The book’s always better than the movie…


That’s the rule, right?

Books rule over movies.


Before I got involved with this whole short film thing, I always would get indignant after watching yet another failed movie adaptation of a book I liked. And I would always wonder to myself why in the heck could they never get it write/right.

Until on a whim I decided to try my hand at adapting my short story LEAVE into a screenplay.

Right away I realized that this was going to be no easy feat.

Introspection and contemplation that serve a short story or a novel so well is basically useless in a screenplay where just about everything must be represented as action and dialogue so it can be seen and heard by the audience.

Of course LEAVE as a short story is mostly introspection and contemplation by the protagonist so right off the bat the whole structure would have to change in order to be able to show his shift of character from beginning to end.

To do this, new scenes had to be invented and new characters had to be developed and within the first writing of the story of LEAVE as a screenplay, it was already hugely different from the story of LEAVE the short story. And that was only by my own efforts.

After I showed it to an actor friend for his feedback, from his guidance it went from 33 pages down to fifteen. And yes, to whittle it down that much there had to be a significant change in story and tempo.

But really, the biggest changes to the story didn’t occur until once the screenplay was accepted by a studio and a director was found and she got ahold of it… and then several of the lead actors got ahold of it…

Talk about feedback overload. It took much effort and persuasion to maintain it as a story I recognized.

And, while we are scheduled to begin filming in two months, we haven’t yet cast the lead actor so I can only wonder what changes still might occur to it.

But you know what… the story as it is now as a near fully developed screenplay is really not that far from what it is as a short story.

It is just different.

And much, much better in my opinion.

Still, I guarantee it if you read the short story and then see the film, you will be significantly surprised by the differences that there are between the two.

I just hope you are not significantly disappointed.

But I can pretty much guarantee that you won’t be because we have an awesome crew and the cast is going to be first rate and impressive.

And I can also guarantee that from now on whenever I watch a movie that has been poorly adapted from a book that I like I will certainly be less critical and more understanding of the differences between the two and the winding and somewhat weary course that had to be traveled to get the story to the screen.

Because now I know.

And now I have only one rule regarding movies and books.

Both of them do.

Rule, that is…


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25 thoughts on “The book’s always better than the movie…”

  1. Interesting. I love Point of Impact yet also love Shooter (more concise story-telling). I love Nothing Lasts Forever yet also love Die Hard. Remains of the Day is the single example of a book/movie that IMO are equally brilliant.

  2. You made some great points! While I usually like the book better than the movie, a lot of time the movie is good enough that if I hadn’t read the book I’d probably really enjoy it. This also helps explain why one of my favorite childhood books “Ella Enchanted” was totally changed and, in my opinion, was a terrible movie. If they did it word for word from the book it probably would’ve made a slow, boring movie. The main plot was the same, but everything else about it was different. I guess it’s hard when you have a book you love completely changed into something you never imagined it would be.

  3. It’s hard when you read a book first and love it. Books are hard to convert 100% so even very good adaptations feel like they’re missing something to the readers that love it. I have seen some great movies that are adapted though, so it’s doable. But yes, they’re different animals. And that’s okay.

  4. Interesting perspective! I try not to compare books and movies too much. They are such different mediums and both have their pro’s and cons.

  5. Sure, the book is always better than the movie…

    Except The Princess Bride…
    And The Hunger Games…
    And The Cloud Atlas…
    And several others…

    I don’t understand why some people feel they have to “prove” written fiction is inherently superior to screen fiction. They both have advantages and disadvantages: a novel can have as big a “special-effects budget” as the author wants, but most novels, unlike movies and television, don’t have a soundtrack with interesting music. (A couple of my favorite novels DO have “soundtracks,” or at least music recommended by the authors, but that may be because the authors are also musicians and so think about such things more.)

    • Well, for me, I invest much more time in a book and, consequently, become very attached to those that move me. So, when a movie adaptation of a book that I’m attached to, in my estimation, fails, then I usually have the need to express my disappointment… not sure if I’m looking to prove anything. It just seems to me that more often than not a book is better than a movie adaptation of it. As far as a comparison between the two mediums in general, that’s a different discussion.

  6. The movie *A Beautiful Mind* was based on Sylvia Nasar’s biography of the schizophrenic mathematician John Nash. The movie had the same title as the book but zillions of differences. Somebody asked Nasar whether the movie was a faithful adaptation; she replied that it was “true to the architecture of Nash’s life”. Yes. Trying for detailed accuracy in the timeline and trying to explain the Nash Equilibrium Theorem correctly would have made a deadly dull movie. While some of the distortions and simplifications can be questioned, the overall result was a good movie that encouraged people to look into the book and/or what the theorem really says.

    • This is a fantastic example, MC. Watched the movie with the fam, loved it, and one of my kids read the book and reported back that, while a good book, it was much different than the movie.

  7. Not always. 🙂 I can name a few absolutely fantastic movies that are better than the books they were adapted from: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (book by John Berendt), Sideways (book by Rex Pickett), and Fight Club (book by Chuck Palahniuk).

  8. Thanks for pointing this very important fact, it’s hard to translate a book to screen. Not saying I won’t be disappointed with an adaptation, but I do always take this into consideration : )


  9. Like every rule, this one has its exceptions. The Shawshank Redemption starring Tim Robbins and Morgran Freeman was based on a novella by Stephen King titled Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. I have no qualms with stating that the movie was superior.

  10. It is not easy to visualize the product of our imagination, and most end with poor quality. What happens to Nicholas Nickleby is one of the most vivid examples to me. Hope yours is better, Kurt.

  11. Books aren’t necessarily better than films, I just have to be aware that the film is the producer’s interpretation of the book. I feel I need to be open-minded and give credit to the producers for doing their best (at least I hope so) to incorporate all possible angles while following the storyline, without twisting author’s writing too much.

    Some films make me cringe because they destroy my own personal imagination and interpretation of the book to the point in which I can’t re-read the book without my contaminated imagination ruining it. But if I were to view the films by itself prior to reading the book first, I’d applaud it.

    I think the only time BOTH the book and the film killed it for me was the Twilight series (Yes, I read them…and saw them…I don’t like to talk about it..)


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