How are books adapted for film and TV series?

June 17, 2022
Max Gruber 0

It’s common practice for popular books to be made into films and TV as studios want to make the most of an already successful concept with an existing fanbase, and bring it to a wider audience. Some of the most successful film series across the world have originated from books and the likes of Harry Potter has catapulted Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and their co-stars to unimaginable fame.

With many current films we see in cinemas today (and the classics like The Shawshank Redemption, Forrest Gump and Jaws) having originated from books, how to adapt a book into a movie is a question we often find ourselves asking.

Ways a book is shown to a studio

There are a few ways that a book can be pitched to a film or television studio, with some being more common than others. The process of a film studio being made aware of a potential box-office hit varies on how keen an author is for their book to become a film and how their book has been published.  

Literary agent/Publisher

The most established way of a book being adapted into a film is through the agent the book has been published with. Most publishers will have contacts in the film industry that they will refer books to, if they think that particular story could be right for the big screen.

Ranked on Amazon

Many authors self-publish these days, and with the unstoppable rise of Amazon making this process much easier, many authors of the most popular current books don’t have a literary agent or publishing house advocating for them. This means many of these authors have fewer options and opportunities for their book to be considered for an adaptation. Colleen Houck, who wrote Tiger’s Curse, found success in getting her book ranked among Amazon’s 1%. Once her book reached this level of popularity she began receiving calls from film studios interested in turning her book into a film.

Studio Pitch

If an author is incredibly determined for their book to be taken on by a studio, they could draft a pitch themselves and approach whichever studios they think best suited to re-imagine their book for cinema or television. This is not the most common method and is a lot of work for an author, who will need to create a polished pitch for the studio and potentially search for contacts to make the initial meeting possible.

Adapting a book into a movie or show

Once a book has been chosen by a studio to be made into a film or series, the process of turning the story into something suitable for screen will start. This begins by the studio ‘optioning’ the book, that is buying “exclusive right” to purchase the intellectual property at some point in the future.

If everything goes according to plan, the book will be adapted into a screenplay and a script will be developed. This stage of the process varies greatly, with some studios working collaboratively with the author to make it as close to the original vision as possible and other studios preferring to work on their own, with little of the author’s input at this stage.

The final stage of the adaptation is production starting. Once the script has been finalised and financial backing has been secured, the studio will begin to scout out locations and suitable actors for the film to finally reach our screens.

Will we see more TV series and films adapted from books?

Although written word and cinema are very different mediums, we will continue to see many books re-imagined on our screens in the future. With many great books being published daily, your next favourite film could be being written as we speak! 

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