From Bridgerton to Harry Potter, many popular movies and TV shows were adapted from books. In fact, book movies have become a huge genre in Hollywood’s repertoire. But how are books adapted into film? And what’s the difference between a successful adaptation, and one that falls flat?
Adapting a book into film is a long and complicated process. Before a director can start any work, the author of the original material has to give the okay for adaptation to happen in the first place.
Many authors are uncertain about their work being adapted, as two people reading the same text might have completely different ideas of what that execution looks like. Authors want filmmakers to do right by their creations, and many are worried that their vision won’t make it to screen.
Once a director or producer gets the author’s blessing, then the project moves into the “option period,” where the producer has to develop a screenplay and find someone to finance the project. If no one finances the project during the option period, the rights go back to the author and the project gets scrapped.
After the financing of the project, producers start doing things like hiring screenwriters, getting a director, filling out the cast, and finalizing the deal. Authors are sometimes involved during this process, but sometimes they aren’t. It all depends on the project and the producer. It can also depend on how much sway the author has in the literary world. Big names like Stephen King demand to be heavily involved in the production process while debut authors may not have the staying power to demand to be part of the process.
Assuming the optioning process goes well, they’ll then move on to receiving a pilot order, if it’s for TV. If a network likes the pilot, they’ll then get a season order, which means they’d start shooting. If they’re making a movie, they’ll move on to casting and filming.
Producers aren’t required to include authors while they’re filming but for some adaptations, that might mean the difference between a massive success and a big flop.
What makes a successful adaptation
The Bridgerton series on Netflix is the talk of social media at the moment.
20 years after the first book was published, Shonda Rimes’ series was created with the full blessing of author, Julia Quinn. The novels themselves were hugely popular when they were released over the last two decades, which contributed to some of their popularity on Netflix.
One of the reasons the Bridgerton series turned out so well was because everyone involved in the project was dedicated to making sure each of the elements that traditionally made the novels a hit translated well to screen. Another aspect of why it performed so well is that it reflects many of the issues of the modern world in a historical setting.
With five seasons, Riverdale is another popular adaptation based on characters of Archie comics. While comic adaptation movies have become hugely popular, with the Marvel and D.C. franchises, Riverdale is a bit of a different beast. The series is based off of the characters more than the overall story. This has allowed a new generation to fall in love with Archie, Jughead, Betty, and Veronica.
As mentioned before, Stephen King is an author with some of the most successful book adaptations. Because of his big staying power, he’s largely involved in every one of his book adaptations. Instead of being bought out at the beginning, he takes a smaller payment in exchange for more creative authority over the filmmaking decisions. As a result of that, he’s able to make sure his vision is carried out and he has dozens of movie hits based off of writings from his prolific career.
Perhaps one of the most successful adaptations of all time is the Harry Potter franchise. In fact, some people consider it the most successful series in film history. With an 8 film deal, J.K. Rowling got a huge amount of money from the merchandise and movie deals that came from her bestselling series. The combination of hitting the right audience at the right time with a single emotional thread that went through the entire series made Harry Potter a compelling story from start to finish.
Whether we’re talking individual film adaptations, or long hit TV series, book-to-screen adaptations are here to stay. What’s your favorite book adaptation? Tell us by tweeting to us at @bookclubdotcom!