The best version of any adaptation experience is when you read something that blows your mind and all you want to do is replicate in movie form the feeling you just got from that book. When that happens, and it’s rare, all you have to do is ask yourself two questions: a) Should this be a movie and b) if the answer to a) is yes, what has to change. We’ll get to that second question in a moment.
The first question—should this be a movie at all?—is a reminder of the fundamental fact that not every good book is going to make a good movie. People seem to forget this all the time. Some of the greatest novels ever written get butchered horribly in the translation to film and not for any mistake on the part of the adapters but simply because the most beloved attributes of the book aren’t applicable in the viewing experience.
Remember that we don’t consume these things in the same way. You can stop reading a book whenever you like. Sometimes you even need to. You can read fast and you can read slow, it’s really all up to you. But a movie is designed as a collective experience, to be consumed in one sitting, usually between 90 minutes and just over two hours without any breaks. A certain rhythm is established with ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys, and you’ll notice when those rhythms are off. Maybe the book has too much goodness for that chunk of time and might be better suited as a long form cable miniseries. Maybe the best thing about it is the transformative prose that would sound ridiculous as actual dialogue and boring as hell as overbearing voice-over. Point being, make sure the movie version of this thing you love won’t suck!
The Disaster Artist always felt like a movie to us because there was a clear beginning, middle and end to the story. Greg and Tommy form this unusual friendship, they go after their dreams, the friendship deepens, but then it’s threatened. There was a version, of course, more focused on The Room, on whether this film they’re making together turns out good or turns out bad. We didn’t think there was adequate tension in that, mostly because not that many people have heard of The Room (ergo it probably doesn’t turn out good) and those who have heard of it, well those people know quite well how it turns out. The friendship was everything to us. Invest the audience in these guys and you’ve got yourself a movie.
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