A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
I have been mostly absent from Vulpes Libris during the past year and a half. This was largely because of book contract deadlines and having another baby, but it’s also been because of my involvement in the adaptation of my YA novel Blue for the big screen. I originally wrote the following piece for Project UKYA, but we had a spare day in the Vulpes Libris schedule, so here’s to a spot of recycling.
Working as a co-producer on book-to-film project Bluer Than The Sky (adapted from my UKYA novel Blue) has been a peculiar experience. It’s been thrilling too, of course, and I know I’m very fortunate to have a great team working on bringing this Cornish beach story to the big screen, but there’s no denying that the past year has been just a little bit head-bending.
Reading the screenplay (written by the film’s director John Duigan) is a case in point. It is, without question, a brilliant adaptation of the book, but distilling a four-hundred-page novel into a one-hundred-page screenplay means certain things in the story have changed completely and other things are subtly different. Not ‘bad’ different, either. In fact, reading the screenplay made me realise the book could have been much improved if I’d collaborated with John while I was writing it. Somehow – and the how is still a mystery to me – he manages to achieve the exact effect I was aiming for, whilst creating greater emotional impact and using only a quarter of the words.
Another deeply weird thing has been testing out different actors in the roles. Back in May of this year, most of the Bluer Than The Sky team spent a long weekend in Newquay (where the book is set) auditioning actors for secondary character roles. Over two very full days, we watched eighty people act out four scenes from the screenplay. As each person delivered their lines to camera in our small hotel suite, packed with its panel of producers, plus the director, cameraman and various technical assistants, I started to mentally assign my characters to these strangers. This man was Garrett, clearly. This one Elijah. This woman was Aunt Zoe. This girl Kelly. I knew exactly which people were right for certain roles. It was all perfectly obvious.
Then the director would work with them and I’d come to realise that the person that I could totally see playing local girl Kelly, was actually being tested out for posh Londoner Saskia. Heresy! And then I’d watch a bit more of the directing, listening to the notes given and seeing those notes put into practice, and I’d realise that yes, this actress could indeed play Saskia. Who knew?
The final bit of weirdness occurred traipsing around Newquay on the Monday for five hours of location spotting with the team. This involved visiting various beaches, cafes, hotels and surfs shops, while the director and cameraman conferred about the technical aspects of filming these places, and I drifted about taking sneaky pictures of them all on my iPhone.
Possibly the most exciting point of the location spotting occurred when we visited Towan Head, which overlooks the Cribbar reef break, where the pivotal surf scenes occur. On this particular day, as if by magic, the usually dormant Cribbar was working. We stood together in a huddle at the top of the headland, peering out at enormous waves rushing towards us and I felt giddy, and as if I wasn’t really there at all.
If all goes to plan, come the spring we’ll be back at that headland with a camera crew, a safety team and a full cast, including some of the actors we met at the Newquay auditions, and I strongly suspect that I’ll still be feeling giddy from the wonderful weirdness.