Are adaptations easier than regular screenplays...
Adaptations are to screenplays as unicycles are to bicycles. The vehicles have similar characteristics, but it also takes a rare set of skills to master the unicycle with any panache. Ditto adaptations. A couple of great adaptations you should READ and then watch are Wit (Emma Thompson, writer) and The Lord of the Rings (Fran Walsh and the gang). A more recent adaptation and one of my favorite films is The Arrival. Fantastic!
Here are some quick pros & cons for you to consider. PRO: You don’t have to make up the story – it’s all there. CON: In fact, that’s the rub with adaptations, especially from novels. There’s often TOO MUCH story. Novels sprawl: like Mexico City, they take up an infinite amount of room, just because they can. Especially some of the genre novels like family sagas or historical fiction (Ken Follett’s World Without End, almost was). It’s practically given that these stories top 600 pages, whereas screenplays are more like Venice – they have to be self-contained and restricted to a very particular area because of limitations put on their size.
PRO: Producers often like the idea of adaptations because they feel the book or play brings with it an automatic audience to the film and its popularity is a harbinger for the film’s eventual success. CON: If you loved the book and thought it would make a great screenplay - other screenwriters may think so too. If you’re talking about a bestseller, the rights will not be easy to acquire. Some agent is going to want some serious coinage for the rights to a bestseller or even a mediocre seller if it comes from a big publisher.
What about the rights? Well, I do always advise, WRITE WHAT YOU LOVE. So, if you are deeply, deeply smitten – then break the story down, make your choices and start writing. I also say, “No writing experience is ever wasted.” At least you will learn just how challenging an adaptation can be for a screenwriter. At the very least by the end of it, you’ll have a ‘spec’ adaptation for your portfolio. But beware, on the way to completion if you fall madly, madly in love with your adaptation and cannot live unless you acquire the rights to your bestseller – well, here’s hoping you win the lottery, because sadly, without the rights, no producer will come near it.
I hope this helped…. And best of luck with the adaptation!