No, But I’ve seen the movie…

November 8, 2011 at 12:52 pm (books) (, , , , , , , , , )

R.H. Culp wrote an intriguing post that touches on books-made-into-films:

“Every time another book-derived movie comes out it feels like it is condemning the book to obscurity.  Too many times I’ve asked someone if they’ve read Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings and they say, “No, but I’ve seen the movies.”  Why can’t people who want to experience these worlds sit down for a few hours and read?”

I, too, dream of what Culp terms “the ultimate authorial achievement” = a MOVIE DEAL! I have long picked out a movie cast for a film based on a certain key “moment” behind Smith and Gosling history: the romantic triangle of Charles, his first wife Belinda, and his sister Emma’s best friend Mary — who eventually becomes his second wife. Would I be giving too much away to say that I’ve long thought James McEvoy the perfect Sir Charles Joshua Smith. For the others, I can’t help but confess, I’ve got a little list…

Yet, while I could easily down boil the story to something that takes two hours to tell about 12 years’ worth of tale — and make it visually arresting with scenic estates and cityscapes, my ultimate goal would be to gain publicity to drive movie-goers to my books –> where the Smiths & Goslings will (someday…) live again through their own words.

I’ve a closet-full of “tie-ins” and even “classics” that were purchased because I’d seen some TV or film adaptation. The “tie-ins” sometimes suffered if the story had been drastically changed for the film; I mean there is some expectation of a bit of the same story, and the denouement shouldn’t be totally different.

A good writer tells a story, while a great writer invents a world you want to inhabit — again and again.

I’ve seen way too many adaptations of Jane Eyre – the story too-well-known to be “fresh” (rather like A Christmas Carol – please, not another film or sitcom sketch!). Yet a number of years ago I picked up a copy of the book while on vacation. What a wealth of wonderful language!

Austen’s novels are like that, too.  Her prose gives different layers to all the novels beyond boy meets girl premise. That’s what keeps JASNA members revisiting the novels — again and again and again.


  1. Sabine said,

    I thoroughly enjoyed this read! It’s true, usually we have a remarkable visual perception. I guess this is why people often prefer “ready-made” pictures in movies to the written word.
    Luckily movies often pull their attention to reading and as I am a bookseller by profession (and heart), I welcome every reason that readers take to wrap their hands around books (more so when it’s a classic novel).
    I do enjoy and like movies, but I do love books, which open the veil to a unique performance called imagination – and that’s truly unbeatable!!!


  2. R. H. Culp said,

    I have to admit I would be incredibly torn up if anyone ever came to me and said “I want to make your book into a movie.” I do think the exposure that comes with a movie deal (not to mention income) could definitely be capitalized upon to increase book sales, and not just of your books. It really would scare the crap out of me though to hand my novel over to a studio that can do whatever they want with it. What if it turns out like Eragon!? Blech.

    Movies’ greatest strength is also their greatest weakness. Just like you (both) said, when I read a good book I hate coming to the end because it means I have to leave the world behind. Movies may be more approachable because of their length, but they also don’t offer that same opportunity for immersion. Great blog post!

    • Janeite Kelly said,

      Hi, R.H. —

      Depending how much “control” you were able to wrestle when selling rights, it really must be “it is what it is” when you sign your book over.

      I think of myself as being pretty flexible — for instance, while I love Amadeus (the film) I know it has very little to do with Mozart’s real life; for that, I go to the books. The same could be said for the Austen movies; if they work, even if they don’t capture EVERYTHING about a given novel, that’s acceptable. Even sometimes when you say to yourself “it could have been so much better”… the film works, just not as well as it might have done.

      I have this theory, however, a lot depends on WHICH came first for you: the book or the film. A good book can be found to be better than its film; but if you adore the film, sometimes the book is a disappointment!

      JASNA’s recent AGM had as a special guest writer Andrew Davies; he spoke about his adaptations of Austen (of course!), but I had to wonder if he had gotten a bit more control over than production than your average writer. Pity there was almost no time for questions. I would have liked to have known. It was the way he talked, of an “ownership” of the production. Which made me wonder. We all are partial to our own creations: a new film that played at the AGM was an obvious labor of love, but needed some “editing” (both in script and in film). It’s hard for anyone to be impartial. Plus, to see a work with completely fresh eyes is hard, unless you are able to put it aside.

      I must admit to wondering about books and KINDLES — the only kind of book I can imagine reading as a digital image is that which is a good read, but not the one that is a thumping good read, ie, a book that you want to return to every once is a while. The greater trouble is unearthing that really great writer. Not sure the publishing industry much cares anymore. There are more BAD books out there (how do they get published??) than really excellent.

      I read only a little fiction; of those only a couple books really stood out as being what I would think of as ‘well-written.’ At least one was made into a (TV) film that ran on PBS. The story was told; but the prose await anyone willing to then pick up the book!

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