Words into pictures

March 12th, 2015Posted by Nancy

girl homeOn my way to the “Page to Screen” cocktail party designed to link Canadian writers and publishers with film and TV production companies, I was thinking about the ways in which each of my books might work -or not – as a movie or television show.

I love movies and it’s very clear that what makes a great book does not necessarily make a great film.  The key is to translate the heart of what the story is about into a visual medium, without violating the author’s vision of the characters and the meaning but also without slavishly replicating every single incident or line of dialogue.  I like to think I’d be the kind of writer who would happily cash the cheque and then get out of the way, accepting that what the final product turned out to be would not change the book I wrote.  I’ve never written a screenplay and I’m not sure I want to, because much of what I love about writing is performed by other people – the actors, the cinematographer, the director – in films.

But of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t have some thoughts on the matter.

The Night Inside

This was actually optioned a long time ago and I even read the script.  To me, this would be the easiest of the books to film.  There are few special effects required, there are neighbourhoods in Toronto that approximate the Queen Street of the early 1990s and you could either treat it as a period piece, set it in an indeterminate time, or update it to the present (though you might have to throw in a couple of “Twilight” comments).  It could even be effectively done in black and white on a low budget, like the new film A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.

Blood and Chrysanthemums

One of the main challenges with this would be determining whether it was a standalone project or was part of a longer piece that included The Night Inside.  Again, special effects are minimal, but the scope of the story broadens, requiring sections to be shot both in Toronto and Banff.   Because I based the Fujiwara diary sections on elements of Japanese popular culture (the ghost story, the samurai tale, the noh play etc), I’ve always imagined it would be fascinating to treat each of these as their own “movie within a movie” and choose a style of film-making based on the original Japanese examples I watched.  For example, Fujiwara’s transformation into a vampire, in the story “The Lady of the Autumn Moon”, is based on the classic Japanese ghost story included in the film Ugestu.


The Fujiwara diary sections might also work as animation, in the Studio Ghibli style.  (Damn, now I want to see that…)


A Terrible Beauty

I realized that with each book, the fantasy elements increase and so would the budget.  The key to A Terrible Beauty would be the right setting and the appropriate use of CGI.  It would now be possible to create Sidonie’s inhuman appearance without resorting to the dreaded “bumpy forehead” of Star Trek fame.  Just narrow her jawline here, add some cheekbone there (a la Angelina Jolie in Maleficent) and there you are.  (I’m sure I’m completely over-simplifying that.)


Cold Hillside

And up the budget and complexity goes again.  I think it would certainly be possible to make a single, long film of this but it could also work as a mini-series.  Vistas are required for this one, and strange cultures, and the multiplicity of place that is the Faery Court.  You could always go the Dangerous Liaisons route and concentrate on one or two key settings, costuming and close-ups to do the work and at least it doesn’t really require a cast of thousands and contains no epic battle scenes (sorry).

Dangerous Liaisons


Don’t ask me who would play anyone, though.  I generally have no idea.



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