Adapting: from Novel to Screenplay to Difficult Feedback

It has been weeks since I last checked in.

In four days, I will be boarding Amtrak to head back to the South. California has afforded me a place to write and think, think and write, with a professional mentor close by. The project I am currently working on has been my creative focus for two years now. And I have six more pages of notes in front of me on issues I must handle in my script (and that is after three re-writes).

You can read it anywhere, but I will tell you from first-hand knowledge, writing a film script — especially adapting someone else’s novel — is one of the most difficult forms of writing. And there are many, many sites that can give you valuable, professional insight on how to do so, but here are a couple of things that I have found to be true for me:

  1. It is so important to me to be as true to the novel written by someone else as I can. If that novel is written in first person (as this one is) it is doubly hard. Many of the transitions the main character goes through are internal and expressed by narration. Even with effective voice-over, that is difficult. One must show through actions what is being expressed internally. Many times, not so easy to do.
  2. Confidence within myself that I am capable of doing this, is a daily struggle. Having a mentor who knows what he’s doing and is honest with me on what I’m not doing, is key. (He is also a dear, dear friend. So the trust I placed in him has been a responsibility he may have preferred not to have. I am truly a pupil, learning from a master.)
  3. I have discovered many things about myself during this time of solitude. I am not a quitter. I thought I knew that about myself, but not in an arena that is outside the comfort zone of what I do know in this business. To be told that what you’ve put all your energies into is not good enough, hurts — I don’t care who you are. But so, a few tears, a nice long walk and talk with myself, a few hours of staring at the mountains, and thoughts about those taking this journey with me, and I am ready to regroup. I want it to be good, not just okay. So back to the drawing board and hard work. I know I can do this. I am used to hard work.
  4. But here is what I have really learned. Without the encouragement, belief, and support of my family (which in my world includes some of friends as well), without their love and understanding, I would have no reason to want to continue. They truly believe in me and that is all I need to succeed. I am blessed in that, I know.

Whatever it is you wish to do in this wonderful business of film — write, or direct, or edit, or act — I think the first thing one needs to know and acknowledge (if only to yourself) is why? Why do I want to do this?

Sometime it takes a while to really find the answer to that question. Sometimes it takes a lifetime. I can honestly say I know the answer for myself.

I am excited to see where this journey for me, my family, and my friends leads us by this time next year.

And now, Amtrak and two days of writing…here I come!


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