Advice to a Young Writer
March 7, 2012
A young man in attendance at a screening of my feature length documentary, Turning Left To Go Right, asked, ”How do you know if your idea is good, and how do you decide if it should be a film or a play?” Both are important questions and yet simultaneously simple ones.
Film is a photographic art. Ideas that are predominately visual translate best into the image dominated art form of cinema. History, however, is filled with examples of individuals who have interpreted works both as theatre, film, prose and even radio. Roll Of Thunder Hear My Cry, for example, was first a Newberry Award winning novel. Next it was translated into a low budget film starring Morgan Freeman. I was then commissioned to adapt the novel into a stage play for Seattle Children’s Theatre. The work was successful in each medium because each subsequent creator allowed themselves the freedom to re-envision Ms. Taylor’s novel in conformance with the unique rules of their respective genres. Many key moments are in each of the adaptations, but the style of a scene like two cars meeting in the center of a single lane bridge is very different on film versus on a stage.
If we respect the strengths of each genre and continue identifying and addressing weaknesses in our texts then we are assured that the resulting creation will work both for the medium that we have chosen and the audience that assembles.
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