A Movie Needs to Capture the Soul of a Book
By Donna Woolfolk Cross
“Why is the movie never as good as the book?”
It’s the age-old lamentation of book-lovers everywhere. Here’s my reply: There’s at least one movie that’s as good as the book — and I should know, for I wrote the book!
Readers are asking the wrong question. The question should be: “Why is the movie always different from the book?”
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The answer lies in the nature of a screenplay. Each page of a screenplay equals roughly one minute of screen time. Do the math: 140-page screenplay = 2-hour-and-20-minute movie.
Now consider: My novel runs a little over 400 pages. The movie has 140 pages to tell the same story. Something has to give.
This is why I’m so excited about the upcoming television mini-series based on my novel. It has TWO nights to tell the story of Pope Joan. It will air on ReelzChannel TV on December 18/19. (Find out where ReelzChannel airs on your TV.)
Here’s what matters: The movie needs to capture the soul of the book – the part that made readers love it. I’m so lucky this happened with “Pope Joan.” The theme of my novel is female empowerment through learning. That theme has survived intact – and very movingly – in the film.
I chat by speakerphone 2-3 times a week with reading groups all over the U.S. and Canada. I often hear that intriguing question: “Why is the movie never as good as the book?”
To which I can now reply: “Ah, but it is. Sometimes it is.”
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DONNA WOOLFOLK CROSS graduated cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in English. She moved to London, England, after graduation, and worked as an editorial assistant for a small publishing house on Fleet Street, W.H. Allen and Company. Upon her return to the United States, Cross worked at Young and Rubicam, a Madison Avenue advertising firm, before going on to graduate school at UCLA where she earned a master’s degree in Literature and Writing. The product of seven years of research and writing, Pope Joan is her first novel. She is now at work on a new novel set in 17th century France.