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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Lord of the Rings:
Movie Technical Discussion 1 - Book to Script

OhioHobbit
Gondor

Jan 11 2008, 10:42am


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Movie Technical Discussion 1 - Book to Script Can't Post

My qualifications for leading this discussion are -

1. I have seen some movies, (not very many).
2. I have watched the extras on the LOTR extended DVDs.
3. I watched the King Kong Production Diaries.

So, I am doing this as a complete layman. I don’t think that I will be making any movies any time soon, but I would like to know a little about how all of this works and hope that you would too. And I hope that we can have some fun finding out. So, here we go.

First you need a script!
A whole lot has been said about how the books were turned into movies, about how things that work in a book do not work in a movie, about pacing, building tension, character arc and so on. But don’t let that stop anyone, everything is open for discussion.

However, if you didn’t like how something was done in The Lord of the Rings here is your chance. How would you turn The Hobbit into a movie or do a particular scene from The Hobbit? Any particular favorite moments that you have visions of how you would do it?

Someone who had a great deal in influence on Peter Jackson’s writing early on was Robert McKee. According to Peter Jackson’s biography, Robert McKee is "Hollywood’s guru of gurus" for learning how to write a movie script. In 1983, he started presenting seminars on "Story." In 1988, he gave a talk in Wellington. Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh went to the seminar and both were enthusiastic about what McKee had to say. McKee’s thesis on story structure rests on two hypotheses:

"Story is Supreme – Characters are what they do. Story events impact the characters and characters impact events. Actions and reactions create revelation and insight, opening the door to a meaningful emotional experience for the audience.

"Structure is Character – Story is what elevates a movie, transforming a good film into a great one. Movie-making is a collaborative endeavour . . . but the screenwriter is the only original artist on a film. Everyone else – the actors, directors, cameramen, production designers, editors, special effects wizards, and so on – are interpretive artists, trying to bring alive the world, the events and the characters that the screenwriter has invented and created." (1.)
According to Peter Jackson, "McKee taught us that a film story is made up of different ‘acts’, like the acts in a stage play, each of which has certain things to achieve. He talked about establishing the turning-points in a screenplay; how the set-up should be handled and what he calls ‘the inciting incident’, which is the moment, about ten or fifteen minutes into the film, when you suddenly realise what the film is about and the viewer says, ‘Right! So this is the story . . . ’
"In The Fellowship of the Ring it is the moment where the Ring passes to Frodo. At that moment our story defines itself – it’s the tale of Frodo Baggins and the powerful ring he possesses.

"The Lord of the Rings was not just written, but also edited, with McKee’s principles of story structure in mind. When as we did, you begin editing the film during the course of shooting and then spend time shooting pick-ups, the structure can easily get a bit loose. So, what we did on Rings was to take a look at our first cut, where you actually have everything you’ve shot in the movie; you then reappraise it again, using McKee’s theories." (2.)

In the Fan Club magazine, Philippa Boyens said, "I don’t think a lot of people realize that the dialogue is pretty much the least of our worries. Your biggest job as a writer is the structure, the storytelling, and the way in which you are going to use this medium of film to tell that story." (3.)

According to the Appendices of the three The Lord of the Rings movies, Fran and Peter took the three books of LOTR and wrote a 90-page treatment. Philippa Boyens read this treatment in 1997. The script was being written and rewritten for the whole filming. Philippa said that The Two Towers was the hardest to write. And because they couldn’t have the two great climaxes of Helm’s Deep and Shelob in The Two Towers, Faramir had to become an obstruction since Frodo wouldn’t have any obstructions in a rewritten story line without Shelob. They had to give Faramir a character arc since he didn’t have one in the book. (4.)

Peter said, in the extras DVD, "You don’t stop making the movie and we really were just always rewriting scenes and writing new scenes and shooting stuff and tweaking the films and stuff, and constantly, constantly challenging ourselves, really, to try to think of last minute improvements . . . At the very beginning of this process, we’d identified the spine of our movies being Frodo taking the ring to Mordor; which means that the climax of our movies is Frodo destroying the ring . . . You never just say this is perfect. You know, you’re always fighting and grappling with yourself to try to push it further and further and take every opportunity you can." (5.)



Here is a list of websites about writing screen plays:

http://mckeestory.com/
http://www.fathom.com/course/21701762/session3.html
http://www.cod.edu/people/faculty/pruter/film/threeact.htm
http://www.writersstore.com/article.php?articles_id=555
http://www.writerswrite.com/screenwriting/lecture4.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Screenwriting
http://story.exis.net/masterlink/fictmedi.htm

Can you think of any book to movie adaptations, other than LOTR, that you thought were really good?

Can you think of any book to movie adaptations, other than LOTR, that you thought were really bad?

I realize that you must follow the rules of good screen writing, but can you follow them too closely? Can you be too formula?

How do you decide how long a movie is going to be? That determines a lot about what stays in and what comes out and how the story will be structured. You only have so much time to tell the story. I know that one thing is just how much the average audience can take. When was the last time that a movie came out that had an intermission? 2001, A Space Odyssey had one. I also know that the studios don’t want a movie to be more than X minutes long so that they can get Y number of showings in a day.

So, questions, comments, suggestions, opinions?

Sources:
1. http://burakargin.blogspot.com/2007/05/robert-mckee-story-semineri.html
2. Peter Jackson: A Film-maker’s Journey, p. 158
3. The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine (#18, pp. 26-29)
4. The Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition DVD, The Appendices, disk 3, "From Book to Script"
5. The Return of the King Extended Edition DVD, The Appendices, disk 5, "From Book to Script: Forging the Final Chapter"













Subject User Time
Movie Technical Discussion 1 - Book to Script OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Jan 11 2008, 10:42am
    It's all about telling a good story Amon Amarth Send a private message to Amon Amarth Jan 11 2008, 4:25pm
        adaptations acheron Send a private message to acheron Jan 11 2008, 4:31pm
        "The Hunt for Red October"... N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Jan 11 2008, 7:41pm
            Sometimes linear isn't always linear Amon Amarth Send a private message to Amon Amarth Jan 11 2008, 8:40pm
                Why? // N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Jan 11 2008, 9:11pm
            Formula and boring-ness Tim Send a private message to Tim Jan 11 2008, 9:17pm
                good argument... weaver Send a private message to weaver Jan 11 2008, 9:34pm
                Good points about formula Amon Amarth Send a private message to Amon Amarth Jan 11 2008, 9:48pm
                    Insert Required Subject Line Here Tim Send a private message to Tim Jan 11 2008, 10:13pm
                    Not sure about Tolkien. N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Jan 12 2008, 12:52am
                I tend to agree with you Lily Fairbairn Send a private message to Lily Fairbairn Jan 11 2008, 9:51pm
                    Subject Line is Required Tim Send a private message to Tim Jan 11 2008, 10:51pm
                    Book vs Movie Aragorn Ainu Laire Send a private message to Ainu Laire Jan 12 2008, 8:08am
                I agree.. elostirion74 Send a private message to elostirion74 Jan 11 2008, 10:58pm
                Great post, 5 by 5. hobbitlove Send a private message to hobbitlove Jan 12 2008, 9:23pm
                    Thanks Tim Send a private message to Tim Jan 13 2008, 6:00am
        Lots of good stuff! OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Jan 12 2008, 1:00am
            That's the bottom line Amon Amarth Send a private message to Amon Amarth Jan 12 2008, 1:11am
            Definitely Ainu Laire Send a private message to Ainu Laire Jan 12 2008, 8:01am
        Some comments: Alcarcalime Send a private message to Alcarcalime Jan 12 2008, 1:16am
    Ah.... Patty Send a private message to Patty Jan 11 2008, 7:01pm
        The inciting incident, OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Jan 12 2008, 1:04am
            What is the inciting incident in the Hobbit? weaver Send a private message to weaver Jan 12 2008, 5:05pm
                "Then Mr. Baggins turned the handle and went in." squire Send a private message to squire Jan 12 2008, 6:03pm
                    better than my choice... weaver Send a private message to weaver Jan 12 2008, 7:01pm
                        And the female lead in King Kong was... Amon Amarth Send a private message to Amon Amarth Jan 12 2008, 7:55pm
                    Perfect! Do you write screenplays? Maybe you should. hobbitlove Send a private message to hobbitlove Jan 12 2008, 8:28pm
                I'm thinking grammaboodawg Send a private message to grammaboodawg Jan 12 2008, 10:28pm
        In my haste... OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Jan 12 2008, 12:56pm
            I agree! grammaboodawg Send a private message to grammaboodawg Jan 12 2008, 10:32pm
    Readers and non-readers. wolfranger Send a private message to wolfranger Jan 11 2008, 8:25pm
        Books Fans OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Jan 12 2008, 1:08am
            Indeed. wolfranger Send a private message to wolfranger Jan 12 2008, 1:41am
            If the subject line is empty I can't post wwaaaahhhh! Tim Send a private message to Tim Jan 12 2008, 1:42am
                The reason for that... N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Jan 12 2008, 6:18am
        Hmm, Alcarcalime Send a private message to Alcarcalime Jan 12 2008, 1:17am
    Nice intro! weaver Send a private message to weaver Jan 11 2008, 9:01pm
        Film novelizations Amon Amarth Send a private message to Amon Amarth Jan 11 2008, 9:15pm
        Thanks, Weaver, OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Jan 12 2008, 12:47am
    Is a movie just another branch of communications theory? elostirion74 Send a private message to elostirion74 Jan 11 2008, 9:09pm
        That's funny about Potter. N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Jan 11 2008, 9:16pm
            a comment elostirion74 Send a private message to elostirion74 Jan 11 2008, 11:06pm
                Potter #3 (Cuaron) is the best, by far. Elizabeth Send a private message to Elizabeth Jan 12 2008, 3:46am
                    "I, Robot" didn't totally abandon its sources. N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Jan 12 2008, 6:27am
        I guess I should have added.. elostirion74 Send a private message to elostirion74 Jan 11 2008, 10:43pm
        May have followed McKee's formula. OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Jan 12 2008, 12:48pm
            Interesting list of other films using this formula... weaver Send a private message to weaver Jan 12 2008, 5:21pm
                I notice with those lists though ... Elven Send a private message to Elven Jan 12 2008, 6:06pm
                Watching a lot of movies helps Amon Amarth Send a private message to Amon Amarth Jan 12 2008, 7:31pm
            Thanks for your list. elostirion74 Send a private message to elostirion74 Jan 14 2008, 5:18pm
    Brilliant! Not surprising though... hobbitlove Send a private message to hobbitlove Jan 11 2008, 11:25pm
        Answers and additional thoughts Amon Amarth Send a private message to Amon Amarth Jan 12 2008, 12:36am
        Questions OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Jan 12 2008, 2:44am
            As you say, answers are hard; I'm still learning to ask the questions. = ) hobbitlove Send a private message to hobbitlove Jan 12 2008, 8:26pm
                My response to that questions is... OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Jan 13 2008, 1:36am
                    Traditional vs "modern" storytelling Sunflower Send a private message to Sunflower Jan 13 2008, 5:17am
                        I have never written a story, OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Jan 13 2008, 5:44pm
                        It's tricky, dating "The Silmarillion". N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Jan 14 2008, 3:57am
    "the screenwriter is the only original artist on a film" squire Send a private message to squire Jan 12 2008, 4:08am
        "The best films are primarily visual, rather than text-driven" N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Jan 12 2008, 6:23am
        Written by a screenwriter. OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Jan 12 2008, 1:01pm
            Director as Main Author of Film aka "Auteur" Amon Amarth Send a private message to Amon Amarth Jan 12 2008, 3:47pm
                1950s, actually. N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Jan 12 2008, 4:54pm
    Trying to understand the method and the maddness ... :D Elven Send a private message to Elven Jan 12 2008, 4:26pm
        Terrific post, Elven! Wow! hobbitlove Send a private message to hobbitlove Jan 12 2008, 8:34pm
        *wild applause* Awesome post! *runs to reread* // grammaboodawg Send a private message to grammaboodawg Jan 12 2008, 10:39pm
        Like Hobbitlove said, OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Jan 13 2008, 1:35am
    I'm staggered. This is astounding! grammaboodawg Send a private message to grammaboodawg Jan 12 2008, 9:22pm
        Gee, Gramma, OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Jan 13 2008, 1:31am
    Adaptations - characters or story? entmaiden Send a private message to entmaiden Jan 13 2008, 3:07pm
        That's a really interesting aspect entmaiden .. Elven Send a private message to Elven Jan 13 2008, 3:28pm
        I think one of my greatest fears... OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Jan 13 2008, 5:45pm
        Wow Peredhil lover Send a private message to Peredhil lover Jan 13 2008, 6:59pm
            Disney Hobbits Sunflower Send a private message to Sunflower Jan 13 2008, 8:22pm
                Ahem :-) Tim Send a private message to Tim Jan 13 2008, 8:50pm
                PS Sunflower Send a private message to Sunflower Jan 13 2008, 8:50pm
                    No problem Tim Send a private message to Tim Jan 13 2008, 9:09pm
                OMG Peredhil lover Send a private message to Peredhil lover Jan 13 2008, 9:10pm
                    With apologies to OhioHobbit.... Sunflower Send a private message to Sunflower Jan 14 2008, 12:04am
                        New thread Sunflower Send a private message to Sunflower Jan 14 2008, 12:32am
                Um, Disney doesn't own MGM entmaiden Send a private message to entmaiden Jan 14 2008, 2:08am
                    Oops. Sunflower Send a private message to Sunflower Jan 14 2008, 3:44am

 
 
 

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