‘The Hunger Games‘ obviously pulled off the book-to-movie adaptation hurdle well, due to a fantastic film-making team and inspired source material. So NextMovie put together a list of tips that future producers of such adaptations can learn from ‘The Hunger Games‘. We’ve included some of the prime lessons below:
Lesson #1 – Go For a Property With Real Movie Potential
Just because a book is popular doesn’t always mean it’s movie material. “The Hunger Games” boasted a plethora of desirable traits for a good movie — action, romance, suspense, drama, twists, turns, you name it — and that came through on-screen. If the book’s not edge-of-your-seat or otherwise all-consuming, a movie based upon it will probably fall flat.
Lesson #2 – Involve the Author, Maybe
Director Gary Ross and author Suzanne Collins teamed up to put the trimmings on the working draft of “The Hunger Games” script. It’s a rarity, of course, that an author has a history of screenwriting (Collins had a heavy dose of TV scripting experience before writing books) but if and when that is the case, whip out the spire because it’s a must-tap resource.
Collins told Entertainment Weekly Josh Hutcherson would’ve been the prime selection for Peeta even if he “had been bright purple and had six foot wings,” but some “Hunger Games” fans were skeptical about the choice at first. In fact, a lot of the biggest casting decisions for the film weren’t met with praise at the outset, but now that the film’s out, the attitude has shifted quite a bit. So, when casting a favorite book-based character, there may be some grumbling at first, no matter how right the choice. Stick to talent, and they’ll do all the convincing themselves.
Lesson #4 – If You Must Stray From the Source Material, Make It Count
It’s important to book (read: built-in) fans that a resulting movie stick pretty closely to the source material. If you’re going to make some changes, though, make ‘em count. Consider the Seneca berries scene or Cato’s altered final monologue. These weren’t terribly drastic story alterations, but they sure were effective at amping up the tension.
Lesson #6 – Get a Director With Some Vision
Plain and simple, when it comes to choosing a director for a major book property translation, you need someone with talent and vision … not just a technician. Ross proved that pretty well with “The Hunger Games” because he was able to command an impressive cast eager to work with him and to add a wealth of signature touches.
Having a few castmates or crewmembers who fancy the book in question can’t hurt. Elizabeth Banks, for instance, was such a huge fan of “The Hunger Games” that she admitted to calling in every connection she had in Hollywood to get an in (lucky for her, she’d already worked with Gary Ross on “Seabiscuit”). It’s easy for fans to root for someone when they share their enthusiasm for a series, and this proved quite clear with Banks as Effie Trinket.
Lesson #8 – Don’t Dial Down the Drama
Rue’s death in “The Hunger Games,” which was lengthy and totally owned its dramatic nature, proving there’s no need to dial down potential tear-jerker moments, even if they’re smack dab in the middle of a fast-paced action fest.
Lesson #9 – Engage the Book Fan Community Creatively
If there’s one thing “The Hunger Games” studio Lionsgate was effective at, it was marketing to the existent fanbase. Using countdown events and working directly with fansites and sites (like ours!) that had openly declared their love of the source material, they created an impressive and thoughtful digital presence to bring the web community together and nimbly direct fans to the ticket booth.
“The Hunger Games” had a lot of talented weapons both in front of and behind the camera, not the least of which were heavily respected costume and make-up designers Judianna Makovsky and Ve Neill. They took the mandate of crazy Capitol looks to the next level, and it paid off. Having the vision to put a crazy swirl beard on Wes Bentley alone is example enough of how inventive costuming can make moments that much more memorable.
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