February 6th, 2008

Macbeth the Usurper

Converting Books to Film

My latest "I can't sleep" project is converting McCaffrey's "Dragonsong" book to film in my head. How would you actually script out that work? What plays? What doesnt? What would show well? What paces? What needs to be cut? Changed? Inserted?

This book is basically a WW-II blitz story, except that the blitz has been ongoing for SEVEN YEARS. You have a people hiding beneath the ground while thread falls, stressed and overworked. Above, you have fighter pilots, stressed and overworked. Both sides don't understand each other. Morale sucks. Now GO.

Any true fan of McCaffrey would despair over the changes that I consider making. Yes, I really would f*** it up as badly as all that. Vast sections would just be rewritten or simplified. That's OK. Other parts get more complicated once you place the characters in this context.

Let's talk Menolly's father. Dad is the leader of the hold. In the book, he's just a meanie. In the film, he is a leader needing to field more people more often in ground support, to catch more fish than before (pay more taxes) while having less time to fish, and to receive little or no benefit from the dragonriders as they don't defend the oceans. He is losing more ships and men to the ocean or thread, and sometimes men in the ground crews. Those people are his friends and family. Supply trains are unreliable. The hold is barely catching what it needs. It becomes reasonable that the man has become stressed, angry, and harsh in response. The last thing that he has time for is an idle daughter who won't pull her weight.

In many ways, it becomes more of a docu-drama than a sci-fi flick.