Books into movies

I went to a session today in which three writers who have done screenplays talked about their craft and the differences between book and film. Annie Goldson, the Kiwi documentary filmmaker, chaired the session.

And for the people that want to know about shoes (and I don’t know why I am doing this but there seems to be a market out there): Luke Davies had trainers, Philippe Claudel had boots and Derek Hansen had sensible shoes.

Enough of this trivia: they were each asked whether they wrote their  novels with a film in mind. Philippe Claudel – who apologised for his English – had not written his novel “Grey souls” with any thought of a film in mind and when director Yves Angelo approached him he was reluctant. He was eventually persuaded and worked on the screenplay which he described as a different enterprise indeed.

Luke Davies certainly didn’t think of his novel “Candy” as likely screen material. Annie Goldson wondered if filmmakers would shy away from R18 content with the explicit sex and drugs (I didn’t buy this) ands the author agreed. He was surprised when it was optioned and it was a long process getting it to the screen, only really coming together when the bankable Heath Ledger came on board.

Derek Hansen was the funniest of the three with his tale of the long progress to not getting filmed of his novel “Sole survivor.” He actually wrote this with a movie in mind and deliberately wrote something with a small cast, a specific location and with major props (give or take a seaplane, etc) to a minimum. Hollywood picked it up but only after he went to the U.S. In fact, the film rights came before the book rights. He was asked to do the screenplay and was given six weeks to do it. Did it in 4 but let them have in 6! They loved it but wanted rewrites which he did in 2 days (they gave him 2 weeks). More rewrites and then various polishes and for all of these he was paid a truckload of money. Then they brought an American  writer in to do another rewrite but still Hansen got paid. More polishes, pre production, into production and then “Castaway” with Tom Hanks came out. Same subject so the idea was dropped! As Hansen said, failing in Hollywood was the most successful thing he ever did.”

In this session we also saw clips from a documentary on the making of “Candy” and a scene from “Grey souls” which looks a terrific movie. Claudel, despite his fractured English was a serious and engaging speaker and Davies was very likeable and easy to listen to. Derek Hansen was the surprise for me as I hadn’t read his books: he’s a natural raconteur.

The session didn’t have any question time which was a pity as I am sure a lot of people would have had questions and I was all ready for a “please Sir, me Sir!” moment but, alas, it was not to be.  It was a good session  and there was a full house but not as full as the session running at the same time elsewhere was Joe Bennett, always an  audience favourite, and the queue after for his book signing was as long a signing queue as I have seen.


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