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Food for thought on Andre Dubus and Shawn Otto

Posted at 12:41 PM on June 15, 2009 by Euan Kerr (1 Comments)

Robb Mitchell of the Screenwriters Workshop wrote this interesting (and slightly chastening) response to the blog post last week about Andre Dubus III and film adaptation of "The House of Sand and Fog."

It got buried in our format but I wanted to make sure people had a chance to read it as it goes deeper into the creation of the script for this particular film.

Here's what he wrote:

It would have been really interesting to get Andre Dubus and Shawn Lawrence Otto together in the Twin Cities to talk more about the evolution of "House of Sand and Fog" from novel to film. As a young and "unlisted" screenwriter Otto was selected in the late 1990s to adapt the novel to film before all the accolades and Oprah's selection of it for her book club.

Shawn has told me about how he wrestled with the story, trying to adapt the novel and particularly the difficulties he encountered with ending the film because it was so different than the book. He told me how much he worried about how Dubus would react to his interpretation and in particular when the drama peaks and then ends. Legally speaking, as per the contract, the screenwriter does not have an obligation to the author of the book but it often looms large in the screenwriters mind.

Shawn was thrilled Dubus liked his adaptation of the book. It is an interesting non-contact creative collaboration of ideas and it can either go bad, very bad or it can be magic. I think that "House of Sand and Fog" turned out to be magic and it had to do with the sensibilities and sensitivities of both literary authors.

The trouble with the Twin Cities is when opportunities for this kind of close-up look at the literature of film come along, we don't take them when we should. Shawn Otto lives here in Minnesota and Andre Dubus III is here before the press to promote a book -- you'd think someone could put two + two together just for creative intelligence sake.

Comments (1)

Interesting. I wrote screenplays for a long time a long time ago, but have been writing short fiction recently. A story I published in McSweeney's is being written into a screenplay right now. Having written it with a cinematic eye, I feel an odd mixture of detachment and excitement waiting to see what he does with it: like watching your child play a game you used to play. Will he play it like you, better than you? Is it a different game than it was? It is a different game, as everybody from Faulkner and Jules Furthman to Ben Hecht and Ernest Lehman proved. I'd like to listen to Dubus and Otto's conversation.

Posted by Eric Hanson | June 15, 2009 3:54 PM

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