Saturday, 22 February 2014

Writing for the movies

When I was a teenager, I firmly believed that movies made out of books were doomed to failure. There were few exceptions to the rule of course - The Silence of the Lambs, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. But every time I saw a Harry Potter movie, my belief in this maxim would become stronger. Books and movies were just not the same thing. A novel is incredibly detailed, a movie more visual and for one person (the director) to have the vision to stay honest to both an incredibly tough task.

More than a decade later, I am revising my views. More and more movies each year are based on novels. Are film-makers suddenly better at adapting? Reading this article in the New Yorker, made me think of an alternative explanation for this phenomenon - Increasingly, authors are writing for the movies.

Let me elaborate. The article suggests that the book publishing industry, and the revenue it generates are both in peril for various reasons. At the same time, the competition amongst authors is fierce with opportunities to self publish online or even offline and the availability of FREE quality content through blogs and other web platforms. In a situation where nearly all forms of print are declining and margins on book sales are reducing, there is no economic incentive for authors suggests the article. Follow this train of thought and one logical conclusion that emerges is that movie deals are an excellent revenue stream for authors of any talent.

Education no longer being the privilege of the very rich, there are a fair few of us with good language skills, ideas and no money in the bank. Not all of us come from an academic bent of mind either to build careers in academia where authorship is encouraged. So then those who want to write are left with two choices - write in the scraps of free time that you can get together while building a career and don't expect to make a career out of your writing (you might and you might not) or write in a way that your work reaches a wider audience, albeit through a different medium.

Should I really be surprised then that books increasingly cater to the movie audience? I suppose not. Is this is a good thing or bad thing for literature? I know not.

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