Unfilmable Books – and a Competition

As part of my forthcoming title, ‘Off Script‘ (available early March) I take a couple of my previously published short stories and present them side by side with a shooting script version of the same material.

In both cases, the original stories were written from a first-person perspective. I explain and illustrate alternative approaches that can be taken when trying to translate an inner-monologue heavy piece into a film – for better or worse.

I also include one of my personal favourites of the short stories I have published in You Could Make a Killing and point out why I think it would be, even if a Chris Nolan or David Fincher came along (hey, it could happen…), impossible to film.

You can pick up a copy of You Could Make a Killing today for £2.99 on Amazon Kindle, £8.99 in paperback, or, if you have Kindle Unlimited, as part of your monthly bundle.

The story in question is called ‘Bedtime Story‘, and if anyone can suggest a way it could be made into a film that I agree is workable, I will happily hand over an original of one of the test designs for the cover (I’ll even take my name and title off if you just want a nifty Saul Bass style piece of original art…)


What follows is an early draft of a small part of the notes accompanying the chapters…

Over the years there has been a whole bookshelf worth of novels and shorts that have been deemed ‘impossible to film’.

Some took up the challenge – so David Cronenberg took on Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis, Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis made David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, back in 1970, Mike Nichols and Buck Henry adapted Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22” jettisoning multiple storylines and characters along the way in order to do so. Alan Moore has refused to be associated with any attempted adaptations of his works – from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, From Hell, through to Watchmen and anything in between.

Other literary tomes have been left…so far: the likes of House Of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski (probably my favourite book I never finished…), The Catcher In The Rye by J.D Salinger, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, 2666 by Roberto Bolaño to name just a handful.

What makes a text ‘unfilmable’?

A whole bunch of reasons. It might be the length (‘Infinite Jest’ is over 1,000 pages and even the footnotes have footnotes…), it might be structure – House of Leaves is far from straight forward prose, but it could be theme, or subject matter, or complexity, or sprawling plots that may work on paper but not on celluloid. They may just be too damned expensive (although the steps forward with FX are making that less of an issue), or simply, like Catcher in the Rye, deemed impossible to cast…


Read more in the forthcoming ‘Off Script‘ or to see more stuff like this follow this site, or follow me on Twitter @simonbewick

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