Thursday, July 1, 2010

Books to Movies

Yesterday I finally watched, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief for the first time with my kids. I really liked the movie and found it very entertaining; however, I was disappointed many things were different from the book. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems more and more books are being made into movies. Which is a good thing, but why are so many of these movies changing, adding to, and cutting out important scenes from the book?

I did not seem to be this way years ago. At least not from what I can remember after watching Interview with a Vampire, The Stand, and so many others. Yes, some things had to be cut out so the movie would not be too long, but the moviemaker never added scenes the author did not have or change the plot line. Honestly, the last movie made from a book that stuck pretty close to what was in the book are the first two Harry Potter movies, the others had some changes and add-ins, but nothing like some of the current movies such as: Spiderwick (which condensed all the books into one movie), Eragon, Inkheart, and a few other best-selling books.

Maybe it is just me. However, as a reader, I find it very disheartening to watch my favorite series as a movie when everything is changed and only 25% of the movie is anything like the book. Okay, maybe that was a bit exaggerated, but it sure feels like only 25% of the books plot is being used lately in some of these recent movies.

The other thing that goes through my head as I watch these movies is, “What does the author think about what Hollywood did to their book?” I know as an author, I would not want to sell my movies rights to my book if Hollywood is going to rip it apart and make a movie that is nothing like the story I wrote. Yes, it will get people to buy my book that normally would not until they say the movie. In addition, fans will flock to the movie helping to increase my profits. However, could I live with something with my book’s title on it that just is not something I wrote? I do not think I could personally.

I guess if I ever write a book that Hollywood wants to buy the movie rights to, I’ll have to make sure I can be there to help pick the cast (so they look like my characters and how I described them), help write the screen play (so my plot doesn’t get changed or added to), and be allowed at all the shootings . I know this sounds so snobbish, but think about it, you wrote this book from your heart, mind, and soul. It’s part of you. Would you really want someone messing with your story as you wrote it? No, so why let them mess with it just to make it a movie.


  1. I know what you mean. When I saw "The Two Towers" I was furious when I saw elves at Helm's Deep. But once someone buy's the film rights, I understand that the author has no control over what happens.

  2. I'm getting ready for the virtual tomatoes, because I tend to disagree. Books and TV/movies are different mediums. What works well in a book might not translate well to the screen. In addition, you're dealing with a short time frame, so changes and cuts might be necessary.

    Michael Landon and Ed Friendly had a falling out over Little House on the Prairie because Friendly didn't want to stray much from the books, but Landon said it wouldn't work. Landon has been proven correct, as the show not only lasted for 9 seasons, it has more fans now than when it originally aired.

    I saw The Thorn Birds mini-series years before I read the book. I preferred the movie, as the book seemed to drag in places. I also prefer the second Anne of Green Gables movie more than the books it's based upon; though I read that series every chance I get.

    What gets me in TV/movies is when there is a lack of historical accuracy. Wrapping paper wasn't really used much in the US until the 1920's, but when Almanzo Wilder gives Laura Ingalls a birthday present in the episode, "Sweet Sixteen", it is wrapped in a waxy, floral wrapping paper and tied with a colored ribbon. That was so wrong.

    Are you sorry you asked? :)

  3. Not at all Cheryl. I totally understand there are time limits and so some cutting is important. I also understand that some things in a book will not translate well on to the big screen. But what I don't get is when important information is cut or completely changed. Or even with stuff from the next couple of books is added in to the movie based on book 1. At least this was the case with The Lightning Thief and even Eragon.

    I do agree with movies getting a lot of historical facts wrong. What gets me, being I use to live in LA and worked in Hollywood, is the fact they have paid people who are supposed to watch for these things. heck, I even went to college where we were taught this in fashion so if we did seek out a job in Hollywood, we would know how people dressed for each era and what props to use. The class was called Fashion Through the Ages. I think this is why my family hates going to the movies . . . with me anyway. : )

  4. The first Harry Potter movie was probably the first movie I'd ever seen that was true to the book. Even The Wizard of Oz had some major changes. Of course what works in a book can't always work on screen, especially if the length is different, but I think Hollywood should be true to the basic plot and characters.

  5. I agree Janet. It was nice to see a movie stick to the plot of a book for once. I'm not saying a lot of movies don't, but it seems lately moviemakers are more interested in special effects or getting A list actors, instead of making sure the actors look like the characters described in the book, i.e. Annabeth is blond in the book and in the movie she's not. Or cutting an important character completely out of the plot to give an A list actor more lines.

  6. I used to feel the same way and then I took an adaptation class (actually two, a short one weeker and the full length quarter one) from UCLA. I learned a lot about the art of adaption and it is an art with it's own rules and methods. I haven't read Percy Jackson or seen the movie yet so can't comment on that, but I know that often times things are changed for reasons we might not realize on a casual viewing. The best example I've seen so far is Big Trouble. For the first half of the movie, it follows the book very faithfully, but changes a few things some minor some not so minor for the very reason you mention above, time constraints and what works in a book won't work in a movie, but interestingly by the time you get to the end those few "things" that were altered have caused the ending to be totally different than the ending in the book. The ending can't be the same because of those changes. Now if I'd been a fan of the book before the movie and didn't analyze every adaption I see, I probably would have been irritated, how dare they change the climax of the movie, it was good the way it was why the heck would they change it. But I can go back and see exactly why it was changed. It had nothing to do with disrespect or not appreciating the book, it had to do with plot and character consistency which had been established in the first half.

    Now that's not to say that every adaption is treated the way it should be. There are instances where a book is bought for the title, yep the title, that's what they want and they want to make their own movie about that title. Or it might be a certain element of the book which means everything else is thrown out. A screenwriter is often hired that has never read the original source so doesn't come to it with that "I love it" fan mentality. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your point of view. If they aren't a fan they can tackle the issues of making a book fit into 1 1/2 hour movie without anything being sacred, but again nothing is sacred to them so they won't know what is going to tick fans off by cutting it out.

    As an author you have NO say into what happens to your movie. None at all. If you are a good negotiator I know some who have wrangled the right to write the first screenplay (the first not the final). A few have gotten more than that, but that is not the norm.

  7. Virginia, thanks for the interesting article, and Angelia, thanks for the explanation of adaptation. I've listened to some directors on NPR going into some detail on why they changed certain things in the movies they adapted from books, so I do hear where they're coming from.

    As to the Percy Jackson, a friend who is a big friend of the series saw the movie and was quite disappointed. After listening to him, I went out and read the whole series and enjoyed it very much, but he left me with no desire to see the film.

  8. Thanks Angelia for sharing. This was really helpful to me in understanding a bit more why this happens with books being made into movies. I did know about buying the title rights.

    I have found everyone's comments insightful and very interesting. It is nice to know I'm not the only writing wondering why this happens.