2 Mar 2011

Text content as direct source material for other media-by Dominae Primus

As creative persons we have to realise that films and videos are largely dependent on visual and audio aspects. To fully portray text content on film, film makers will have to focus on the source material available and that is the written text. A manuscript that is rich with detail ensures that the integrity of the writer’s vision is stated. If the writer has achieved that advanced degree of detail and precision, it is most likely that translation into the visual and audio media will be smoother.


A manuscript that is flimsy on detail will force filmmakers to imagine their own details and even sub plots. This in turn dilutes the original vision of the author.

In order to ensure source material integrity in the presentation of text based work to film, the author will have to exercise due effort in realising that vision by suitably illustrating details.

At times film makers attempt to update old tales in a revised contemporary setting. This is at times appropriate but it also runs the risk of being outdated in terms of setting decades down the road. It is again ripe for another reincarnation. But if the film makers had adhered to the original period intended and injected it with universal values or ensured key points critical to the plot’s understanding easy enough to follow, then the period setting of the story hardly matters.

Making a movie that is overly contemporary, overloaded with references of the current trends, being too much of its time will reach the end of its shelf life too soon! But a period setting utilising universal values, contrasts and perennial themes will fare better, perhaps even, achieving timelessness. This applies in any media in any art form.

Not every book is suitable for presentation in the media of film, both long and short form.

At times even best loved books do not lend well to film. Simply because the subject matter does not have adequately interesting dialogue, visual details, the inability to sustain viewers’ interests. It may be supreme in written text, a beautiful play of words and conveyance of meaning through skilfull word craft. But a bore when translated on screen! Emotions and concepts expressed so poignantly and aptly in words may fail us when attempts are made to express them on film, with the twitch of facial movements and gestures. Even the best thespians will struggle to sustain their own believability when portraying the characters. Unsuitable on film but such material can still be compelling when presented in the medium of audio books. Mellifluous voices with clear diction and good sense of timing propel text content into a stunning piece of written art, amplified and enunciated with vocal prowess. Thus, it is foolish to equate every popular book as fodder for the film industry.

Graphic novels, comics or illustrated stories, whatever one terms them. These materials have a greater success of conversion into film in their category compared to text as these are made with visuals in mind. The words attributed to characters are easily incorporated into film script with perhaps some additional dialogue and extra footage not shown in the original illustrations.

As someone with diverse work styles, I’m aware that my poetry and literary fiction are unsuitable for presentation on film. They are however suitable for conversion into audio books.

Contrast this with my works of fiction that are written with detail and visuals in mind. My works of fiction were written with emphasis on translating what I see in my imagination into text, whilst still providing ample freedom for readers to fill in their own details. The main components are still my own, from my mind’s eye. Text assumes a three dimensional true to life context for a reader somewhere between comprehension and mental formulation. I could challenge the vividness of graphic novels any day.

As authors we owe it to our art to express and maintain its integrity. The people who utilise such material for translation into other media have a duty to maintain respect and faithfulness to the original intent. After all, without the source material, there will be nothing to start with.