Or, Ashleigh’s Tips for Adapting Microlit – Part One
The 2020 Microflix Comp is here, and the microlit is in. There are countless texts to choose from, and endless ideas to explore. Here, I’ve broken down three texts which I loved and could visualise on film.
The following texts lend themselves to dramatic adaptation and can be filmed easily and safely at home during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
First, some tips and tricks to keep in mind:
- Some of the best adaptations capture the theme of a text, rather than transferring a literary play-by-play to the screen.
- Film is a new medium, with its own rules, challenges and advantages.
- Identify the aspects which will be harder to portray on screen (inner dialogue, a particular literary style) and decide early how these challenges will be overcome.
- What will make this text visually exciting? When adapting from fiction to film, look for moments which can be dramatized on screen – moments which capture the theme of the text and can be expanded and enriched.
Story #1: Well, then
Well, then explores the clash of idealistic, old-fashioned, corsets-and-carriages Romanticism with a modern-day, match.com gone wrong reality.
This idea doesn’t need petticoats – it needs soft romantic lighting with a record-scratching return to reality when Mr. Darcy finally opens his mouth and pronounces that he is freezing his balls off.
For a fresh adaptation, play with the setting and characters. It’s the moment of letdown – the great missed opportunity of romance – which needs to transfer to film to capture the heart of Well, then.
Story #2: Body Image
Body Image explores themes of disordered eating, with each of the two characters representing extremes – one who eats too much and one who eats too little.
A series of vignettes – short, sharp shots could show the “little digs” building up in Jen’s mind and create a narrative arc which justifies her actions.
The important thing is not to get hung up on the details. Don’t have a treadmill at home? Free weights or any exercise equipment would work just as well. A limp hand and the thud of a weight on the ground will still communicate what’s happened without explicitly saying.
Don’t sell your audience short – they’re smarter than you think.
Body Image is perfect for a COVID-era adaptation because it takes place between two characters within a contained home set. Ideally, housemates or sisters could try their hand at acting – so as not to involve a second household.
Story #3: Traces
Traces has enormous potential for short, sharp and deeply funny film. Sure, it’s about love, loss and moving on, but’s also about burying a toenail clipping in the yard.
This is one of those moments which can be expanded and dramatised. If the protagonist would go so far as to bury the toenail, would she change into black for the occasion and write a heartfelt eulogy? Play on the ridiculousness and melodrama of the moment – and get as much comedy out of it as you can.
Traces only has two characters, and can be filmed at home so it’s about as COVID-19-friendly as a film set can get. Because the protagonists lost love is being recalled in memory only, POV shots would work best – which also eliminates the need to have the actors in the same room at the same time.
Even if you’ve never picked up a camera or performed in front of one, isolation is the time to try new things and experiment. I hope these breakdowns inspire some fresh (and sanitary) adaptations of 2020’s Microlit texts – I look forward to seeing what you come up with!
Entries close August 1st – so get filming!
Ashleigh Mounser has a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Wollongong and a Graduate Certificate in Screenwriting from the Australian Film, Television and Radio School. Since graduating in 2018, she has written and produced five short films. Mounser was Sydney Morning Herald’s Young Writer of the Year in 2012; the overall winner of the Future Leaders Writing Competition; winner of the ‘Time to Write’ contest by the University of Melbourne, and recipient of two arts grants from the Bouddi Foundation of the Arts, presented by John Bell of the Bell Shakespeare Company. Her first feature comedy film, Questions and Comments was nominated for the Humanitas Prize by Thomas Musca, was shot in Miami and is due to be released in May 2020.