The Girl on the Train - An exercise I have gone through for about 20 years.

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  • The Girl on the Train - An exercise I have gone through for about 20 years.

    I read this book a while ago knowing it was in development for a film adaptation so of course I read it through an "adaptive" lens (I do this anyways for just about any book, article, story, etc. that interests me or has a story to tell).

    I haven't yet seen the film, however I am currently going through the shooting draft of the screenplay.

    I do this quite often especially for adaptations of books/stories I'm familiar with going through this mental exercise in mind.

    As I read the book and or story I picture how I would adapt it in a screenplay. What I'd keep, cut, change, shorten, etc. etc. I don't officially make notes or anything (should I?).

    Then when said screenplay and film come out, I read the script to see how it compares to what I envisioned. Well at least for the films I don't want to be spoiled about before seeing (Some films I'd rather not read the script prior to the film such as "The Light Between Oceans" I just read the book then jumped the script and went straight to the film.).

    My question is, is that a worthwhile exercise? Is there something better I could do along similar lines that would be a more beneficial exercise?

    That said, with regards to "The Girl on the Train" screenplay, it's a very interesting intro and for me at least was a good exercise in one person's way to present a lot of visual info, some narration, introduction, etc. in a very compressed, overlapping way.

    There is more V.O. and Pre-Lap expository dialogue presenting history and setup over montage-like scenes than actual in scene dialogue for both Meghan and Rachel.

    That continues until page 9 and the introduction of Anna. Basically it's a 9 page hook of history exposition and introduction to bring us up to the "starting point" of the plot more or less.

    I did like the character "titles" which followed the book and we'll have to see if that made it in the final cut (I would assume so as without it it does leave an overlapping bleed between Rachel and Meghan but without the noted shift of POV).

    I also read it and wondered how much of the directing and other forced "editing" built into the script would fly had it been a spec type script vs. a studio controlled adaptation.

    Anyone else read the book and script and have thoughts? Keeping in mind I haven't seen the film yet.
    Last edited by UneducatedFan; 01-06-2017, 10:47 AM.
    You know Jill you remind me of my mother. She was the biggest whore in Alameda and the finest woman that ever lived. Whoever my father was, for an hour or for a month, he must have been a happy man.

  • #2
    Re: The Girl on the Train - An exercise I have gone through for about 20 years.

    I found this series of scenes interesting on page 15 of the script and the decision to do it as different scenes instead of a montage or something...

    EXT. TRAIN - SAME NIGHT

    The cars of the train slowly pass-- the glow of the windows
    lighting up the commuters in their seats. And here is Rachel--
    looking out.

    INT. ANNA'S FAMILY ROOM - SAME NIGHT

    The camera hovers outside the window, looking in at Anna who
    eats a candlelit takeout birthday dinner with Tom and Evie.
    Tom pulls out his phone and snaps a picture.

    INT. MEGAN'S BATHROOM - SAME NIGHT

    Megan stands at the plate glass window that lines her shower
    stall. She looks out at the moonlight that casts itself
    across the Hudson River. Water beats down on her.

    EXT. RACHEL'S STREET - SAME NIGHT

    Exiting the train station, Rachel walks towards her home,
    wide eyes sighing as they take in the bleak Croton landscape.

    INT. ANNA'S BEDROOM - SAME NIGHT

    OVERHEAD WIDE SHOT: Anna and Tom are in bed. Tom is sound
    asleep, but Anna is wide-awake.

    INT. MEGAN'S BATHROOM - SAME NIGHT

    The camera floats behind Megan as a naked Scott steps into
    the stall and kisses her.

    EXT. RACHEL'S STREET - SAME NIGHT

    Rachel enters a liquor store.

    INT. MEGAN'S BATHROOM - SAME NIGHT

    Scott has Megan pressed against the glass shower door as he
    has sex with her from behind.

    INT. RACHEL'S BEDROOM - SAME NIGHT

    Rachel sits in bed. She finds TOM'S FACEBOOK PAGE on her
    laptop. She stares at the photo Tom took earlier that night
    of he and Anna laying next to Evie.

    The caption reads: I'VE NEVER KNOWN LOVE LIKE THIS! ME AND MY
    GIRLS! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOMMA!
    You know Jill you remind me of my mother. She was the biggest whore in Alameda and the finest woman that ever lived. Whoever my father was, for an hour or for a month, he must have been a happy man.

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    • #3
      Re: The Girl on the Train - An exercise I have gone through for about 20 years.

      As I read the book and/or story I picture how I would adapt it in a screenplay. What I'd keep, cut, change, shorten ... I don't officially make notes or anything ... Then when said screenplay and film come out, I read the script to see how it compares to what I envisioned ... My question is, is that a worthwhile exercise? Is there something better I could do along similar lines that would be a more beneficial exercise?
      I think it is a good idea. It teaches you to think in a filmic manner. I do not read the screenplays, but I definitely envision how I would represent things in a script.

      One of the biggest and most common mistakes that I see in screenplays (admittedly, by amateurs) is a tendency to write in a novelistic vein. I think that reading a novel and thinking about a film adaptation of it is instructive, even if it is only practice within the mind.

      "The fact that you have seen professionals write poorly is no reason for you to imitate them." - ComicBent.

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      • #4
        Re: The Girl on the Train - An exercise I have gone through for about 20 years.

        Haven't posted here in years, but it's a timely question, considering that an optioned novel of mine is currently being adapted as a TV series. This past week the pilot episode (plus the series bible) was sent to me by the producers, and I had the opportunity to see how much it might differ from my novel, and how much the author of the script had retained of the book.

        Having adapted my first novel for a production company in London back in the 80s, and then, more recently, having adapted my third novel (published in 1989) as a script, I appreciated how many liberties one needs to take to make a story work as a film, as opposed to as a novel. My third novel is a take on the Orpheus myth, set in Paris, and dealing primarily with East Europeans living there. There's a missing wife, and a detective who, like Tchéky Karyo in the TV series "The Missing," is driven to find her.

        In my take of it, I made the main character of the novel, the long-suffering husband, a secondary character, and turned the detective into the protagonist, along with his backstory of having seen his own daughter run away from home. I also set the script in present-day Los Angeles, a town where people go to get lost or become someone else.

        With my current project, the author of the adaptation retained the essential spirit of my novel, as well as the setting and the character of the protagonist. He honored the story and the characters, but also, I think brilliantly, reinventing what he needed to make this work as a TV pilot. The lesson I've learned from both reading his take and from my own experiences in adapting my own work is that essentially you set aside the original work and start over. As a producer once said to me, "It's important one remains faithful to the poetry of the original, while sacrificing what wouldn't work on the screen."

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        • #5
          Re: The Girl on the Train - An exercise I have gone through for about 20 years.

          Good thoughts that I'll absorb and keep in mind as I go through these exercises. My next screenplay is a quasi-adaptation of a historical true story biography and I'm hoping the original author is as realistic about the adaptation (if not more appropriately called "conversion") process to take it from informational/narrative to cinematic/plot-story stage. Anyone else wish to chime in with their exercises, would be much appreciated as well.
          You know Jill you remind me of my mother. She was the biggest whore in Alameda and the finest woman that ever lived. Whoever my father was, for an hour or for a month, he must have been a happy man.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: The Girl on the Train - An exercise I have gone through for about 20 years.

            Originally posted by Jake Schuster View Post
            Haven't posted here in years ...
            No, you haven't - hope all is going well for you.

            UneducatedFan -Regarding adaptations, there seem to be two main schools of thought about this. There are those who expect a high level of faithfulness to the source material, and those who feel the original work should be considered more a source of inspiration and reference that a detailed guide.

            To be less helpful, I fall somewhere between the two. When I read something I really like I hope the movie will be true to the original work and match it for effectiveness but as most people experience, this nearly always turns out to be something of a disappointment so I learned to keep my expectations low.

            When you look at the film adaptation of John Irving's 'A Prayer For Owen Meany' (Simon Birch), you'll see why Irving subsequently demanded such a high degree of control over his work.

            The other side of the argument is that whoever buys the rights is entitled to make of it what they wish and if the original work is regarded more as an inspiration and suggestion, so be it. But it's always unfortunate to see an intelligent and gifted literary work spoiled or rendered with much less competence and depth.

            Partly for those reasons I think short stories make better sources of film material than novels. There's so much that needs to be lost from a novel, and if the novel is intricate and clever and the writer has exemplary style, there's no chance that 100 or so minutes of cinema can do it justice.

            Whereas short stories have a good central idea and usually an uncomplicated outline which enables a filmmaker to be true to the original premise and structure with plenty of opportunity to elaborate and expand or explore the detail.

            One of my few talents is recognizing the cinematic potential of literary work and my instincts are usually on the mark. When I'm reading something from that perspective I underline key material and make notes - a good book just blurts out the clues as to what is important to consider for a film adaptation so if you are reading something for this reason then definitely take notes.
            "Friends make the worst enemies." Frank Underwood

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            • #7
              Re: The Girl on the Train - An exercise I have gone through for about 20 years.

              Originally posted by DavidK View Post
              No, you haven't - hope all is going well for you.
              I am, David, and thanks!

              One of my few talents is recognizing the cinematic potential of literary work and my instincts are usually on the mark. When I'm reading something from that perspective I underline key material and make notes - a good book just blurts out the clues as to what is important to consider for a film adaptation so if you are reading something for this reason then definitely take notes.
              This is important to consider. A novel is almost by necessity a meditative thing; there are passages of description, pages of dialogue, action described in a hundred words or more, all destined not to work, as such, in a screenplay or television series. For the adaptor--and mine in the case I mentioned is an established novelist with, however, very honed screenwriting skills--the key is to identify what will translate to the visual medium.

              In my case I think the adaptor chose extremely well, and I couldn't be happier with how his vision so closely aligns with mine.

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