Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Strange Experience of Having My Memoir Turned Into a Movie

I really enjoyed reading this piece on-line at Vulture:

The Strange Experience of Having My Memoir Turned Into a Movie

I’m sure we’ve all fantasized about who would play us in the movie of our life. In a world of reality TV sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between reality and what is scripted. There are days when it all feels fake.

Now we all take poetic license even if we’re not poets. Same with memoir. As this blog states: what’s important is how we think it happened. I’ll be the first to admit that to make a good flash memoir I have to conflate events, narrow down the cast of characters. Often I nudge reality by giving it an arc. I end up with quasi fiction/quasi non-fiction. A blended remembering.

This same notion can be applied to film adaptation. That’s why most movies with novel titles usually have a disclaimer of sorts: based upon . . .

A Jane Austen movie is not a Jane Austen novel. Movies and books are not apples and oranges, more like apples and orangutans. More than anything: We want story.

Stephen Elliott discovered that his memoir The Adderall Diaries made a great manuscript and a good movie, but the two were not the same.

From the article:
In 1986, I was a 14-year-old runaway. I’d been sleeping on the streets for a year. I sneaked into the house my father was trying to sell and spent the night on an old couch, the only piece of furniture left. My father caught me in the morning, beat me, and shaved my head. After beating me and shaving me bald with clippers, he saw a cigarette burn on the windowsill and declared, “You deserve it.” That’s my memory. My father almost certainly has a different memory. In his memory, he didn’t shave my head; he gave me a haircut. In his interpretation, he was trying to sell this house, and he needed the money and to teach me a lesson.
The movie version is much simpler. In the movie, Stephen Elliott destroyed the house, broke holes through the plaster, burned the carpet, graffitied the walls. It’s possible the compression and removal of subtlety was necessary to fit a complicated story onto the screen. And art is subjective. But what was shown isn’t true.
I’m sure it was difficult to see twists and turns that were never there. That might the author seem more of a liar than a memoirist. But in this day and age of publishing, Elliott was lucky to get published. Doubly lucky—he also got a movie contract. Obviously he doesn’t have to teach freshman English anymore. He also got to see James Franco play his character. Hey, I’d take a film treatment of my life as long as Julia Roberts takes the role of Jane Hertenstein!

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