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Thoughts on adaptations / how would you adapt The Raw Shark Texts? Options
Steven Hall
Posted: Saturday, March 7, 2009 7:18:22 PM

Rank: Whale Shark
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Joined: 1/24/2009
Posts: 416
Location: UK
I saw Watchmen last night and it got me thinking.

The Watchmen film is so faithful to the book that I found myself pretty much reciting the lines in my head as the actors spoke them. The respect and love for the source material shone through in every single shot, and this seemed especially striking living, as we do, in a world where the movie folks maul great books (I Am Legend, I’m looking at you) more often than they do them justice. I sat in my seat thinking – ‘this is how you adapt from book to film. I hope I get half this lucky.’

Afterwards, my girlfriend and I chatted about the movie. She thought it was okay, but not as good as The Dark Knight, and thinking about it – though I love the Watchmen movie and all it stands for – I had to agree with her. This bugged me for a while, and then I realised why the Batman film worked better as a film – it’s because it was always intended for the screen. The Watchmen was never written to be a film. It’s a book. Like Alan Moore said -

“My book is a comic book. Not a movie, not a novel. A comic book. It's been made in a certain way, and designed to be read a certain way: in an armchair, nice and cozy next to a fire, with a steaming cup of coffee."


The Watchmen movie is incredibly faithful to the comic, but does that faithfulness actually make it redundant? I mean, what’s the point? Why can’t people get off their lazy asses and read the comic?

To quote cgsheldon in another thread here:

Quote:
I do wonder about the attitude of a book-must-be-made-into-a-film; some people seem to view a film as a book's ultimate realization of it's self.


I think cg is right, some people do, and to be honest, that attitude horrifies me. I guess I’m doubly horrified because when Raw Shark Texts came out, quite a few critics accused me of ‘writing a book that was obviously a treatment for a screenplay’ or similar. What? No, I didn’t. Not in a million years. One of the ideas with Raw Shark was to employ something of the cinematic mode of storytelling to the novel, making a book that was (a) sort of bi-lingual - accessible two film-watchers and book-readers both, and at the same time as this (b) showcase the things that a printed book can do that a film just can’t. A novel that felt like a film but that could only be a novel, if that makes any sort of sense.

When reading more about Watchmen last night, it came as something of a shock to see this Alan Moore quote -

"You get people saying, 'Oh, yes, Watchmen is very cinematic,' when actually it's not. It's almost the exact opposite of cinematic." … "It was designed to show off the things that comics could do that cinema and literature couldn't.

- which struck a familiar cord. In fact, I’d argue that Watchmen does indeed use cinematic language, and to wonderful effect, but yes, it uses it uses that language to show off all the things that are great about comic books. So where does that leave a scene-for-scene movie adaptation? I think it could be said that such a faithful adaptation of the Watchmen is not really a movie at all, but the comic book projected up on screen where – for all its brilliance – it was never meant to be. Round hole square peg.

I think what I’m coming around to saying with all this is – artistically speaking is their any point adapting a book into a film if the change of medium and/or the retelling isn’t going to add something, take the thing to a new place? But at the same time, I hate to hear myself say that because I often find the changes in movie adaptations very, very annoying.

As I'm finding myself all conflicted on all this, I thought I’d ask you guys what you think. Specifically what you think in relation the upcoming adaptation of The Raw Shark Texts:

How would you like to see it the adaptation made? How much change is too much? For that matter, how much change is too little? Would you prefer a scene-by-scene adaptation Watchmen style, or for the film-makers to use the book as a starting point and take artistic licence with it? What, if anything could they add/leave out/change that would really annoy you? What, if anything, would you like to see them add/remove/change? Would a film affect how you saw the book, or will the two always be different to you? Do you even think the book can be adapted, or am I wrong, is it an easy adaptation after all?

Any and all opinions received with much interest…

Cheers folks

S
cgsheldon
Posted: Saturday, March 7, 2009 11:15:41 PM
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I think the films The Dark Knight and Watchmen are interesting counterpoints in this discussion - Watchmen being so faithful to the comic and Dark Knight taking the basic concepts of Batman and the Joker and adapting them to fit Nolan's vision of a "realistic" Gotham City.

As far as Raw Shark is concerned - and these are presumably all questions that Beaufoy has already attempted to tackle, to some degree - a significant problem I can see the filmmakers running into is that, for a fair amount of the book, Eric is by himself. Much of the book is his internal monologue and that can be very difficult to translate to film. Do they have him talk to himself, do a voiceover, or just have him talk to Ian (I'm having flashes of Look Who's Talking Now)?

Setting aside the equally big problem of how the shark and the other fish are going to look on film, I wonder how they are going to convey the sense of dread and fear that you feel seeing the Ludovician's eye, peering out of the pages; the flipbook sequence on the Orpheus worked so well exactly because the reader feels as if the shark is inside the very book they are holding. The Ludovician isn't after Eric; now its after them.

I can also imagine that some audience members might get confused about the Light Bulb Fragment sequences. The filmmakers will undoubtedly want to film those, but they might have to somehow stress that these aren't Eric's memories; they are a visual interpretation of what Eric has managed to decode from the QWERTY tape. Unless they deliberately want to leave people wondering... It'll be interesting to see how they do the transition between what's happening to Eric now and what happened in Greece.

How will the filmmakers distinguish between Clio and Scout, assuming they are played by the same actress? If the filmmakers are not careful, I can easily imagine some of the audience getting confused (again) after Eric sees her toe tattoo. Wait, didn't she drown in Greece? Changes in clothing/hairstyle/behaviour might not be sufficient. Similar looking actresses would be an interesting choice, though. (See "Conceptually yours..." comment: "Thought about Clio and Scout being one and the same but got the impression that Clio became more of an ideal that Scout closely resembled?")

I can't see how they would film the Undex, but the film might include some of the other negatives, such as the Aquarium Fragment. Will they attempt to convey to the audience that the Raw Shark world extends beyond the screen?

But above all I'm concerned about the ending; the ending is just too vague for Hollywood. No big final showdown with Mycroft, Dr. Randle only being investigated for malpractice. A postcard? That's the end?
Steven Hall
Posted: Sunday, March 8, 2009 9:16:30 AM

Rank: Whale Shark
Groups: Shoal , Whale Shark

Joined: 1/24/2009
Posts: 416
Location: UK
All interesting points cg.


cgsheldon wrote:
How will the filmmakers distinguish between Clio and Scout, assuming they are played by the same actress? If the filmmakers are not careful, I can easily imagine some of the audience getting confused (again)


I think this is a good example of one of the biggest problems they'll face, if they do go for adapting the book faithfully. The big problem, as I see it, is that the book makes extensive use of an ambiguity within the reading process that doesn't really exist in viewing a film. Film demands that you 'show' what's happing in pictures which, ludocivian aside, is (I'm borrowing from Alan Moore again) almost the exact opposite of how The Raw Shark Texts works. With an issue like Clio/Scout for example, the filmmakers will have to make a decision to jump one way or the other in terms of casting, then presumably try to cloud the issue somehow.

It's the same issue that came up when I saw a stage version of The Turn of The Screw last year - either you put the ghosts on stage, or you don't. Either way, you lose much of the ambiguity that made the book work.

It's a tough one. I hope they can crack it.
I don't know. What do you think?

S
MiaVRO
Posted: Sunday, March 8, 2009 2:01:11 PM

Rank: Bede Shark
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Posts: 313
Location: Canada
Regarding the Clio/Scout issue, my sister had a good idea about this.
She said that the same actress should be used. In the beginning of the film, there should hardly be a resemblance. As it progresses, their similarities should start to show, and by the end, they should be nearly the same. I thought that was a good idea. Big undertaking for the actress though!
cgsheldon
Posted: Sunday, March 8, 2009 6:36:23 PM
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Other than casting two similar looking actresses for the roles of Clio and Scout, the only other idea I can think of is to never show Clio's face onscreen.

Eric cannot remember her; he never finds a photograph of her, and hence has no face to put to her name; all his "memories" of Clio come from what First Eric Sanderson has told him.

I think for the filmmakers to not even show Clio's face - either shooting over the actress' shoulder, or obscuring her face by the bright Greek sun, or even obscured by a guidebook - would make Eric's memory loss hit home that much harder for the audience.
Conceptually yours...
Posted: Monday, March 9, 2009 4:47:37 PM

Rank: Luxophage
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I cannot believe I am going to say this but maybe they should be given a free range (not to free mind) and see what they come up with??
Although having just read 'Do androids dream of electric sheep' then maybe not, may I say of that 'WTF'...

See in black and white, feel in slow motion....
Conceptually yours...
Posted: Tuesday, March 10, 2009 1:27:58 PM

Rank: Luxophage
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Location: Glossop Manchester
I like cgsheldons idea of not showing her face, but maybe not show her at all at first then as it moves along show more of her, then maybe the last shots of Clio should be clear to show the similarity to Scout, or the case that Erics memory makes her resemble Scout, so Eric is building his own memory of Clio as the story progress's, finally ending in a Clio that really looks like Scout. (agghh headache).


See in black and white, feel in slow motion....
Steven Hall
Posted: Tuesday, March 10, 2009 3:06:47 PM

Rank: Whale Shark
Groups: Shoal , Whale Shark

Joined: 1/24/2009
Posts: 416
Location: UK
Conceptually yours... wrote:
I like cgsheldons idea of not showing her face, but maybe not show her at all at first then as it moves along show more of her, then maybe the last shots of Clio should be clear to show the similarity to Scout, or the case that Erics memory makes her resemble Scout, so Eric is building his own memory of Clio as the story progress's, finally ending in a Clio that really looks like Scout. (agghh headache).


Yeah, I like this idea a lot - I can only hope the guys in filmland are thinking about this as hard as the folks here are!
Anyone else got any thought on this?

S
cgsheldon
Posted: Tuesday, March 10, 2009 9:04:26 PM
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Regarding Eric's memory - or rather, First Eric's questionable memory - I have to admit I doubted Clio's very existence, until Eric found her guidebook and her handwriting within.

Steven Hall wrote:
I can only hope the guys in filmland are thinking about this as hard as the folks here are!


The nice thing about writing something is that even if the adaptation doesn't quite live up to the author's/readers' standards, there's always the possibility of a remake; just look at how many different TV and movie versions of Shakespeare's works there are, or that other great unfilmable novel, Lord of the Rings, which was made into a movie twice.
Ellimist
Posted: Tuesday, March 10, 2009 11:31:34 PM

Rank: Fry
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Claymation...

or animated like paper Mario. Whichever.
Mr. Somebody
Posted: Wednesday, March 11, 2009 3:02:19 AM

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The most difficult part will be how the audience will react. I can imagine sitting next to my friends in the theatre and them saying, "A conceptual what?" My greatest fear is that the filmmakers will try and simplify the idea of conceptual fish, and at the same time will completely stray from the book.
Regarding Eric's memories, it would be really neat if the filmmakers did a flashback thing like they did in LOST. Throughout the movie they could flashback to the lightbulb fragment and the aquarium fragment.
Steven Hall
Posted: Wednesday, March 11, 2009 9:05:58 AM

Rank: Whale Shark
Groups: Shoal , Whale Shark

Joined: 1/24/2009
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Mr. Somebody wrote:
The most difficult part will be how the audience will react. I can imagine sitting next to my friends in the theatre and them saying, "A conceptual what?" My greatest fear is that the filmmakers will try and simplify the idea of conceptual fish


Hey Mr Somebody,

Welcome to the forums :)

I can't say whether they'll eventually end up simplifying things, but I do know that Blueprint's producer, Peter Czernin, is very keen to preserve much of the complexity and (even more bravely) the ambiguity of the book as he feels he can make work on screen. Of course, there are lots of people with a say in these things, and I don't know where the line in the sand will be drawn. I do think that Pete has a love and an understanding of the book though (which is why I sold the film rights to him!), and a respect for it that I doubt I could have found anywhere else. I guess we'll just have to trust him and see what he comes up with.

cgsheldon wrote:
The nice thing about writing something is that even if the adaptation doesn't quite live up to the author's/readers' standards, there's always the possibility of a remake.


Very true. Raw Shark's fish are not all in one fish tank with this, so to speak :)

S
MiaVRO
Posted: Friday, March 13, 2009 2:32:25 AM

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I think what i'm most afraid of is the reaction to the book after the film.
It happens all the time. A movie tends to be more simplified, less dramatic and personal than a book. A book has more power to get under the skin, wheras a movie is almost always less intense (if you understand where i'm going). I'm afraid of those people who see the movie, read the book, and say "Its not the same. The movie was way better. Don't read the book."
So many people follow these misconceptions that movies make, and i'm afraid that it might have a more profound affect on the way the book is viewed.
Make sense? I'm not making much sense today. Whatev.
Conceptually yours...
Posted: Friday, March 13, 2009 10:02:18 PM

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I know what you mean, but it might bring a whole world of other people to the book or just introduce people who don't read this kind of work. All the people I have recommended TRST to have had different attitudes and thoughts about it but have ultimatly loved it (and at least 3 of them have never read anything like it before!!).
(Plus some people don't read books and we have to get them somehow) ;)

See in black and white, feel in slow motion....
Shadow Girl
Posted: Monday, March 23, 2009 2:25:30 PM

Rank: Fry
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Location: Florida
I don't think it would be so difficult to develop the book into film. I don't know about the other people here, but personally, when I read a book it plays out in my head as I read. Very detailed...I think I'm just stuck with an overactive imagination. Sometimes, I'll use House of Leaves as an example, easily filmatized (I know that's not a word) scenes and actions are just simply not there. Sure, in that example, it still plays out in my head...but probably only in a way that caters specifically to me to the point where only I will understand what's going on visually. (Conceptually?)

But Raw Shark was different. I couldn't put it down, and a large part of that was because everything played out in my mind so smoothly. I could see it all very simply. Honestly, if I were to make a film based off of the book, I doubt I would change anything. The book is so easily used as the storyboard itself. I especially like the visual of the shark swimming under the checkerboard tiles.

When it comes to letters...I suppose they could be read over scenes where there is no talking and maybe some visual allusion to what the letter is about.

And there it was, full of everything and overwhelming nothingness.
Leo went on, a false idea resting in a candy wrapper of societal perfection.

He had no idea what it meant to see, what it meant to know.

And there was no way for me to un-know. No way for me to un-see. No way I could ever shield myself in one of those brightly colored candy wrappers of pretend ignorance.

I think I wanted it that way, to be like Leo, but I knew that would never happen.

~A snippet of things to come.
MiaVRO
Posted: Monday, March 23, 2009 9:43:35 PM

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I think that because book and film are such different mediums, its not quite possible to transfer one to the other exactly. it being visual and it being transferable are two different obstacles. This film is going to be one huge minefield for those taking it on!! But if maneuverd correctly, everyone can get out alive!.
Shadow Girl
Posted: Monday, March 23, 2009 9:47:31 PM

Rank: Fry
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Different obstacles? I'm not too sure about that. If it's easily visualized...it's most likely filmable. I really think the only sort of obstacle would be the letters. Maybe it's just that I sometimes think in form of film. A strange concept but I can't really describe it any other way.

And there it was, full of everything and overwhelming nothingness.
Leo went on, a false idea resting in a candy wrapper of societal perfection.

He had no idea what it meant to see, what it meant to know.

And there was no way for me to un-know. No way for me to un-see. No way I could ever shield myself in one of those brightly colored candy wrappers of pretend ignorance.

I think I wanted it that way, to be like Leo, but I knew that would never happen.

~A snippet of things to come.
MiaVRO
Posted: Monday, March 23, 2009 9:54:36 PM

Rank: Bede Shark
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Location: Canada
I'm just considering the facts; that the way i see Clio is totally different than the way someone else may. She might be a total bi-atch to someone, and an angel to another person. Eric's home might look different to me than to you, and things like this pose obstacles in ALL book to film circumstances. The shark scenes shouldn't be too CG or "fake", and the ending scene doesn't want to be a cop out of Jaws (as previously mentioned). And alot of the book itself is Eric's own thoughts. How he feels, his being lost in not only himself, but his world(s). His ideas and frames of mind and personal processes are a huge part of the book. How do you make that in pictures? Sure voice overs can be used, but who wants to sit there listening to that for a major portion of the movie? Unfortunately, things will have to be nipped and tucked, but there are people out there who can work that magic!
I believe!
Shadow Girl
Posted: Monday, March 23, 2009 10:05:12 PM

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I understand where you're coming from, but most of that...feelings anyway, can be conveyed through film shots themselves. It's kind of harder to explain than it is to do, but any good director/director of photography can probably convey what you're talking about. I don't think voice overs would be much of a good idea at all...you might as well just read the book in that sense. People are showing concern over the ending being "a cop out of Jaws"...but I don't think there's much that can be done about that is there. I wouldn't say it's a cop out, but it does greatly mirror Jaws in some senses. I think some of us are just going to have to cope with the fact that, when people think shark attack...they typically think of Jaws. It's just conceptually prevalent.

However, I don't even think that's MUCH of an obstacle as long as the burr burr doesn't sound like the "du duun" music from Jaws...it should be fine. There are enough differences and explanations about conceptual reality (at least in my opinion) that separate the last shark scene from the ending of Jaws.

As for the other shark scenes...how can they NOT be CG or "fake"? The shark is made up of words. I think that's a major visual...and a major concept that can't be lost in a film adaptation.

And there it was, full of everything and overwhelming nothingness.
Leo went on, a false idea resting in a candy wrapper of societal perfection.

He had no idea what it meant to see, what it meant to know.

And there was no way for me to un-know. No way for me to un-see. No way I could ever shield myself in one of those brightly colored candy wrappers of pretend ignorance.

I think I wanted it that way, to be like Leo, but I knew that would never happen.

~A snippet of things to come.
MiaVRO
Posted: Monday, March 23, 2009 10:13:43 PM

Rank: Bede Shark
Groups: Shoal

Joined: 1/24/2009
Posts: 313
Location: Canada
Shadow Girl wrote:
I understand where you're coming from, but most of that...feelings anyway, can be conveyed through film shots themselves.

If that can be done WELL, then we've got a pretty shnazy movie on our hands!!
Do you think the film should be verbatim the book? What sort of changes do you think are allowable to make?
I've had mixed emotions as of late. On one hand, i'd love for the BOOK to be the MOVIE, you know? Just as i imagined it. But on the other hand, the movie can be pretty fantastic if its not exactly the same as the book. Should it be Raw Shark Texts movie and book? Or Raw Shark Texts book with adapted movie?
(i'm sort of saying the same thing over, aren't i?)
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