They said it couldn't be done...

5  unlikely film adaptations which are really happeningThis Autumn our cinema has become more obsessed with novel adaptations than ever before. 2012 was the year that Keira Knightley donned a ball gown as Anna Karenina, Emma Watson lost the dress robes in The Perks of Being a Wallflower and John Cusack became Edgar Allen Poe in The Raven. What’s more, Hollywood has been keenly snatching up even the most unlikely of potential adaptations for filming. I don’t know how or why these films are being produced but here are five of the most unlikely, which really are being filmed.1. 50 Shades of GreyIt’s true: E.L James’ surprise hit is coming to a cinema near you. The S&M romp details college student Ana’s recruitment by business tycoon Christian Grey as a sex slave. How this film can be adapted without veering into pornography is a good question; I’m guessing there’ll be a lot of dark rooms and lower backs; but Universal optioned the rights to the text for $5 million dollars this March and the film will be directed by Michael de Luca and Dana Brunetti, the producers behind The Social Network. I am most looking forward to their interpretation of E.L James’ ropey prose.‘Jeez, I’m a quivering moist mess and he hasn’t even touched me.’Hilariously, Brett Easton Ellis, the author of American Psycho, offered to be the screenwriter of the novels over Twitter, only to be ignored.2. The Raw Shark TextsStephen Hall’s 2007 novel was a high-concept thriller featuring ‘conceptual’ sharks made from information, coding sequences and ‘un-chapters’ (whatever those are). The book even contains a 30 page flick-book near the end. In many respects The Raw Shark Texts is so experimental that it will be interesting to see how its adaptation turns out. Currently, a full screenplay for the novel has been written by Simon Beaufoy, the screenwriter of Slumdog Millionaire. A film was also created by Canongate to promote the novel, starring Tilda Swinton and linked here (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/video/2007/sep/27/rawsharktexts).3. Cloud AtlasDavid Mitchell’s award winning 2004 novel blurred past, present, future and narratives. The book is divided into many different segments each narrated by a different character: a tribesman from a post-apocalyptic future and a scribe for a Belgian composer among them. The challenge in adapting this novel will be the seamless translation of a book of so many different parts and characters into a film. But on the plus side, the original text is fantastic. The film is going to be released this month in the USA and has been directed and written by Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski brothers, famous for directing The Matrix.4. Ouija (and other board games)It’s not just unlikely novels which are being adapted: board games are hitting the silver screen too. Universal and Hasbro are joining forces to create Ouija, a film based on the unsettling board game where people sit around a table and attempt to contact the spirits of the dead (available for age 8+ at $19.99). It is news to me that Hasbro produces Ouija boards as well as Cluedo and Guess Who, but I suppose there must be a market for darker Friday family nights. The film will be a high-concept, low-budget horror movie much in the style of Paranormal Activity or Insidious and is set to be released in 2013. Apparently the original board game includes a full Ouija board and glow in the dark letters, which is a nice artistic touch.Risk and Monopoly are rumoured to be in production also. Monopoly is being written and directed by Alien star director Ridley Scott and details the difficulties of a real estate tycoon in a capitalist world while Risk will be a globe-trotting action thriller. Make sure to look out for any tactically placed irons or wheelbarrows in Monopoly.5. Ender’s GameOrson Scott Card’s classic science fiction novel is also in the process of being filmed and is set to be released in 2013. The film will star Asa Butterfield (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Hugo) as Ender, an unusually gifted child sent to a military school in outer space where he is trained to fight against an alien enemy known as ‘buggers’. The novel is science fiction gold dust so director Gavin Hood (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) will have to be careful not to offend Card’s legion of fans. Whilst the novel is revered for being exciting and ethically challenging it is also interesting because critics have highlighted its strange (because Card is on record as against gay-marriage) homoerotic subtext, involving a shower scene wrestling match and frequent nudity. I am not sure how these scenes will translate into film or even whether they will be cut because the novel is supposed to be about children, so expect Ender’s Game to be a controversial production.These are just some of the ambitious (and in some cases downright wacky) adaptations coming up in Hollywood over the next few years. If it hadn’t been cut earlier this year, the ‘horror of second year English’ Paradise Lost (2012) would surely have made my list. Seeing the Miltonian Epic with a couple of mates down at Cineworld would have been a surreal and incredible experience. Here’s hoping that a down and out screenwriter (perhaps Brett Easton Ellis) picks up the pieces and Paradise Lost makes it to the screen. Callum HaireImage by Mike Fleming

The 60 Hour Film Blitz

What can you do in 60 hours?

 St Andrews’ 60 Hour Film Blitz was a night of numbers. 600 years, 60 hours, 50 teams and one challenge; to make the best short film possible in two and a half days. Could it be done?The town rose to the challenge. All of the films were aired in The Byre theatre; arguably the swankiest location in St Andrews. The audience was asked to enter a glass panelled wooden balcony area, where camera flashes were going off and people mingled in tweeds. A live jazz band tinkled from the ground floor. Within a minute of entering I had even made a new friend. This was an event which was unmistakably 'St Andrews'.Although the films had been entirely written, shot and edited in two days they were of a wide range and excellent quality. We saw a Japanese horror film, the adventures of a ball, a documentary about Love, a summery cooking program and a lesbian take on Will and Kate’s romance (Jill and Kate) among others. All the films were categorised according to the relative experience of the film makers. What struck me was how many first-timers the festival attracted; it just goes to show how easy amateur film making can be.For the Blitz’s small entrance fee anyone could have their film judged by a prestigious panel; featuring Chris Fujiwara, Director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Alice Black chair of film at Dundee Contemporary Arts College, Marie Olsen from the award winning Autonomi and the familiar face of Robert Borgoyne, university chair of film studies. In the end, this panel had the unenviable task of choosing a winner in each category.The winner of the Home-Movie category was the brilliant film The Director. Over one continuous shot of South Street, a director’s voiceover transformed everyday people into extras in a film. Random pedestrians were hilariously accused of entering shot too early, looking at the camera and ‘being a diva’. Although the film was very simple in its execution, the voiceover proved so funny that even when the film aired without an image due to technical problems, it earned laughs.The winners of the Indie category were both documentaries. Lords of Poshtown was a side-splitting parody of Lords of Dogtown, which swapped skaters for Rahs and Venice beach for St Andrews. The film got its '70s look spot on and had a surreal feeling, perhaps because of the skateboarding in tweeds. The other winner in the category was Tessa, a summery interview between Alex Budman and her friend Tessa. Tessa taught us many things; how to dance, how to cook rice and beans and how people speak in Trinidad and Tobago.The winner of the Blockbuster category was Sunder, a film so impressive that it was difficult to believe that it had not been shot professionally. The film describes the breakdown of a relationship between two gay twenty-somethings and was almost entirely silent. The only sound was haunting piano music and a monologue based on an answer phone message. West Sands on a gloomy day provided the perfect setting for the drama. It really can’t be overemphasised, how good Sunder’s acting, editing, shooting and sound production was. It was so good that I couldn’t be sure it weren’t real life. Sunder also won the Audience Choice award.Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my evening at the 60 Hour Film Blitz. Filmmaking can often seem like a daunting process; the equipment difficult to get hold of, editing software scarce and good actors hard to find. But what this festival showed was that students and amateurs can produce really enjoyable cinema in less than two and a half days. Budding student filmmakers should be inspired (I certainly was) and hopefully the 60 Hour Film Blitz will continue to grow and grow.Click here to see this year’s winners and details of the competition. Callum HaireImage credit -  60 Hour Film Blitz

The 'Now a Major Motion Picture' Craze

What's the effect of cinema's obsession with novel adaptations?No Country for Old Men was one of my favourite films. I enjoyed its exploration of the death of the 'Western', use of fate and the acting of Javier Bardem. I enjoyed the film’s dialogue. I even enjoyed it so much that I decided to read the novel by Cormac McCarthy. It was there that I realised, that watching the film I had been enjoying something other than a ‘Coen brothers’ classic.’To be a film by the Coen brothers is to join an esteemed cinematic pedigree. The dynamic duo gave us The Big Lebowski, Fargo and most recently another Western, True Grit. Their title, ‘The Coen brothers’, conjures up images of family and mythic status: only the directorial gods of cinema are known by surname only. Their films are known for their exploration of nihilism, coincidence and dark humour amongst other things. They are also frequently Academy Award winning.However, reading No Country for Old Men I discovered that all of the things I loved about the film had their origins in the book. The film’s dialogue is virtually copy and pasted from the novel. The film’s best scenes: the limping dog, the coin toss, Chirgurh’s bizarre stare into the television: are all found in the novel. In fact only the ending of the film is different from the novel, and not hugely at all. This lead me to ask whether the film should really be regarded as a ‘Coen brother’s classic' as it is.What the Coen brothers appear to have done extremely successfully is to visualise the novel. Their setting, props, special effects and casting are superb. They are extremely ‘faithful’ to Cormac McCarthy’s writing, and their film is an almost carbon copy reproduction. However, that does not mean that the story of No Country for Old Men is theirs, or that they should really take much creative credit for adapting it. The Coen brothers have acted effectively, as cinematic midwives, nursing McCarthy’s work through birth into another medium with great success. But, it is a shame that now on the cover of McCarthy’s original novel, are the words ‘NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE’  and that the film has all but eclipsed its printed brother.I don’t mean to become one of those ‘the book is so much better’ critics: I find that just as cliché as anybody else. But sometimes that is simply the case: the film version of The Last King of Scotland is a hugely reduced and (in my opinion ruined) version of Giles Foden’s novel. The film version of Misery loses the internal psychology for which Stephen King’s novel is so famous, becoming instead a well-acted but flat screenplay about a writer being held hostage. In the case of that film I feel particularly sorry for James Caan, who is asked to portray tens of thousands of words of Paul Sheldon’s internal trauma using only facial expressions.  It verges on an exercise in mime.Whilst film has many advantages over literature, I feel that the medium can often be very destructive to literary property. There are written versions of The Beach, Trainspotting,  The Shawshank Redemption, The Godfather, Chocolat, Forrest Gump, The Stepford Wives and Schindler’s List to name a few. War Horse, yet another Oscar nominated novel adaptation has been released this year. But just how many people still read Robert Bloch's Psycho? And how many people watch Alfred Hitchcock's? Callum Haire

 Image credit - mueredicine