Film studios are flooding cinema and TV screens with remakes, reboots and film to TV adaptations. Why is this more preferential than fresh, original material?
Apart from inbuilt audience awareness, basing your screenplay on another property has many advantages other than marketing. Firstly, the world, concept, theme and characters of the story have already been set. Screenwriters don’t need to bother with as many rewrites to “find their stories”.
It has been argued my development and studio executives that writers should be a fan of the original movie before embarking on a remake. The general consensus is to pay homage to the original film, but adapt it to make it your own. The current euphemism for this screenwriting process is “re-imagining”.
They key to a good remake is to decide what worked in the original and what didn’t. This gives the writer ample opportunity to add a fresh, modern, signature take on the material so that the film feels new, vibrant, yet familiar. A carbon copy of the original 1960 Hitchcock version of “Psycho” was made in 1998. To me this was a pointless exercise in cinema as there were no apparent Gus Van Sant moments.
Obviously there are some scenes that can’t be deleted in remakes. Using our “Psycho” example, the shower scene is seminal to the entire film and can’t be altered. That would be sacrilege.
A movie remake should normally use the original story and characters as a solid basis for a the remake. If the plot is manipulated, the emotional core must remain. There have been some instances where only the film’s title and character names were preserved in a remake.
Classic films are a product of their time, despite their timelessness. Consider concepts such The Vietnam War, racism and the Cold War which resonated differently with audiences during that time because they lived it. Think about ways to contemporize the context without changing the underlying theme. Consider the original version of “Hairspray” with John Travolta when inter-racial relationships were less accepted than they are today. Despite the “period piece” nature of it, there are still racism issues relevant today.
Try to recreate the original film’s intention. What inspired it to get made at the time? Why do you want to remake it now? Is it relevant to modern movie goers?
Answering these questions will help you distill the best elements of the story.
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