the world myself, and visualize exactly how I want it to be. When adapting a novel into a film, it is important to do research and ask fans of the book how they pictured the setting, the characters, everything. If the lover of the original book is unhappy with the way you portray their beloved story, they aren’t going to be very forgiving.
“As a reader you take over the creativity and in movies you relinquish that aspect giving over oneself,” – Russell Banks, American Author
To see what I thought of the adaptation that Kyle Patrick Alvarez did of David Sedaris’ “COG” from his New York Times Bestseller Naked, check out my blog post, here.
The C.O.G. movie poster
“Naked” by David Sedaris
I cannot imagine car rides from my childhood without my dad playing David Sedaris’ audiobooks through the speakers, as I attempted to tune him out while I watched cartoons on my portable dvd player. As I got older however, these audiobooks became more and more intriguing and soon became the soundtrack for road trips from New Jersey to Kentucky.
When I heard that Kyle Patrick Alvarez was going to be showing this adaptation of COG (Child of God) at Sundance, it was at the top of my list. The film did not disappoint, as I felt David’s full-of-himself character was well developed, and the opening bus scene was just as hilarious and awkward as I expected.
I did find the tone of the film a lot darker and more depressing than that of the short story, featured in Sedaris’ New York Times Bestseller Naked. I felt that the essay had an ending that indicated that David had not completely changed in his ways, and was still the same know know-it-all that he arrived at the Oregon orchards as. He did leave his rustic life in the orchards, however, with greater validation from friends and family that he was cared about, than he arrived with.
In the film however, I felt that the tone indicated that David was leaving Oregon lonelier than he was when he had left his pretentious life at home. I’m not sure which ending I liked better, which for me means it was both a successful adaptation on Alvarez’s part and a great story on Sedaris’.
In A World… is the first movie at Sundance that I saw and thought I needed to tell my friends and family to be on the lookout for it in theaters. While other films have been moving, entertaining, and funny, they are all films that I feel like I have seen some variation of before. In A World.. features the story of competition between a father and daughter, which is a story line that I have never seen in a film. Through this relationship director Lake Bell makes a statement about femininity without pushing the feminine agenda down the throat of the audience. Lake said she was “always obsessed with the idea that omniscient voices are always male.” This gave her the idea to have the competition be between a famous trailer voiceover artist, and his daughter who wants to be the first female to breakthrough in the industry. I found the film the perfect mixture of humor, drama, and “gentle feminism,” and give Lake two thumbs up – In A World… is a must see from Sundance 2013.
Directors Martha Shane, Lana Wilson at the After Tiller premier.
Try and talk about abortion in a room full of 486 people, I dare you. I guarantee you won’t make it out alive. I also guarantee that the complete passion and the udder disregard for varying opinions that fills the room will only make you stick to your beliefs even more.
Are you Martha Shane or Lana Wilson? If so, disregard what I just said.
If you aren’t either of these directors- go see After Tiller.
This documentary will open up your eyes to something you never could have imagined. No matter what your opinion on abortion is, you’ll leave with tough thoughts reeling through your head.
With only four doctors in the country performing third trimester abortions, they each have something unique to say about their work and why they do it. They aren’t painted as monsters, and they aren’t painted as heroes. Instead Shane and Wilson simply tell their stories in the purest of forms. Case by case, the audience gets a glimpse into the tough decisions that they make daily, and the devastating reasons why a women would seek a third trimester abortion.
With a full range of emotions from crying, to laughing, to full out anger, Pro-life or Pro-choice or Pro-whatever-you-are, everyone left the room with something to think about, which is exactly what a documentary should be.
Doctors LeRoy Carhart, Warren Hern, Susan Robinson and Shelley Sella at the premier of After Tiller.
Directors Jim Rash and Nat Faxon at the viewing of The Way Way Back.
Now that I have had time to recover from my “starstruck” afternoon of seeing Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Maya Rudolph, and Nat Faxon all in the same room, I can write a level-headed blog posts about their moving performances in The Way Way Back.
This was addressed during the Q&A but I think it is something that really made an impact on the movie. Rather than having actors who usually take on solely dramatic roles, Faxon and Jim Rash casted characters we are used to seeing in comedic roles. Their reasoning for this was that these actors know how to immerse themselves in a character, Tara from United States of Tara, or Michael Scott from the Office, and make the character into something more than just someone to laugh at. I think that this really made an affect on the believability of the characters. Their lives were tragically humorous, where drama was the focus, but comedic relief and moments dotted their everyday, much like the rest of us, allowing the audience to connect with the characters.
Actors Liam James, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Allison Janney, and Maya Rudolph at the second showing of The Way Way Back.
Look for The Way Way Back in theaters soon!
On my radar since my first glance at the Sundance film guide, Afternoon Delight directed by Jill Soloway, is still one that I’m trying to wrap my brain around. A strange mixture of drama and humour, the film left the audience around me laughing at times I would have gasped, cringed, or cried.
Soloway didn’t help clarify the meaning of the movie, only saying that she wanted to leave it up to personal interpretation. Soloway also made a comment about the film attempting to connect the sexual and maternal side of femininity. This did resonate with me however, leaving me wondering if this was possibly to account for the wide variation of audience reactions.
Jane Lynch, Juno Temple, Kathryn Hahn,and Josh Radnor at the Afternoon Delight premier.
With a diverse audience everyone has a different level of comfort and experience with the idea of the contrasting sexuality and maternity that Soloway mentioned. For some it may be all to real the struggle that main character, Rachel played by Kathryn Hahn, experienced – bringing them to tears or maybe silent contemplation. For others the struggle may be over and they can look back on it with humour. For men, they may have been uncomfortably sitting next to their wives or girlfriends who could have been at any stage of their life.
While I don’t feel I completely understood the message that Afternoon Delight was trying to send, I do feel that the movie was an excellent example of a work that touches each audience member differently, even if for me it was confusion.
The waitlist line for The Lifeguard, posted in an article by The Daily Mail.
Standing in the waitlist line for The Lifeguard, my thoughts ranged from how cold my toes were to, of course, how excited I was to see Kristen Bell in person. What I didn’t think about was the affect that the presence of the cast and crew would have on my viewing experience. During the first few scenes of the movie, scattered laughter could be heard from the back of the theater, where the cast and crew were seated. This was met by silence in the front rows of viewers, which made me feel like I was both stupidly missing something, and offending them by not laughing myself. My thoughts then wandered to how the cast and crew felt watching their work on screen, and the reaction of the audience. I wanted to be reacting the way they had intended, not wanting to offend or seem judgmental of their work. As the movie continued however, I settled in for what was a great premier, and an even better first Sundance viewing experience.