Note – These are just ideas that I am suggesting. While I have had the pleasure of interacting with both Michael Grant and Engage Productions on Twitter, I am (sadly) not directly involved with the making of the show.
It has been eleven years since American novelist Michael Grant (of Animorphs fame) launched GONE, as we were introduced to the FAYZ and met its eclectic inhabitants for the very first time.
Although there were flickers of a possibility regarding a screen adapatation as far back as 2013, the prospect seems much more real now, with the involvement of Engage Productions, a UK based company.
Of course, in the age of widely available technology, people tend to read a lot less than before. Thus, it is possible that some viewers of the potential GONE television series will have not read the novels and are getting their first exposure into the twisted world of the FAYZ.
This creates a question – how to balance the longtime, ardent fans who know every obscure detail with those who are simply tuning into a cool looking TV show?
I will attempt to answer this question.
1 – have exposition, but not too much
With the novels, readers had all the information in their hands through Grant’s non-dialogue writing. Everything that he needed you to know was there on the page.
In Screenwriting, the common policy is ‘show not tell’ – for example, the usual instance would involve actually seeing some unbelievable event occur rather than having Sam or Astrid, for example, in the position of explaining to the other characters and thus the audience.
Yes, fans of the books are aware of Sam and Quinn’s friendship or Little Pete’s autism, which are important parts of the series, but this should be established effectively for anyone in the dark.
2 – keep the characters true to themselves
The freedom that authors have with writing characters in books is that they can be descriptive in any way they choose. They know how the characters look in their minds and that is needed.
For a television series, there is no guarantee that the casting director will find people who look like Sam, Caine, Albert or Drake that also have the ability to act.
Even JK Rowling has admitted she thought the famous casting choices for her Trio — Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, were more attractive than the outcasts in her head.
If talented actors who can embody the literary character are found, then that is the most important thing, regardless if they exactly resemble Grant’s descriptions or not.
The only aspect that is absolutely crucial to retain is race — they were created that way for a reason and that should, with no doubt, remain the same.
3 – don’t be afraid of surprising the viewers
With an adaptation based upon six popular novels, there is element of predictability involved – most of the fan base would already know the story from beginning to end, without watching a single episode.
It goes without saying that certain scenes from the books will definitely be cut or altered, for practical or story reasons. This leaves space open to create new moments without straying too far from the central plot.
4 – Smart casting choices
Engage Productions has recently been interacting with fans on Twitter in order to have an idea of what they want to see from the series.
Casting is an incredibly important facet to the show and could make or break it. Using a recent example like Stranger Things which combined established names in Winona Ryder, Matthew Modine and David Harbour with newcomers Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard and Gaten Matarazzo.
As GONE primarily focuses on the kids and their survival in this strange new world, the adult characters are mostly supporting and inconsequential. An example of this is Mr. Trentlake, Sam’s teacher at the beginning of the first novel, whose lifespan in the books is not long at all. As a particularly astute fan on Twitter said, potentially casting a relatively well-known actor in that part could be a good idea, to surprise casual viewers when he suddenly disappears.
I would go one step further and find an even bigger name to play Connie Temple – Sam (and Caine’s) mother. While she doesn’t play an active role in the FAYZ, she becomes more prominent later on.
Whatever happens, I will continue to anticipate further updates with my fellow GONE fans around the world.