Tips from a Screenwriter

Brideshead Revisited Movie 2008 adaption Jeremy BrockTV and movie screen-writer Jeremy Brock  (co-creator of BBC’s Casualty, writer of Last King of Scotland, Mrs Brown and Brideshead Revisited) could be heard on BBC World Service Radio this morning (Sat 24th Sept, 2011) to talk about screen adaptations.

Brock discussed adapting novels and fact-based projects for film.

On adapting the novel

  • Don’t keep the dialogue – most of it won’t work on screen, it’s too long, too dense.
  • Respect the spirit of the work – but don’t try to reproduce it on screen. Don’t be too literal or literary
  • Be bold in the process of contraction to fit the novel into the screen-time
  • Find an equivalent voice – the novel has the interior life and voice of it’s characters. You may try to reproduce this in voice-over, but it’s not a skilful movie technique and has limited use.
  • Short stories often provide more ‘room’ to adapt to the screen, it certainly sounds like the writer gets more creative fun filling-in a full script

On adapting ‘true stories’

  • Reality is sequential, the screenplay is consequential. Merely putting a sequence of events on screen will fail; we need to see the motivation and consequences of those events.


About Robin Catling

Writer; performer; project manager; sports coach; all-round eccentric.
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