Unfilmable Tales?




When I started writing short stories I had no parameters I was aware of, and piled up tales on all sorts of subjects into collections willy-nilly. These are out as e-books now, and I’ve just noticed that many of the editions still have the original illustrations in. I used to commission them from artists and pay from them myself to make the books more appealing.

I have also always given away their rights to be filmed by students. Each time I’ve offered these I had a number of takers who made short films and gave me a copy afterwards. The most recent time I’ve offered them, to celebrate the publication of the e-books, was after a long gap. This time there was not one taker. It’s not that the stories were suddenly dated but the nature of filmmaking has changed so that nobody films written works as a student piece anymore.

The most popular story I ever offered was in the collection ‘Flesh Wounds’. Here’s the intro;

There’s an advertisement for running shoes or sausages or something that reads, ‘Wherever you are, be somewhere else.’ Surely most people are anyway. J G Ballard was once described thus: ‘He doesn’t care where he lives, because he lives inside his head.’ It’s impossible to know what others are thinking, or whether their self-evaluations are accurate. That gap in perception gave me ‘The Most Boring Woman In The World’, which led in turn to the novel, ‘Psychoville.’

‘The Most Boring Woman In The World’ was filmed no less than five times by students around the world, and the differences in the results were amazing. Students sometimes made the job especially hard for themselves by picking ‘unfilmable’ stories or very convoluted ones. Nobody picked the ones I thought they’d go with. ‘On Edge’, a particularly gory little number (illustrated lovingly by Graham Humphries, above) was filmed on a relatively high budget as these things go, as was ‘Left Hand Drive’, which involved writing off a new Mercedes, something we did for real back then. ‘The Woman Downstairs’ was made by the BBC, and several others won awards. The rest of over 150 stories have never been film.

Will any of them ever get made again? Time will tell. Maybe they’ll come back into fashion. Do I mind? Not really – I’m just glad they’re out there again.


5 comments on “Unfilmable Tales?”

  1. Wayne#1 says:

    It does seem a little disappointing so few have been chosen. Although your stories make their own pictures in your mind as you read them, so when they are filmed they don’t always match up to personal expectations. I have been disappointed so many times in the past when I have watched filmed versions of books I love.

  2. Helen Martin says:

    I think that’s the problem: we go to see films of books we’ve and expect to see story on the screen. The screen writers/directors/actors, etc. saw the piece differently, of course, so they have to spend the first part of the film overcoming our preconceptions and then converting us to their concept. That doesn’t leave much of the film for us to enjoy and that’s only if they’ve succeeded in those first two goals. Perhaps we should only see films of books we didn’t care for very much.

  3. Helen Martin says:

    Hmm, that’s strange. Please insert “loved” after “we’ve” in the first line and “our” before “story”. The system didn’t like the way I stressed those two words and the omission makes the sentence meaningless.

  4. Jo W says:

    Hi Chris. When I finally tracked down a copy of your book,Sharper Knives, On Edge was the first story.
    Yes, it was well written and gorily descriptive but, it left me with a very strong disinclination to ever visit a dental surgery again! 🙁
    Great illustration by Graham, btw. 🙂

  5. John Griffin says:

    I had nightmares about On Edge and still remember it today. Cheers, mate. 🙁

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