Transforming a text, and cross-media conjecture

The controversy surrounding the writing partnership of Sam Taylor Johnson and EL James  has been much documented during the release and aftermath of the first of the Fifty Shades film. How much of this is hype, and how much is actually true, is anybody’s guess, but it does throw up some interesting questions about how you adapt a book for the big or small screen and simultaneously stay true to the characters and the narrative, while transforming the text for a new medium.

I’ve often joked that Far From the Tree is rather more ITV than BBC. I was reared on ITV dramas; Inspectors Wexford, Morse, Frost and Lewis, Midsomer Murders, Heartbeat, The Darling Buds of May…the list goes on. Cosy, idyllic settings, big characters and the fundamental dynamics of relationships all played a huge part in my televisual education, and I’m grateful for that. With this in mind, and notwithstanding the influence of an English Literature degree and nearly a decade of teaching Media Studies as well as English, I can very clearly visualise what the small screen adaptation of my first novel would look like. Fantasy casting is something I’ve played with since the novel’s conception, and something I return to periodically in blog posts. I think Far From the Tree lends itself to small screen adaptation, and I know (mostly) who I’d cast in the key roles. I can also see how the story would have to change to suit a different platform. There are scenes I’d add, scenes I’d cut or change, and scenes I can very clearly see and hear in my mind. I have this very strong visual of Matthew and Anna dancing in an orchard, and that doesn’t happen in the book (well, not yet, in this current draft, anyway!). And there’s a lot of music that I’d choose, too.

The question is, as a writer of novels (I hesitate to actually refer to myself as a novelist just yet, given that I’m not yet in print!), would I actually be any good at writing the screenplay? Even, given my experience of analysing texts on an academic level, could I actually write something for television? It would be all to easy to say yes; that I wouldn’t care if a production team and a director played around with my precious narrative and darling characters. That I could cope if Anna Hemingway didn’t look like Emily Blunt and Matthew Carter wasn’t quite six feet four in his socks. That the story I’d lived with for just over a year now might get chopped up, rearranged and served up in chunks edited to suit an ad break every seventeen minutes. But, in truth, I guess I just don’t know until I (hopefully) get the chance to experience it. And, to be honest, I wouldn’t know where to start in terms of structuring a script and I’m not arrogant enough to assume I could, without serious research and training!

However, I am optimistic enough to believe that, actually, the book will get published and the adaptation may happen. And with this in mind, I’ve been playing around with Photoshop again for the past few weeks. Regular readers of this blog will already have come across the spoof posters that I created a few months ago to promote the (fictional) adaptation of Far From the Tree for the small screen. I had enormous fun with these, and they gave me the chance to really communicate my ideas for characters visually. Ever since, I’ve pondered producing other spoof products, and I finally came up with something. So, without further ado, I give you the (fake) interview with Richard Armitage, where he discusses the (fake) small screen adaptation of my (real) novel. Are we clear? This is a totally made up interview, with borrowed (or ‘found’, as the exam boards would have it) images, about the pretend adaptation of a real novel. Just a bit of fun, mostly at my own, misguided expense. No offence is intended in the production of this spoof interview, and no copyright infringement is intended, either. I remain, as ever, in awe of the talent of the photographers who captured the images I use in the piece, (one of which belongs to Lesley Hassler) and I humbly thank Mr Armitage for giving me the closest approximation to Matthew Carter that I’ve encountered so far. So, to recap, this is totally fake, but hopefully still a good read. The words, the typesetting and the layout at least, I can claim credit for! Click the images to read and see. Enjoy 🙂 cider house rules double pageCHR3 cider house rulesSpoof GQ cover, imagining that Richard Armitage took on the role of Matthew Carter in the screen adaptation of 'Fra From the Tree'. Main image used without permission, credited to Leslie Hassler.

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