Anthology TV series like American Horror Story, True Detective and Fargo are becoming more popular. Personally, I love the format because the you know there's a complete story arc, and you don't need to commit indefinitely, waiting for the show to jump the shark. (Am I dating myself with that term?) As a writer, I'd rather know what I'm getting in full.
I'm currently working on a TV script adaptation of my novel Simon. It'll be an 8 or10-episode, full-arc story and will serve as Season 1 of an original anthology series I'm calling What's Done is Done. The adaptation is quite an undertaking but I’m … taking it under. Or undertaking it. Seems like overtaking much of the time. The idea for the series is to create a new retelling for each season, and I’m not limiting myself to Shakespeare.
When adapting a novel to a feature film script, one of the biggest challenges is deciding what to cut out. (“The book was sooooo much better.”) The process I find myself in with Simon, however, constitutes an opposite challenge. I’m actually having to add content for what will essentially be a 10-hour movie!
Rethinking the story with a true ensemble cast has proven one of the more beneficial adjustments. Simon as the Hamlet character is of course at the center of everything, but a season of television shows will mean more time with the Beaumont family and more flashback scenes. Delving into Simon’s rocky relationship with his father Richard (while he was alive) and seeing more of his romance with Juliana will add more depth to the story that I know fans will appreciate.
For reasearch I've been analyzing scripts from Season 1 of American Horror Story and the pilot episode from my favorite show of all time: Breaking Bad. The latter is not an anthology series, of course, but the set-up is so brilliant. Inspiring really. Unlike movies that work primarily with 3-act structure, TV scripts tend to be written in 4 or 5 acts. For Simon I'm going with 5 because, ... well ... Shakespeare and Hamlet.
The opening few minutes of every episode, before Act 1 begins, is called the teaser. I'm trying something interesting there: the teaser of every episode will be the sensationalized network news coverage of the mass murder. The novel starts there, and that first hour of coverage plays out at the start of two other chapters (#10 & #16 of the book’s 17 chapters). The idea for the TV series is to start each episode with about 5 minutes of news coverage from that first, chaotic hour. After those minutes, the anchor will break for commercial – and that’s where the Simon storyline will pick up where it left off at the end of the previous episode. The hour of news coverage will take all season.
Like I said, it’s an experiment. It definitely works in my mind.
Of course, once I committed time and energy to this project, I read the news of the feature film adaptation of Lisa Klein’s YA book Ophelia. It’s getting a fair amount of buzz because Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) is cast in the title role. Called a Hamlet “spinoff” (huh?), the novel and film tell the original, period-piece story from the unstable heroine’s POV. I haven't read the novel, but like many reviews, my feelings are mixed on this project. Is it a bad thing that will make my project seem like a “just been there/just done that” copy? OR could a mainstream light shining on an alternative Hamlet story be thought of as the start of a possible trend? That would make my project (which is vastly different, of course) seem attractive and marketable.
We shall see . . .
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