San Diego Comic Con 2012 has a fantastic line-up of panels, and Lytherus is happy to bring you extensive coverage. On Thursday we attended the Books and Hollywood: Literary Franchises in Television and Film panel. In a nutshell, this panel was about crossing over from books to movies, or vise-versa. Clearly this was one of the panels to hit up this year, because of the adaptation overload that has been happening recently. I was excited to see what the professionals in various fields had to say on the topic, and I wasn’t disappointed with their responses.
The all-star lineup consisted of Margaret Stohl (co-author of the Beautiful Creatures series whose book has just been turned into a movie, and former video game sound editor), Scott Speer (Music video and commercial director/creator and author of Immortal City), Tony DiTerlizzi (co-writer of The Spiderwick Chronicles and creator of The Search for WondLa series), Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz (TV writers and screen writers [X-Men, Thor], and authors of Colin Fischer), Mike Richardson (president of Dark Horse), Rob Reger (author/creator of Emily the Strange, which is being made into a film by Dark Horse Entertainment for Universal) and Mark Frost (Co-writer of TV’s Twin Peaks, screenwriter for The Fantastic Four movies, and author of The Paladin Prophecy). It was such a broad spread of media professionals, and even though I read the list of names and stats, I got more than a little excited when they were introduced. I was in a room with a lot of the big creative forces at work in America today.
The topics were broad and interesting, covering things like working on collaborations, protecting your ideas as they cross media forms, and of course feedback on books to movies (and what it’s like when it’s not done well).
One of the more interesting questions was how to take your favorite characters from page to screen (or vise-versa). At the end of the day, it’s all about developing interesting characters that have a story to tell, and that story will translate regardless of how it is communicated. Reger stated that he likes exploring options with the people on his teams who are experienced in the specific areas he’s looking at, as they’re more likely to protect his baby. Stohl talks about how watching her book be created for the big screen was like both darkness and light, but that we need to be fair to equal-opportunity fans, and at the end of the day she had to just learn to let go and embrace the differences.
Another interesting question was the creative aspects verses the business aspects of these media options. The authors across the board said basically that when film rights are sold, film has so many more elements, that even though it is interesting to see how the movie takes place, at the end of the day your book is your book, that’s where you have the real control. Film is fun, and you can engage, but with new eyes and not as the viewer of the book. Apples and oranges. All things we’ve heard before, but nice to be reiterated just the same.
The overall vibe from the whole panel was the joy of having the ability to cross-over between different media, and the need to see each art form as its own unique entity. I am the first to admit that I can get a little belligerent about the differences when a book is translated poorly to movie (Percy Jackson anyone?), but instead of feeling like they were giving the standard politically correct answer of acceptance of differences, it really truly seemed like a heartfelt belief. There was a light-hearted excitement from them as they tossed their various idea children back and forth and demonstrated time and again that at the end of the day it’s about the story and the characters, no matter how it is portrayed. It’s never been a better time to create, and as Mark Frost quoted, with great upheaval is great opportunity. Change can be good, and fans these days are cross-overs too, propelling things even more forward. And the digital age has opened doors up like nothing else; it’s a great way to get things out there in ways never before imagined.
One of the other main questions was about the different rhythms of TV, movies, books and comics, and why certain things work better in certain places. Both Frost and Stohl brought up the need for longevity for TV vs the way books and movies are digested. Frost also warned that Hollywood can be a soul shredder, so if there’s a book-to-movie thing happening, remain as detached as possible; they’re just too different.
The panel ended with audience Q&A, and one of my favorites was their favorite book-to-movie translations. Hellboy, Jaws, Die Hard, To Kill a Mockingbird, and of course the epic The Lord of the Rings trio were some of the suggestions.
Overall, I enjoyed this panel immensely. I know that this is a popular issue that comes up time and again, and it was interesting to get inside the head of various pros and see the various dimensions that go into creating movies from books and why it isn’t simple. But it can be done, and it is a joy when it is.