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Monday, December 8, 2014

Novels and Films: The Benefits of Playing Nice

Photo credit: hariputra |

The age-old argument "Which was better, the book or the movie?" is given another spin by Emma Kete, who tells of the benefits of filmmakers and authors working together. ♦

In the book The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks, there’s a section in the back featuring an interview with the author wherein Sparks explains that Miley Cyrus, the lead in the movie The Last Song, approached him with a request to star in a movie written by him. From there, Sparks wrote the script for the movie to serve as a vehicle for her . . . and then later wrote the book The Last Song.
       “I received a phone call from Jennifer Gipgot, a producer associated with Disney (and the sister of Adam Shankman, who’d directed A Walk to Remember),” Sparks recalls. “She said that Miley Cyrus loved A Walk to Remember, that she wanted to do something in the same vein, and then asked whether I ‘happened to have a story lying around.’” He then replied that he didn’t have anything started, but shortly thereafter he started writing the script for The Last Song.
       While a number of Sparks’s previous books had been sold to Hollywood studios before they’d been completed, none of them had been sold to Hollywood before they were even books, making The Last Song obviously quite unique.
       Since Sparks’s first book The Notebook was published in 1995, he has written eighteen successful books, nine of which have been turned into movies. He’s built a fanbase by and reputation of producing sappy romantic movies set in North Carolina with very similar storylines, and the films based off of his books have featured popular actors such as Ryan Gosling, Channing Tatum, Rachel McAdams, and Zac Efron. Because Nicholas Sparks is such a household name, movies that include “based off the novel written by Nicholas Sparks” hold the promise of big box office. Likewise, since Sparks has a literary reputation as well, readers know what to expect when another book by him gets published: they either flock to shelves and devour another romantic novel, or suspect that this book will be like all the last ones and avoid buying the book.
       But this particular arrangement—a book based off the film written by Nicholas Sparks—is something new. And it raises the question of the relationship between books and films; it’s clear that films have long benefitted from their relationship with novels, but how do books benefit from theatergoers buying tickets? Most of all, do film adaptations diminish or add to the experience for loyal readers of a particular book?
       The novel The Fault in Our Stars by John Green was an enormous success when it was published in 2012; as the book was gaining in popularity, Hollywood naturally bought the film rights, expecting a major hit. Hardcore fans of the book were worried that the movie would stray away from the original plot of the book. However, the producers of the movie and actors made sure to keep as much as possible original to the book.
       Originally, Green didn’t want to sell the rights to the book; as he said in an interview with Bustle.com, he was scared that if he put it in another person’s hands they would misinterpret his vision in creating the movie. The producers of the film promised him a faithful adaptation of the book and convinced Green they’d attempt to make his vision into a movie. Green later said that they kept true on every promise and that they gave him a very rich, rewarding experience that he could’ve never imagined.
       The fandom of The Fault in Our Stars was so strong that it inspired the actors from the movie and the author of the book to tour the country. Even before the film was released, fans were showing up at malls to meet and greet the stars and watch exclusive clips. Since these events were relatively low-key, they didn’t expect many people to show up. However, when they saw that thousands showed up at each location, they realized the power and reach of the book, and the hordes of loyal fans that came with all of it. And John Green moved from beloved author to the status of a national celebrity when the movie came out, touring with the cast and meeting fans who were obsessed with the book and the film.
      The Hunger Games and Divergent trilogies sparked significant popularity in their succeeding movies, but they were really nothing like the experience with The Fault in Our Stars; for one, with The Hunger Games and Divergent premieres, the authors were nowhere to be found. The fans were obsessed with the books and the movies, but the main focus was on the Hollywood actors and actresses, the big-budget spectacle, instead of the author and the characters in the book. Whereas the mutually-beneficial relationship between the mediums was a little easier to see with The Fault in Our Stars, which was extremely successful when first released and became even more successful once the movie was released. Once people saw the trailer—and all the hype that came with releasing a new movie—they were more intrigued to read the book; a new cover on the book featuring the actors in the film likewise grabbed consumers’ attention, and book sales spiked again.
       And that’s how it should be. Even if the mediums operate differently—and have at times operated somewhat at odds—there’s no reason the two can’t recognize the mutual benefit that comes from adapting books into films . . . or even, in Nicholas Sparks’s case, adapting a film into a book. Embracing the relationship between books and movies will help both ticket sales and novel sales, and that benefit gets passed on to viewers and readers alike.
  • About the Author
    Emma Kete is a professional writing major and marketing minor at Miami University. She has traveled to 11 countries and enjoys leisurely reading whenever she can.

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