4. But Don’t Change Things Just For the Eff Of It!
So you’ve been tasked with the enviable assignment of adapting someone else’s work into movie form. Congratulations! There’s a natural tendency as screenwriter of said work to “put your stamp on it” or “make it your own.”
For the love of God, do not do this!
You will be making plenty of changes. Your stank will be all over this thing no matter what you do. But ego is never a good reason to fix what aint broken.
We’ve written a few original screenplays. There’s a lot of freedom in those. You can take them in any direction you please. But typically with adaptations, the sandbox is smaller. There are walls acting as boundaries. Margins. And this is a good thing. A helpful thing. To be used to your advantage. Whereas original screenplays are purely creative exercise from beginning to end, think of adaptations more as creative problem solving. Right brain vs left brain kind of stuff.
This is especially true if you’ve been assigned the thing you’re adapting. Sure it’s possible the studio head or producer who hired you wants something entirely different than the thing they’ve optioned. But it’s probably a good idea to have that discussion in advance. What is it you love and what is it they love and hopefully those two things are the same things?
Seth Rogen and his producing partners brought the Disaster Artist memoir to us. We knew James Franco was attached to direct and play Tommy Wiseau. But that was all we knew. We read the book, loved it, and had a very specific idea as to what it could be—a drama, basically. Ed Wood meets Boogie Nights with some Sunset Boulevard thrown in. A meeting was set to discuss with the producers if that’s what they wanted to. Cause if it wasn’t, we didn’t think we were the right people for the project. Suffice it to say, the meeting went great. But if it hadn’t, we wouldn’t have written this movie.