Friday, March 20, 2009

Made for TV Movies

We've all said it, the book was so much better than the movie. Why is that? I know when I read a well-written book, it's like a movie playing in my head. All the characters come to life; they are real. The scenes are believable and they work in your mind like dreams sometimes do.

Why is it then, that when the movie is made (and I'm generally talking about the made-for-TV movies), the characters have no personality, or depth. The actors don't seem to carry the story along, as if they never even read the book. They just say their lines without the emotion the book portrayed.

Now, I know, having written the screenplay to Eyes of Garnet, how difficult capturing the essence of the book is. You only have 120 pages to tell the entire story. But I also know that it can be done.

So, is it the actors' fault, or the directors' fault?

Case in point. Montana Sky, by Nora Roberts. A fairly lengthy book filled with the vastness of Montana, the ranching life of cows and men, and three sisters who've never met, reuniting, per se, over the one thing they had in common; their father's funeral. Oh, and of course, lot's of passion.

Each woman has their own story, and each is dysfunctional in their own way. However, they are bonded by a cause: a murderer in their midst, and a multi-million dollar ranch that is to be divided three ways, but only after they all live there together for 1 year.

In the movie, these actresses never for one minute made you want to know them, and by the middle of the show, you sort of hoped the killer would just off them and put us out of their misery! And as for the romance part? Well, suffice it to say sparks never once flew enough to light a candle, never mind give us the notion these men had anything on their minds but a fleeting peck on the cheek. Soap operas do a better job of conveying lust than those actors did.

Why? In the book, there was a plausible plot, characters who grew on you, budding lusty romance, and great visuals.

Yet the movie fell so far short, it was like watching an outline attempt to come to life. It just couldn't. And Nora Roberts was a consultant for the movie. Really? How could she approve that?

I also happen to say the very same thing each time a new Stephen King movie appears on the big screen. Crap. I mean, the books are so vivid and frightening, but there hasn't been a movie made yet from his books that conveys that. Plus, the writers always seem to change so much of it, they really push the envelope by saying it was based upon the novel by Stephen King.

The major motion pictures do a better job of bringing the story into life, such as Horse Whisperer. The movie followed the story line very well, except, once again, the ending was changed, but it made you believe the story. It came to life even better than the book. Robert Redford may have had something to do with that...

But, the point to my rant is why such lack-luster performances when a book is worthy of being seen in life?

Share your thoughts.


Catherine said...

I rarely see a movie that is from a book that I liked; Harry Potter and Gone With the Wind being the exceptions to my rule. When I read, I get my own way of seeing the story that the author has put forth and seeing somebody else's view of it just doesn't work for memost of the time. It's kind of like describing to someone else a very vivid dream I've had... it loses the essence in the translation. However, I find that the more control the author has, the better the movie turns out because it hasn't gone through several "translations" and it's closer to the original essence. You can bet your bottom dollar though, that when "Eyes" makes it to the screen I'll be the first one in line!!

Mary Duncan said...

I agree about book to movie getting lost in translation. Sadly, it's hard to say, "you had to be there," for a movie.

I also agree about the "Harry Potter" movies. While not everything from the books was in the movies, the essence of it was, and it was done really well.

Wouldn't it be fun to see "Eyes" on the silver screen? I can see it so clearly in my mind. "Braveheart" battle scenes, the scenery of "Rob Roy," and the mysticism of the "Mists of Avalon," all wrapped up with a great young actress like in "The Golden Compass."

Add in a little chemistry between the actors, and voila! instant success!

Basil Sands said...

Made for TV Movies are, in my opinion, the WalMart version of the story. Looks similar, but its cheaper and easier to digest, although for the most part unfulfilling and seldom nutritious.

They are trimmed down to the lowest common denominator in both budget and audience. Therefore seldom put forth the full image the book can conjure.

Nonetheless, they can still make a ton of money. Therefore are still worth it for the writer.

Mary Duncan said...

Ah, yes, Basil, the almighty dollar.

There has to be a way to make a decent buck AND put out a good product, don't you think?

Call me naïve, call me a purist, but I'd hate to be called a whore, just doing it for the money. Too many scruples to hurdle over for that. I'd hate to be put in the same category as upper management of AIG.

Perhaps that's what's wrong with the entire industry. Actually, no perhaps' about it. Greed trumps decency in this world way too often.

TerriRainer said...

You do know what these made for TV movies lacked, don't you?


Okay, maybe not...I have seen some real stinkers that had Adrian Paul (oh heart be still) in them. I LOVED him in the Highlander series. I THOUGHT he could act...not so sure anymore.

Made for TV movies usually leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth IF you've read the book first.

:) Terri

Mary Duncan said...

Oh, yah, Gerard Butler. I agree, Terri! Though I fear even with his appeal, a poor script would be his demise, just like Adrian Paul. Though I think you're going for Adrian's good looks rather than his acting credits, aren't you... ;oD