Book to movie adaptions: A lengthy and complicated process

Exploring book to movie adaptations goes beyond just critiquing: there’s a world of complexity behind the process of adapting literary works to films.


Exploring book to movie adaptations goes beyond just critiquing: there’s a world of complexity behind the process of adapting literary works to films. “Percy Jackson” is a prime example frequently called out for its poor representation of the book series. However, it is important to acknowledge that critiquing a creative work is much easier than actually producing one. Regardless of what people may deem to be “bad” or “good,” it is evident that there are challenges and opportunities whenever a filmmaker chooses to attempt a film adaptation of a book. So what exactly are these challenges and opportunities, and how do they shape the process of book adaptations?

If an author is attempting to have their book adapted into a movie or show, the process usually begins with a pitch, which often requires industry connections. Depending on the agency that receives this pitch, and the individual tastes of those looking over it, the book may be deemed to be better suited for a movie or a TV show. 

Subsequently, the process advances to “the option.” An option is an agreement between a producer and author, where the producer gets the option to purchase the rights to the book. Many authors receive this money without their work ever resulting in a film. This option includes many conditions for what will happen if the book is successfully adapted. 

After the option is finalized, a screenwriter is required to write a script for the film. The author rarely gets any input in this stage of the process, unless they have a big name for themselves. 

The last stage determines whether the tireless efforts invested in the process will actually produce a film. This final stage involves addressing the logistical aspects such as securing financial funding, hiring talent, and identifying an audience for the movie. If the project receives the green light, it proceeds. That, however, is not always the case. 

The entire journey can vary depending on the situation and the author involved. The path to transforming a book into a film involves navigating several intricate hurdles, and the question of whether the end product will be considered “good” is an entirely different question. 

Yet another challenge of the process is the length of a book versus that of a movie; it is difficult to encompass every character and event from a 400-page book within the confines of a typical one to two-hour film. Of course, cutting too many of these characters and events often results in disappointed audiences hoping for faithful adaptations.

Nevertheless, if a book manages to go through these stages, the result can be very rewarding for many of those involved. The author’s book may reach a much broader and diverse audience. It adds depth to the characters and narrative, offering new dimensions to the story as it is brought to life on the screen.

Sarah J. Maas’s best-selling series “A Court of Thorns and Roses” is one example of a popular series attempting to become a film or series. ​​In 2015, Tempo Productions optioned the film rights, and in 2018 Maas posted a photo of the front page of the screenplay, written by Rachel Hirons, but this fell through. Later, in 2021, Mass was heard to be working with Ronald D. Moore on a television adaptation of the series. There hasn’t been any official word yet, however, furthering this uncertain process.

Setting aside the effectiveness or quality of these adaptations, it is undeniable that merely reaching the stage of production or viewing is riddled with challenges. However, the potential rewards can offer a sweet and gratifying experience for everyone engaged in the process.