Contract calls: The highs and lows of bringing books and comics to TV and movies

Contract calls: The highs and lows of bringing books and comics to TV and movies
2016-10-03 17:23:41 UTC

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                                                             Photo credit: Pixabay

What could be cooler than having an author's words and creations splashed across a television or movie screen? It turns out that this can either be a really great thing or frustrating, but the contract may be the only way to avoid these kinds of situations. 

Whether fans of “Fresh Off the Boat” read the book before watching the sitcom or vice versa, it was immediately apparent why the author Eddie Huang was frustrated by the TV show. The book is anything but the comedic antics of winding dances to Shaggy, “Melrose Place” and book club discussions. That impressive Boyz II Men harmony with the father and sons? Nah, that would've never happened in the real-life author's first book.


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In the show, the father probably wouldn’t sleep at night if he accidentally harmed a butterfly. In the book, Huang’s father collects random objects to hit his children with, Eddie grows up toggling between being a bully and bullied, and the real Eddie is quick to challenge teachers about lesson plans (the Holocaust/slavery argument).

Anyone who read the book could sympathize with why Huang ranted on Hot 97’s “Ebro in the Morning,” New York Times, Twitter and more — even if they like the show.

Of course he’s not the first writer to see changes of his written work used in other platforms. Cleary Wolters’ memoir “Out of Orange” had several mentions of differences between her life in and out of jail that clashed with the telling of the character based on her: Alex Vause from “Orange Is the New Black.” Even Piper Kerman's prison memoir “Orange Is the New Black” doesn’t have the same level of comedy, drama or characters that the show does.

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"Orange Is the New Black" cast at the 2014 PaleyFest  (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Other times, hit TV show and movie creators may choose to stay reasonably close to the story line — with a few exceptions. The “Twilight” movie series is pretty close to the books, but Twilighters can pick out a few changes (and shirtless scenes) here and there.

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Taylor Lautner, Robert Pattinson and Kristin Stewart from "Twilight" series (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons)


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“The Walking Dead” comic strip fans were excited to see certain book scenes play out but immediately perplexed by Sophia’s quick death in the show. As cool as Norman Reedus is playing the role of Daryl Dixon, the loner was nowhere to be found in the comic series. 

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Norman Reedus (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Let's face it. It was kind of a relief to see both of Rick's arms in tact in the show versus the comic series. But he carried that phone around like Linus carries his blanket, a big departure between comic book and TV.

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Andrew Lincoln plays the role of Rick Grimes (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

And as far as Michonne and The Governor, it makes sense that some of those comic book scenes would never make it onto AMC.  Those scenes were clearly too graphic for mainstream TV.

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Danai Gurira as Michonne from "The Walking Dead" (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

With all of these examples above, one commonality does stand out though. The shows that most closely parallel the books or movies usually have film and TV directors who collaborate with the writer. And that kind of relationship is more than likely due to the relationship between entertainment copy, television/movie writers and the original creators. 

While it is probably always exciting for authors to see their books and comic strips come to life, making sure those vital scenes and show pacing are spelled out down to the contract fineprint will help avoid that writing dream become a major nightmare. 

About the writer: Shamontiel L. Vaughn is part of a co-writing team with Johnetta Paye, Esq. To find out the latest legal business tips in business, entertainment and real estate news, visit here.

The Huang Family Sings Boyz II Men - Fresh Off The Boat - YouTube
The Huang family sing Boyz II Men's "End of the Road" at the dinner table. Watch a scene from Fresh Off The Boat - Season 2, Episode 2: "Boy II Man." Subscr...

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