My Visit to ABC Studios - Part 1
I have never been to the taping of a television show and I must say that it was an exciting and educational experience.
However, before I talk about the show there are two things I must tell you first;
1. I know I promised that I would put up pictures from the filming, but sadly, no photography was allowed in the studio. Looks like you will just have to wait until the show airs next month.
2. My television show experience would have been nowhere near as fun without my audience neighbour, Jill. Thanks Jill for your entertaining comments, the show wouldn't have been the same without you!
Jennifer Byrne Presents: Book to Film
Well, on the day I went to the ABC Studios it was the filming of the first shows of the season for Jennifer Byrne Presents: Book to Film and First Tuesday Bookclub. Part 1 of these posts will focus on Jennifer Byrne Presents: Book to Film.
Jennifer Byrne Presents is a monthly discussion programme on which Jennifer Byrne hosts a panel of four guests who talk about book related topics. This show was about books which have been turned into films and the special guests were (in the order pictured);
Ana Kikkinos- Ana Kokkinos graduated from Melbourne's Monash University law school in 1982 and worked for nine years as an industrial lawyer. In 1991 she applied to film school and was accepted in the graduate film and TV programme at the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne. Having worked in both television and film as a writer and director her most known works include The Book of Revelation (2006) and Blessed (2009).
John Collee- John Collee studied Medicine and History of Art in Edinburgh, Scotland, and subsequently worked as a doctor in the UK, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, the Solomon Islands and the former Soviet Union. His published novels include Kingsley's Touch and The Rig, all published by Penguin in the UK and USA. As a screenwriter his most known works include Master and Commander (2003) and Happy Feet (2006).
John Marsden- After trying his hand at law and teaching, John Marsden is now one of Australia's most influential authors. Originating from Victoria, Marsden has sold over 2 million books in Australia and is an international best-seller. His works include the Tomorrow series and the Ellie chronicles.
Margaret Pomeranz- Best known for her work with David Stratton on The Movie Show (SBS) and Margaret and David at the Movies (ABC), Pomeranz has an extensive history in the Australian film and television world. Born in Sydney, Pomeranz started by studying at University but it was her years in Europe which lead her into her love of the media. Pomeranz has served as a member of the Advertising Standards Board, is a past President of the Film Critics Circle of Australia, and is a past President, currently vice-President of Watch on Censorship.
Jennifer Bryne first asked the guests which movies they thought were good examples of book to film adaptations.
John Collee's choice was Jaws (1975) and he quite excitedly described it as a "rollicking good time". What the panellists noticed is that alot of great films have originated from very average books and what they concluded was that alot of the great novels can be hard to translate to the screen particularly those books which are highly descriptive as it can be difficult to maintain fidelity to such works.
Another point that Collee made was that books are reflective while films are immersive and the two can create such a vast variety of emotions and reactions. One such example is a shark attack in Jaws. John Marsden pointed out that when reading the book a reader will most often feel empathy for the victim at the time of a shark attack while the movie viewer will most likely feel shock because of the visual distress of seeing the attack.
Ana Kokkinos' choice was The Road (2009) which she believed was a good adaptation because the book was "cinematic" and a "blue print for the film". Kokkinos' believes that such confronting books as these make such good films because of those moments of collective consciousness that you get in a theatre that you don't get while alone with a book.
It must also be noted that Jennifer Byrne refuses to see this film. She is such a fan of the novel that she refuses to see the film through fear of disappointment.
John Marsden's choice for a good film adaptation was Lord of the Flies (1990) which he thought has "tremendous fidelity to the book". He noted how close the actors chosen were to the characters as they are described in the book and he was amazed at the dynamic between the children. The opinion that John Collee had of Lord of the Flies was that it made a strong film because of the strong narrative drive of the book.
Jennifer Byrne pointed out that a director's interpretation of the book has to be quite powerful and with a book that has a strong narrative, such as Lord of the Flies, it can make it easier for the director to establish that interpretation and stay true to it.
Margaret Pomeranz's choice was In The Cut (2003). I admit that I had not heard of or seen this film but what Pomeranz said is that sex and death are sellers and this book and film have both. But she was alone in her opinion. The other panellists were quite happy to put this on their list of worst adaptations, mainly due to the performance of Meg Ryan who they felt was wrongfully cast in this role. The panellists all agreed that the casting of a film can switch it swiftly from a good adaptation to a bad adaptation.
They also didn't appreciate how varied the book and film were with one of the most powerful scenes of the book being completely dismissed for the film.
Jennifer Byrne then asked for their list of worst book to film adaptations.
Pomeranz chose One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) as her worst book to film adaptation. She admitted that she had read and loved the novel but the film had taken a different approach to the story which left her wanting.
One of the points that John Marsden made, not only about this film but all films, is that you cannot see the film first. He went on to explain that the imagery of film is so strong that it can greatly effect the way you read and appreciate the book.
"A vile film" is the description that John Marsden gave to his worst adaptation choice, Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), to which all the panellists agreed. What they all agreed is that the film lacks the whimsy of Dahl's original story and it betrays the nature of the book. Roald Dahl in intangible and magical, the film is not.
Ana Kokkinos' chose Perfume (2006) as her nomination for worst book to film adaption. She felt that the film tried to mirror the "bigness" of the book and was a "remarkable failure". She felt that the director, Tom Tykwer, had tried to do too much within the limitations of the film medium.
John Collee's choice was The Golden Compass (2007) which he referred to as a "paint by numbers". As a big fan of the novel Collee thought that the film just went through the motions of the book without too much interpretation. It is his belief that a film has to have meaning, not just hit all the right points.
All of the panellists agreed that books that are interior, too full of ideas, too intellectual or cerebral are unfilmable.
My Two Cents...
Good Adaptation - Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)
I felt that this film maintained a high fidelity to the novel and successfully portrayed the beautiful and emotive story. I also feel that the actors chosen were very close to the characters as were the locations and buildings close to those imagine din the book.
Bad Adaptation - White Oleander (2002)
I admit that I saw the movie before reading the book. I thought that I had really enjoyed the film until I read the novel and was greatly disappointed at how Hollywood had manged such a beautiful tale, successfully destroying a majority of the story's meaning. In my opinion one of the most moving and important points of the novel is that beauty is not just physical. Astrid, the main character, is a physically beautiful girl who uses that to her advantage but through the book she loses that beauty after a gun shot and a dog attack and she must learn that beauty is an internal quality, but Hollywood leaves this major issue out, opting to keep Astrid physically attractive to the end. A great disappointment!
Discussion; What do you think has been a good adaptation? What do you think has been a bad adaptation? And, what makes these adaptations good or bad?
Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 of the ABC Studio series of posts!
Happy reading (and viewing)!