Today, author David H. Steinberg is here with us talking about adapting novels for film. Welcome David!
I’ve adapted a lot of books, short stories, and fairy tales into movies and the biggest challenge is trying to translate the characters’ thoughts and feelings into action we can see onscreen. Unless you resort to voice over, which most audiences find unsatisfying, narrative passages and inner monologue are two literary devices that make screenwriters’ lives hell.
Take, for example, the passage in “The Hunger Games,” where Katniss describes her encounter with Peeta when he tossed her the burnt loaf of bread. Suzanne Collins writes, “When I passed the baker’s, the smell of fresh bread was so overwhelming I felt dizzy.” Of course, Katniss is starving. Literally. And she smells bread. How could director Gary Ross show hunger onscreen, let alone a smell? Obviously he doesn’t, but there are a million tricks up a director’s sleeve and by using sound to hollow out the world around Katniss and allowing the focus to go in and out, we get a sense of the tunnel vision and dizziness Katniss feels. It’s not perfect, but the film medium can do very well in creating the moods described in books.
When I wrote “Last Stop This Town,” it was very liberating. To finally be able to describe what the characters were feeling and thinking was a pleasure. But it’s these very narrative devices that make adapting the book to screen so hard. I actually hope to turn “Last Stop This Town” into a movie one day, but I had to keep reminding myself to let go and write the novel as a thing in itself, not as a blueprint for a movie (which is exactly what screenplays are).
One of my favorite passages happens after Dylan reveals a secret to his best friend Noah, who reflects: “This moment felt so real. But it also felt like it was slipping away. A distance was forming between them and even now he could see it starting. A drifting apart. They were growing up, Noah guessed, and it felt like shit.” I have no idea how I’d ever show this in a film version, but the truth is, I don’t care. Authors write for their readers, not to make the book easier to adapt down the road. So if “Last Stop This Town” ever takes off and some studio hires me to adapt my own novel into a screenplay—any takers out there?—I’m going to have my work cut out for me.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David H. Steinberg is the screenwriter of the cult classic movie Slackers, National Lampoon's Barely Legal, and several films in the American Pie series. He grew up in West Hartford, Connecticut, entered Yale at age 16, and earned his law degree from Duke, where he served as editor-in-chief of the law review. He practiced law for four years before abandoning his legal career to attend the USC School of Cinema-Television.
Steinberg has written extensively for film and television. Last Stop This Town is his first novel.
ABOUT THE BOOK
The debut novel from "American Pie" series screenwriter David H. Steinberg. It's the last weekend before high school graduation, and as they prepare to go their separate ways, four life-long friends spend a wild and raucous night in New York City that forces them to face their fear of growing up... and growing apart.
West Hartford, Connecticut. Growing up in the suburbs is a mind-numbingly boring experience for most teenagers, and high school seniors Dylan, Noah, Pike, and Walker are no exception. They spend their days testing how fast they can drive on the local residential streets, bribing homeless dudes to buy them beer, and attending crappy house parties. So when Dylan proposes that they spend their last weekend of high school in New York City attending an underground rave, the guys are ready to make some serious memories.
In New York, though, the guys have run-ins with a drug dealer with a penchant for fire extinguishers, a Chinese restaurant owner with a score to settle, an Albanian street gang, con men, hookers, performance artists, and a gaggle of hot, degenerate, rich girls. Over the course of one incredible night, their outrageous journey gives the guys a bonding experience they'll never forget, as they learn that part of growing up means they're going to have to face their futures on their own.
(Parental advisory: Contains strong language, drinking, drugs, and sexual situations, all involving teens.)