Sunday, April 15, 2012

Battle of the Mediums: Books VS Movies

As a teenager I was frequently that person who said, "The book was better." I honestly meant it, too. I wasn't trying to be an annoying hipster (the word didn't even exist back then), and I wasn't trying to assert my superior intellect over everyone. I just thought that books were better than movies. I enjoyed movies, but I never had the same experience with them as I did with books. I just couldn't connect as well. I didn't understand the medium.

As I aged I began to realize that movies have a very special way of telling a specific story. The visual cues that movies have are sometimes more powerful than the way a book could deliver the same scene. For instance, I could read an entire page about the feelings behind a glance from one stranger to another, and I would feel those feelings because I know what they are, but in a movie all it takes is a few seconds (and a couple of good actors) to see that same scene and feel those same feelings. That is my favorite part of movies.

I was lucky enough to read all of the Harry Potter books in my youth, and I just saw the last movie when it came out recently. The Harry Potter series is a fantastic read. It is intricate, fascinating, and beautiful. There is nothing about it that doesn't work well in its original medium, but it is also lends to an effective translation into film. The grandiosity of Hogwarts is interesting to read about and to imagine in my head, but seeing it on that big screen really helped my understanding of the world of Harry Potter. I am sad that some of my favorite parts were left out in the movies, but I also know that they had limited time to tell the same story and get the same reactions and emotions. I think they did it justice.

That leads me to Script Frenzy (Screnzy). I write poetry; I write novels. I do not write scripts/screen plays/comics/etc. I tend to care more about details than I do about dialogue, which is a terrible, terrible quality when you want to try your hand at screen plays (or writing about people in general). But I thought I'd try to do it anyway. The process so far has been inspiring.

Since I am in graduate school, and these next two weeks of school are finals and papers galore, I decided not to do an original idea for Screnzy. I decided instead to embark on doing an adaptation of the first book of the Hunger Games series. My reasoning behind this was that I had just read the whole series, I had just watched the Hollywood adaptation, and I was interested to see how something I loved in novel form would translate to something I could love in movie form.

So, while I have very few pages of my screen play written as of now (halfway through the month, oops), here are the things I've learned so far (vague spoiler alert, if you haven't read The Hunger Games and don't want to know small tidbits about it, please don't read this part):

  • Some aspects of books work very well for films, like the action of the games or the beauty of the Capitol. Both of which I thought were handled poorly by the Hollywood adaptation.
  • Encompassing an entire scene into a short period of time with only dialogue and visual cues is a damn difficult job! For instance, I spent a lot of time on the beginning scene with Katniss and Gale because I want to establish their relationship and get as much information to the audience as possible, but I also want it to be as true to the book and the emotions as possible.
  • Establishing relationships between characters takes a lot of work when given so little time. I think the Hollywood adaptation did a terrible job of connecting characters in the movie, and I wanted to make sure I showed those connections in mine. I have realized that getting to the essence of a book character we have learned to love is not as easy as I thought.
  • Sometimes changing scenes is necessary. People and stories have to be cut to make a smooth transition through the movie without having to give backstory every five minutes. This is something I had to learn to accept as an avid "book is better" person.
  • Writing dialogue isn't easy, and it takes a lot of practice.
So there you have it. I am now somewhere in the middle of the "books VS movies" argument. I love books; I love the way they provide so much depth and richness to the story and the characters. But I also love movies; I love the way that some scenes can tear me open with just a few words and some simple glances. Movies are the ultimate "show don't tell," in my eyes. As far as adaptations go, I will admit that some adaptations are rubbish, but I have a newfound appreciation of the work it takes to do an adaptation. I think I will spend some time soon with a few good adaptations of my favorite books, like The Time Traveler's Wife, the Lord of the Rings series, and Fight Club, to name a few.

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