From Page to Screen: The Adaptation Agency

February 23, 2016
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As we start talking Oscars, I thought an appropriate topic to blog about would be my books-to-movies obsession. In my house, even more than “Eat your vegetables!” you’ll hear, “Did you read the book first?” It’s become so automatic that this was an actual conversation between my youngest and me:

 

Her: “Can we go see Kung Fu Panda 3?”

Me: “Did you read the book first?”

Her: <blink>

Me: “Uh. Did you read the screenplay first?”

 

Yes. Sorry. I *am* that annoying person who, at the end of every book-turned-movie, says: “The book was better.”  There are rare exceptions where the movie was as good as the book (Well done, The Martian), and even fewer occasions where the movie was better than the books (David Fincher, you’ll always have a special place in my heart for Fight Club).

 

“Did you read the book first?”

 

I initially started the “Did you read the book first?” mantra when my oldest daughter wanted to see Harry Potter. I initially required her to read the series first just to encourage reading. She couldn’t see any of the Potter movies until she’d finished the entire book series. She also can’t see Divergent, Maze Runner, Percy Jackson, or the Hunger Games until she finished those book series either.

 

In some cases, movie do serve another purpose. They point us toward books we may not have known about. For example Madame Doubtfire, Shrek, Forrest Gump, and The Incredible Journey are based on excellent books. You can also get your teens reading classics by suggesting Emma before Clueless, The Taming of the Shrew before 10 Things I Hate About You, and the Odyssey before Oh Brother Where Art Thou. You can even get your kids into nonfiction this way. Believe it or not, the comedy Mean Girls was based on a psychology book focused around patterns of aggressive teen girl behavior called Queen Bee and the Wannabes.

 

That aside, my kids are avid readers and don’t really need bribery to read a book. What’s more important to me is that they form their own images and impressions of the characters, scenes, and locations. Decide in their minds how the characters sound, what they look like, what their mannerisms are. It’s a great exercise to build their imaginations and to help draw a connection to a literary character.

 

 

Ready for a Challenge?
If your child likes a challenge, have them take a short story from Cricket or Spider and transform it into a screen play. It’s an interesting exercise to be the force deciding how to portray plot points or direct action on the screen and might give your little writer some insight into how films are made. If you have multiple children and they all try to script the same story, you might be amazed at how different each version turns out as each writer brings his or her personal favorite parts of the story to the forefront. Here is some screen play formatting advice to help get you started.

 

After writing their own screen plays, your kids will no doubt be much more appreciative of all the blood, sweat, and tears that likely went into the writing of each script that is up for an Oscar on Sunday. But since it is the rare screen play that lives up to the original book, you’ll still have plenty of opportunity to have your kids recite with you, “The book was better.”

 

Cricket Media Mama would like to inform her children that if they wish to see Deadpool, they must first read the comic. Then get earplugs. Then add a blindfold. Then turn 43. THEN they can see it.

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