The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Run" for your life: a master speaks...

This last weekend I was in Oregon for the 2011 Orycon SF convention, one of my favorites of the year. And while there, it was my pleasure and honor to share a panel with the great William F. Nolan, co-author of "Logan's Run" and more books and television scripts than I can count. It was the second time I'd met him--the first was when he was a guest on "Hour 25," my radio show in Los Angeles.

As before, he was filled with valuable insights as to the craft and business of writing. One of the best had to do with the craft of adaptation, that is, converting a novel to a movie. He told the story of shepherding Peter Straub's novel "Floating Dragon" to the screen after multiple other writers had given up, considering the story (involving supernatural entities, vast clouds of poison gas, and more) beyond simplification.

Nolan's approach is to read the novel, and then extract the essential scenes, setting all others aside. In the case of "Floating Dragon" that meant actually setting aside the titular cloud of vapor, and adjusting a secondary supernatural phenomenon so that the title of the piece still applied.

This is clearly more "art" than "science," and it is difficult to guess whether fans of the original book might have taken offense. But this is the business. Few books make it to the screen unchanged, and all you can do is try to tease out the very best story...make the very best film...imaginable.


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