From book to screen, filmmakers discuss challenges
Oscar-nominated director Stephen Daldry, most of whose films have been based on well-known books, believes novelists now more readily embrace the adaptation of their works onto the big screen.
Daldry was among the movers and shakers from international film, publishing and multimedia industries to share their insight into storytelling at the Frankfurt Book Fair, which runs until Sunday.
The British director and producer, whose films “The Hours”, “The Reader” and “Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close” were based on novels, said authors in the past had often been “dismissive” of movie adaptations of their work.
“Things have changed in the last 10 or 20 years. There used to be a point where novelists who had written a book would be quite dismissive about cinema, wouldn’t care, you know, sold the rights, get as much as you can, you know, basically considered it an inferior art form,” Daldry said here.
“That certainly is not my experience. All the writers, the novelists I’ve worked with have been involved from the very beginning, right the way through to the final edit or final preview with audiences,” he said at a forum.
“The screen writers and original authors tend to work together and the original authors have been, and are, incredibly respectful about it being a totally different art form,” he added.
“None of the authors I’ve worked with have ever said to me ‘well, in the book…,’” he said, mentioning German writer Bernhard Schlink who had been especially open to the reworking of his novel, “The Reader”.
Daldry, who also made “Billy Elliot”, said he had to approach each adaptation differently.
“The story will dictate the form, the story will dictate everything,” he said.
Multiple Oscar winner Richard Taylor, creative director of Weta Workshop, the New Zealand-based animation and special effects studio famous for productions such as “The Lord of the Rings”, “Avatar” and soon-to-be released “The Hobbit”, talked about the challenges of adapting works by J.R.R. Tolkien.
“No decision is taken lightly. It’s unbelievably painful at times trying to find the core essence of Tolkien…,” he said.
“It’s all hidden, all through the back material, between the lines, in the life of the author. That’s how you get to the heart of the images on screen.”
He said it was impossible for filmmakers to ignore today’s multimedia world.
Filmmaking is “immensely risky” and so it makes sense to create a “flotilla” around the “mothership” by developing offshoot products such as a graphic novel, an iPad app or publication.
“Modern marketing of intellectual property development is using every platform possible to try to create a swell of interest,” Taylor said.
Daldry, asked about the crossover between different forms of media to create new platforms for storytelling, said he was “excited by the idea that you can do different things”.
“But within certain films or within certain plays, it’s a singular point of view, you don’t want people to have their own interactive relationship with that story, it’s your story…
“It’s not pick and choose,” he quipped.