Whew. Now what?

So. The screenplay is finished.

*sigh of relief*

I’m a little surprised at how it turned out. This is still the first draft; I’ve not subjected it to an editor, and I’ve written the entire thing in shooting style, which is only permissible if you’re going to direct. Which I’m not. But it makes for very good reading; it’s very visual, especially considering that the camera angles effectively tell you how to see a scene.

This is, in a certain sense, the key difference between the novel version and the screen version: a screenplay doesn’t give you as much flex of imagination as the novel. Screenplays are much more direct.

Now, of course, this begs the question of how I feel now that I’ve done a new style of writing that I was, prior thereto, unfamiliar with.

And you know what, I’m not sure how I feel now that I’ve finished a full-scale feature-length screenplay. Good, yes. I am now familiar with a new writing form, and it’s a completed challenge. Will I do this again? Definitely. I’ll be transforming my books into screenplays, for sure. But now I need to go forward with marketing them, and marketing is going to be the weird bit. I have never done film marketing, never took a course on it, and have little idea as to where to start. I do know a film agent, though, and I may have a chat with him. I also know more than a few authors who have film and agent connections, so I may well be able to go from there.

It’s a now what? sort of a feeling.

I’ll figure that out as I go along, and if I happen to get something started up for the film version of the series, then we’re in business.


Adapting an adaptation

So, after reading the full Suzanne Collins trilogy, I went to see The Hunger Games on the big screen.

I will admit that the adaptation is pretty solid. It cut out very little, and kept enough of the original story. The camera angles were good, the acting by the cast was superb, and the script had minimal alterations.

This is the thing, though: when you’re adapting a novel for the screen, how do you decide what stays and what goes?

I will be frank: the movie version ending of The Hunger Games was a major deviation. I won’t spoil; if you read the books, you will know what I mean. That’s what disappointed me in the production, but considering that I’m currently standing in the same dilemma, I’m hardly one to judge. As it is, the bits that were cut from the novel were minimal. Except, of course, the ending, because that was completely out of alignment with the book. Same with a very, very key conversation between Haymitch and Katniss.

How does this relate to what I’m doing? As I’m templating Book 1 to adapt to screen, I have to do two very major things:

1. Ad-lib. Most of Book 1 is action, a good bit of contemplation, but not much on dialogue. I’m finding myself re-doing the existing dialogue, and ad-libbing the rest. To say that it’s a challenge would be right about appropriate; I have never realized just how much I’ve under-written in the novel form that I’m now finding that I have to put together in screen form. Minor, minor dialogue – it becomes relevant.

2. Direct. This is iffy. I’ve been told so far, by more than one person, that I should cut the cues and score sounds from the script. And you know what, I will. But before that, I need to finish the script, because it actually holds a pretty solid purpose. The purpose? To guide the adaptation. In novel form, everyone pictures the flow and sequence of scenes differently, but the script and the consequent film put the story forward in only one visible way. That is where the screenwriter’s skill at interpreting one medium into the next comes in.

You’d think it’s easy, if I’m working on the adaptation of my own piece, but that’s actually the most difficult aspect. How would I translate a story that everyone interprets for themselves into something that’s to be represented only one particular way?

3. Trim. And the opposite: insert. Because as I’m seeing now, there has to be a higher emphasis on continuity. I could get away with a highly choppy Book 1 in novel form, because the other books would gel it together. With writing a movie script, you do not have that sort of a flex. You have to trim the excess and add whatever you have to add – however minor or major – to make it gel.

The challenge I’m facing now, towards the end, is how to write/engineer some of the needed special effects needed to make some of the interstitial scenes work. That is, indeed, a pickle, but nothing I can’t work through.

Onward and upwards…just a couple scenes left to Script 1!


On Screenwriting vs. Novel-writing

So, because tax deadline kills the sleep and stokes the muse, I started working on the script counterpart to Book 1. Yep, I’m writing a movie. No, not for Script Frenzy – because tax season will eat me if I try that, and I’m actually about to head to work as I’m writing this – but because, frankly, it’s fun, and I want to pitchThe Index as a film series.

And I am slowly getting really, really into it.

I will admit this: when I first started laying down The Index, back in 2006, I had every intention of writing it so that it could translate to the screen easily. I can see this being a great series in film; I wouldn’t put my work on the same scale of potential that Harry Potter had ended up with, but I definitely think that my work has a certain visual appeal. At least to the nerds who ended up loving it so far (yes, I’m looking at you, and you know who you are!!!).

With all the difficulties and travails that I’ve had with the first book of this series – for the details on that, everything with the Book 1 category on this blog that dates back to 2009 will tell you exactly what was going on – I’ve had a surprisingly easy time so far templating out the first few scenes of the book in screen format. While in the first book I had the challenge of layout, conventions, scenery, and the general flow of the book, right now the challenge has shifted to having an effective portrayal of that same text. There is much less focus on the writing details when you’re working in screen form. It becomes all about the visual, all about how the characters will be seen, and all about how to see everything effectively. i.e. soundtrack cues, potential actors, etc.

This also brings an entirely new dimension to the process: I have to actually think of this in visual terms. I will admit shamelessly that I thought of anime noir at the time I was writing the story in the first place, but right now, and especially right now, I”m thinking of it as a live-action endeavor. Yes, might cost more, but it will work better this way. I have to actually consider who will play whom in the film. I can’t cast Shou and Kian, for the life of me, but I’ve earlier mentioned that Arriella would be best played by Serinda Swan (you may know her as Erica Reed if you’re a fan of Breakout Kings). Shourron I, both sides of him, would be best done with Liam Neeson. Rena would have a worthy portrayal in the hands of Annabelle Wallis (Jane Seymour from The Tudors, season 3). Arriella’s scheming mother, Morrhia, would go to Catherine Zeta-Jones. Lord Kirare, the Viceroy of the Underworld, will go to the actor whose presence inspired his creation to begin with: Chris Noth. And Jason Watson, the redheaded, lovable-little-shit bon vivant based on one of my dearest friends, will be played by the most versatile redhead there is….Damian Lewis. Whom you may have seen in Homeland.

Hey, dream big, right?

But in reality, all this is helping me put the movie into motion, so to speak. Now that there are flesh-and-blood people representing the people whom I’ve written into existence, writing the screen form suddenly becomes that much easier. Same for soundtrack: no movie is complete without sound, and now I have to dig at my collection of jazz, rock, Celtic, and everything else to start matching scenes to songs.

In other words, the story hasn’t changed, but the presentation is wildly different. And considering that I spent the past six years heavily entrenched in and perfecting the noveling side of writing, to switch gears like that is quite the lulu. I won’t deny one thing, though: I rather like it.

To note, I will put up Mages on TriggerStreet.com, which is a great hosting site for indie scripts, and I will also make a PDF of it available in e-book format. Print will be entirely too clunky…or not, I don’t know. Still thinking about it.

And, to note, if Mages does get picked up for production? Well…then let’s just say it. My life will be changing very fast.


Slight addendum: Book 1 can be found here, and is free for Kindle on April 17th. Yes, a slightly shameless plug. :)