I didn’t feel like writing this morning, so after finishing an assignment that needed to be submitted, I retired to the couch with my copy of “Podcast Solutions: The Complete Guide to Audio and Video Podcasting” by Michael W. Geoghegan and Dan Klass. This book is a part of my ongoing crusade to guarantee that when I start my own podcast, I’ll be producing something of acceptable quality. After all, if you’re going to do something, you might as well take the time to do it well.
Meanwhile, I’m biding my time with a lovely show entitled “Aboard the Knightbus” which, if you listen to the promo, claims to be “a fun and light-hearted look at the Harry Potter books chapter-by-chapter”. In reality, it’s a bit more like four women having an early mid-life crisis. I’ve been slowly improving my performance as “your friendly, neighborhood Slytherin” by practicing my enunciation and, on occasion, purchasing new and better equipment.
The first piece of this equipment, my AT2020 USB microphone by audio-technica, arrived last week and I spent a good bit of time fiddling with it as I prepared for today’s recording. I’m quite pleased with the product, though the sensitivity of the mic has led to some issues, namely, that it is capable of picking up the sound emanating from my headphones. Since this will cause an echo in my voice track, it became necessary for me to pop out for a new set of “cans”.
It was during this impromptu shopping trip that I got sidetracked by one of our local bookstores. (I swear, it just jumped out at me from behind the mall!) I had recently seen a preview for the movie adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game”, a book that a friend of mine has been repeatedly recommending for years. I felt that it would be best to read the book before seeing the movie and decided to purchase a copy to read while I’m at an upcoming writer’s conference.
After explaining all of this to the sales clerk, she led me to a stack of books which I had walked right past in my endeavor to locate a clerk to help me locate the book as quickly as possible. “It will ruin the movie,” she observed as she handed me a copy. I smiled, thanked her, and headed for the checkout.
Her words echoed in my ears all the way home. Would reading the book really destroy my movie-going experience? The truth is, more than once, I’ve gone to see a movie adaptation of a book I enjoyed only to walk away disappointed. “The Lord of the Rings” and “Harry Potter” series’ were prime examples. While both did an excellent job at visually portraying what I’d envisioned as I’d read the books, neither seemed to do justice to the story lines. Neither Frodo nor Faramir had lived up to my expectations of these heroes and the sad absence of most of Severus Snape’s best lines left me with a sense of emptiness.
This sense of betrayal lasted until just a few weeks ago when I had the opportunity to listen to Mugglenet Academia’s “Harry Potter: Book to Screen” interview with screenwriter Janet Scott Batchler. Truth be told, I’d never really considered the many difficulties that screenwriters face as they attempt to adapt the written word to an almost entirely visual medium without angering long-time fans of the book. Sadly, time and budget restrictions often result in writers expunging characters or sub-plots that have become dear to readers in favor of the primary story arcs which will attract those unfamiliar with the story. Lengthy explanatory passages which worked well in print must be translated into dialogue. And elaborate descriptions of scenery or costumes must often be reduced to whatever can be created with the technology or textiles currently on hand. The result? Even the best movie is likely to fall short of our expectations if what we’re seeking is a perfect representation of the book.
So what do we do? Perhaps the best answer is to understand and appreciate both medium for what they are. Books play primarily on our imagination. They allow us to visualize the most unusual or extraordinary circumstances and personalize what we see. And there is no limit to the number of pages they can take to convey this information.
Movies, on the other hand, convey the vision of the writers, directors, producers, and actors as they seek to convey their own personal perceptions to their audience. Movies must maintain the pace if they are to keep the viewer’s attention. They must convey color and excitement, drama, and romance, and all within a limited number of “pages”, if you will.
When we approach these mediums in this fashion, it may be possible for us to appreciate both – enjoying the intimate, personal experience of reading the book and relishing the social aspect of sharing in another’s interpretation of those same descriptive words. Perhaps, when we do, we’ll walk away with yet another unique experience: that of enjoying both the movie and the book upon which it is based!