Friday, February 01, 2008

MBT on film and matters autobiographical

Zee Oddwyn was asking:

"Speaking of which, any chance there might be a Half-continent movie? In general, it seems that movies dealing with monsters or fae creatures have been very popular recently."

Indeed they have, which is great on one level yet I cannot help be a little concerned of such a trend in regards to my own work. If ever a film was to be made of MBT I would hope it is not a "Yarrgghh! Monsters!" kind of film that focuses more on effects and beasties and less on character and the solidity and believability of the setting.

A good example of this bad approach (at least, perhaps, on an advertising level) was the film of The Bridge to Terabithia - very much sold as a fantasy movie with wingy-do special effects. Yet, having not read the book (shame on me!) what do I discover - to my initial disappointment - that it is more about relationships and the human condition and the durability of the soul. Indeed, the fantastical world I was so looking forward to it being about was just a device to show the growth of friendship and individual spirit. All excellent stuff, now that I have got over my dismay, a brilliant story - I need to read the book.

Now admittedly, MBT is about monsters more directly and is actually a "secondary world" without reference to our own but that is the thing: my hope would be that a film-maker would recognise that at the heart of MBT and any other novels I might get to write (Lord willing) about the Half-Continent is in fact the Half-Continent itself, the most enduring 'character' throughout. That subtlety might be required not "Rargh! I'm a cool special effects monster!!!"

And, Master Oddwyn, in actual answer to your question, the Jim Henson Company currently has the option to make MBT into films: 2 movies from the 3 currently planned books - I think they feel there is not enough in Book 1 to warrant one entire film. Yet the big hold up currently is the Writer's Strike and I must say that I did not think I would somehow be connected with something so, well, international, so show-biz, that I would have a personal response to jokes made about it on the Letterman show... very bizarre.

So the chance of a film are still variable, for an option on a book means simply a company has the exclusive right and the occasion to make a film from it. Whether something is actually produced is impacted by many factors not the least of which is money and such things as an actual script - hence the hold up with the strike. Watch this space.

I do believe I still need to answer Lawrence's question about the auto-biographical nature of MBT. This hits me right in the "ooh-I-like-talking-about-myself" zone, so I shall try to be brief. In fact the simple answer is: yes, it is.

A little too simple, though.

I know it is autobiographical because I have used my own sensations had in various dilemmas, to get a handle on how Rossamünd might feel and react - not intentionally to in some strange way to write my life story, but because it is what I know. In some sense too Book 1 is a kind of version of my own journey out from Adelaide to Sydney to take hold of the life of a freelance illustrator. To get deeper still it might be said it is also an exploration of my own naïve and nascent attempts to write my first book - but folks can go too far with that kind of deconstruction, and it misses the point of the work along with it.

I am told it is autobiographical by those who know me well, who say that can sense me in Rossamünd; who say they fell like they are spending time with me when they read the book(s). This I cannot account for except that it must be a result of the above - but to say Rossamünd is me would be an over-simplification and a mistake. Another book I hope to write some day will, Lord-willing, involve two characters who will both no doubt express facets of myself, maybe a more grown-up me, for they are both adults where Rosey-me-lad is just a boy.

Hmmm, Freudians might have a field day here...

Finally, it is time to celebrate the first character profile writ large - at last! Check it out in the column to the right, one of many answers to these questions, and the first in what I hope to be many public showings. Please enjoy.


Anonymous said...

I had an almost diametrically opposite experience with Bridge to Terabithia. Having read the book when I was younger, I saw the advertisements for the movie and they completely turned me off. It looked to me as if the producers had butchered a classic novel of adolescence in order to make a more marketable movie, trying to capitalize on the Harry Potter craze. I happened to see the movie on a plane--because it was the only option--and was pleasantly surprised to find a faithful and tasteful adaptation of the book. Since the movie was not very successful financially, I suspect that the marketing may have backfired and turned off others who had read the novel. Just goes to show that you are right to be wary--if the producers don't botch things, the ad men will. Actually, based on some of their recent past productions (Mirrormask in particular) I think you made a good choice to go with the Jim Henson Company. I think they would treat the source material with respect.

jamiew1288 said...

I love the HP books, but I also love the movies. The only way that can happen though is if I separate the two completely. I now look at the books as seven amazing works of fiction, and I look at the movies as five films that I love. If you think about it too much, you just get disappointed because so much is left out.

PLUS, when you read a novel, you imagine everything yourself, and when that novel is adapted into a film, the images are different. Films can never live up to your own silver pedestal of expectations.

On that note, I think MBT should TOTALLY be made into a movie.

Rael said...

I'm sorry, did you say HENSON?!

Excuse me while I do a little jig!

--So, if a film were to happen, I hope that you would have a heavy hand in it?

Femina said...

I avoided Bridge to Terabithia because I love the book so much, and didn't like the look of the previews.

I can see you in MBT, but not so much in the character of Rossamund. You're there, but where I see you is in the way the world has been created... I see your thoughtfulness and the analytical/philosophical side of your personality coming through in the way the world is imagined and described. I wouldn't have called it autobiographical so much as saying that it would be impossible to separate you from this world you've made. It came from you; how can you not be in it?

Anonymous said...

Hi D.M! Thank you for featuring my character profile, and also for your very kind e-mail.
Interesting entry! As far as the MBT movie is concerned, I can only hope you’ll be granted a generous degree of creative control. If the movie goes ahead, are you planning to join the art department? ( Surely you wouldn’t miss such an opportunity?)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for answering my question, Master Cornish! I wasn't quite expecting an entry in response, so I'm feeling flattered!

And it's absolutely fantastic MBT was picked up by the Henson Company! Once the Writer's Strike is resolved, hopefully soon and with a satisfactory compromise reached, I hope the Jim Henson Company will move forward with your movie.

I also agree whole-heartedly with markus, and hope you'll be an integral part in the movie. I greatly admire that fact that you do your own illustrations, and it'd be a crime to not include your talent in that respect.

I do have to admit that I often go to movies like Bridge to Terabithia for their use of computerized creatures because I'm a big fan of both the creatures and the artistic talent that made them. I'd like to be a Computer Animator some day, and watching computerized beasties is very inspiring for me.

In the past, when books have been translated into movies, I do find that I've been disappointed, but rarely do I say that about the CG. Take Saphira, for example. I'm a fan of the book and thought the movie a poor representation, but Saphira herself was absolutely stunning.

Marcus Hestoni looks great! I like the hat!

D.M. Cornish said...

Am I going to join the making of the movie? you ask (depending very much if the making gets off the ground). Well, I am told it very much depends on the nature of the director. The two extremes might be either that the director has their own clear and very personal vision and does not want any interference, least of all from a possessive author; OR they could be so into the fact that the author is alive and available and an illustrator too that they fly me over to the States, put me up and set me to work for as long as the money lasts.

Probably most likely would be that I would be consulted from time to time and might even get a chance to visit the production on occasion.

I have less interest in involvement with the screen writing - polite inquiries into my oppinion would be excellent (I have enough writing work on my hands just getting the books out!!!). I AM VERY INTERESTED, however, in being involved with the look and vibe and authenticity of the production. I am not interested in a blockbuster, just a good, true, rich experience.

... and I agree with you, John H, that Mirrormask gives me great hope for the quality and vibe of an MBT film. Indeed, the Jim Henson Company have profound credibility and I am gosh darn tickled they have MBT in their canny, precious hands.

Drew said...

I think you might enjoy SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES as well. The movie makers did an incredible job of translating the book to film.
I have a fairly extensive review of it at and on my blog (, if you'd care to read some protracted ramblings.
Still, it's enough to give one hope for a worthy adaptation.
all best,

D.M. Cornish said...

Drew, your review of Spiderwicks gives me great hope for MBT, THE MOVIE. A writer is still to be assigned (as you already know) but I hope they can be as faithful. Bless you...

Teri said...

Please have Guillermo del Toro do the movie. He has a warm kinship with monsters and is of the sensitive kind. How marvelous, how magical the story would be told by him on screen!

D.M. Cornish said...

Ahh, teri, if only I had a say in such things. I am not at all sure just what influence I have on this. Would be tre sweet though, del Toro or - for a more realistic vibe - Peter Wier.

It is to dream...