Why Reading Books Is Vital in the Film Industry

Books and movies go hand in hand together

Photo by Jonas Leupe on Unsplash

Reading books is very essential for filmmakers. It is the inspiration of most moviemaking these days for creative writings. If the creative writing is terrible, the entire movie will fall apart even if they have the best CGI effects, actors, or musicians.

And most of the time, the creative writing in books is far more impactful than movie writings that moviemakers want to create a film out of it.

Most of the best movies so far were based on books. The biggest blockbusters were mostly stories from books such as Harry Potter, Jaws, Jurassic Park, Marvel Comics, Sherlock Holmes, I Am Legend and many more. These movies that were adapted from books managed to become high-grossing films.

As for movies that are not based on books, there are quite a few that made as much success as movies based on books. Movies such as Star Wars, Alien, and Avatar came close, but they didn’t expand their stories like books did (though Star Wars managed to expand theirs since they had a lot of budget from Disney and there was so much potential in the story).

As someone working in the entertainment industry and after seeing the impact of books on movies and vise versa, I’ve come to realize that reading is a vital part of the film industry. Directors, screenwriters, and book authors appear to need each other to make their series bigger than ever to keep the business going.

Here is why:

1. Books have a wider universe to create than movies

To write a story, an author only needs his/her brain, pens, and papers, and they are set to create an entire world. They don't need anyone to tell them how a world should be like, so they are free to create it however they want according to their vision.

Books such as Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and Lord of The Rings were able to expand their universe. These amazing authors have the freedom to create their own world and write that down without fear of budget cuts. Then, when the filmmakers picked up their books and read them, they realize that they can create a movie adaptation out of them.

For movie writers, they don’t have as much freedom as book writers do. Perhaps movie writers have a lot of imagination to create a world, but due to the budget cuts and opinions from their peers, their creations became limited. That’s why most movies usually have sequels up to two or three then they stopped continuing to create sequels.

Perhaps movies such as Star Wars can be an exception because its universe expands a lot. However, when George Lucas first made Star Wars, he too was hesitating with the production because he was not given enough budget and many disagreed to where the story was heading. So the pressure to create the universe was intense, which is why it was originally a trilogy. Even its prequels and sequels were trilogies.

Unlike books, they can make six or seven sequels and continue to expand the series with spinoffs, leading to my next point…

2. Stories in Books can have multiple sequels

Most authors are very creative that they could expand their world so much, they could even make a sequel to a franchise series and keep writing from there.

Book authors have so much freedom that as long as the bookselling pays their bills, they are willing to create more sequels.

For example, the Percy Jackson series had so many sequels that it has its own sequel to its series where it involves Greek mythology to Roman myth. Rick Riordan expanded his universe from there and created multiple sequels out of it.

As for movie writers, as much as they want to expand them, they had to make the studio happy on the box office revenue first before they can create sequels. Even if it managed to break even from the budget, most movies need to earn at least thrice as much as they earn in order to get approval for sequels. That’s why most movies would only have two or three sequels and that’s it.

TV shows work, but most Tv shows I know that are successful are mostly based on fictional books or history books(Game of Thrones, The Crown, Umbrella Academy, and The Peaky Blinders).

3. Movies help kids to read

I first knew Game of Thrones from the TV series around 2017, that’s where I knew that it’s based on the books. After season 8, I immediately read all the books.

According to The Atlantic, movies do encourage people to read. When The Hunger Games hit the theaters in February 2012, there were 70,000 kids reading the books in the US. By April 2012, after the movie’s debut, there were 180,000 kids reading the books.

There were many other books mentioned in the news where, thanks to the movie adaptation, the books became even more popular. Especially Harry Potter, after the final installment, the book sales skyrocketed.

As you can see here, the movie itself is the marketing for the books and vice-versa. There is a hand-in-hand going on here, leading to my next point…

4. Movies encourage authors to write more

“In a way, a movie saved my career.” — Stephen King, 2016.

In 2016, Stephen King said that a movie saved his career when he sold the novel rights, Carrie, to a publisher. Then a movie producer read that book, he loved it and made it into a movie. Suddenly, Carrie became a huge hit after it was drowned by the book Jaws.

From then on, Stephen was able to write more books and gained more popularity not just from book readers but movie-goers as well. He has a lot of books that are turned into movies such as IT, Pet Cemetery, Shawshank Redemption, and Doctor Sleep. So that’s two different markets to gain an audience, imagine how much income he gained from the books and from the film studios. That pretty much a huge encouragement to write some more.

Even JK Rowling said that when she released Harry Potter, she wanted it to be adapted to a movie to gain a wider audience. When the books became so popular around the world, she was interested to bring them to the big screen. And it gained even more attraction.

As you can see here, movies are basically the markets for authors and their books. In a way, they need each other.

If that one filmmaker didn’t pick up Stephen King or JK Rowling’s books, the studio would probably not be able to gain extra money from it, not many people would know about these incredible authors, and we’d probably have no real-life tourist attraction from it, leading to my next point…

5. Movie adaptations from books can create a bigger cultural phenomenon

Most movie adaptations were able to become a huge cultural phenomenon because the book itself was able to create a whole new world, which most people who want to be entertained are looking for.

This alone also helped gain other new market attractions: the tourist industry and video games.

Movies and TV shows such as Harry Potter, Marvel, and Lord of The Rings are so famous that the studios are willing to create a theme park or tourist attraction about it.

And with video games being more popular today, some of the books were even expanded to the world of video games. Notable games such as The Witcher and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor were based on books and these games became very popular to gamers to the point that the studio won many awards out of it.

Even toys are being made such as the Harry Potter Legos or Funko pops. See how much market value is that?

All it started was from one book, then a filmmaker read it and they made a movie out of it. It is enough to revolutionize the entertainment world and make a huge cultural phenomenon.

Final thoughts

Some people believed that the existence of technology can kill book readers, and that’s what authors would be scared of.

But the truth is, entertainment still needs books. Books will never go away. Films are still going to need them in the future.

A 2-hour movie’s life cycle is very short. If you look at its business life cycle, its maturity is very fast and it’ll end very soon once it’s no longer in theaters. So studios are always finding for new movies, and that’s when they turn to books.

And the books tend to be more evergreen for decades.

Compared to movies, writing a book is much easier than making a film. As I said at the beginning, an author only needs his/her brain, pens, and papers to create a story. Movies need a lot more equipment than that.

See how they go hand in hand? Authors can earn a lot more audience when their books are adapted to movies and film studios are able to create more contents by adapting their books, thus, earning more revenue for both parties.

To wrap it up, reading books is crucial to filmmakers because:

  1. Books have a wider universe to create than movies
  2. Stories in books can have multiple sequels
  3. Movies help kids to read
  4. Movies encourage authors to write more
  5. Movie adaptations from books can create a bigger cultural phenomenon

Reading is very important for filmmakers, it’s how they gain more ideas to make films. They can create their own world, sure. But since the world of filmmaking needs a lot of people to create a story, there are bound to be limitations on expanding the story.

Thus, they go to book stores, hoping to create another movie.

For writers, keep reading and keep writing. Quality matters to get readers to keep reading your stories. You never know when a filmmaker will read your story and interested to create it into a movie.

As for filmmakers, keep reading. You never know that you might save an author like Stephen King and create a huge pop cultural phenomenon.

Reading and watching films go hand in hand. Keep those hobbies!

Working in film biz. Writing Entertainment Business Case Studies from Indonesia 🇮🇩 | Find me here: https://linktr.ee/nicolesudjono

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