Keith Hawk (KH) John Granger (JG) Janet Scott Batchler (JB) Audience Member (AM)
KH: This lesson of MuggleNet Academia is brought to you by Audible. Please visit AudiblePodcast.com/MuggleNet for your free audiobook download.
[Show music begins]
Eric: Hey! Josée! Wait up!
Josée: Oh hi, Eric! I'm sorry, I really can't talk right now. I'm running late.
Eric: Late? Late for what?
Josée: Oh, it's because I have to go meet Keith and John Granger. I'm actually going to listen to a Harry Potter literature lesson at MuggleNet Academia.
Eric: Oh cool, that sounds awesome. Can I come with?
Josée: Yes, of course you can. Just come with me.
Eric: Okay. Let's go!
[Show music continues]
KH: Before we get into our lesson today, I would like to take this moment to thank our sponsor, Audible. If you are not familiar with Audible, Audible is the Internet's leading provider of spoken audio entertainment with over 40,000 titles to choose from. If you have a genre you prefer to listen to, such as the immensely popular young adult genre, they will most certainly have the right selection for you to choose from. If you go right now to AudiblePodcast.com/MuggleNet, that's AudiblePodcast.com/MuggleNet, you can get yourself a free Audible book to download when you sign up for their service. And if you're wondering which book to get with your free audiobook download, I would suggest perhaps The Magicians or The Magician King by Lev Grossman, a book that will certainly appeal to almost every Harry Potter fan. Or if you have already finished listening to the Lev Grossman books, then perhaps you'd like to dive into some JRR Tolkien with The Hobbit, as Tolkien is certainly discussed on many of our lessons here on the show. If none of those tickles your fancy, then don't worry. There are still over 40,000 titles left for you to choose from. So once again, go to AudiblePodcast.com/MuggleNet and get your free download today.
KH: Hello! Welcome to MuggleNet Academia! This is Lesson 21: "Harry Potter: From Book to Screen." How's everybody doing here?
[Audience applauds and cheers]
KH: All right, we are live at MISTI-Con. This has been a great convention so far. Is everybody having a good time?
[Audience applauds and cheers]
KH: How about you guys? Are you having a good time?
JG: We're having a very good time.
JB: Wonderful time.
JG: I want to jump in right away and thank Jonathan Rosenthal and all the group from The Group That Shall Not Be Named and all those responsible for this show because it's a marvelous group and a setting. Thank you so much for putting this together.
[Audience applauds and cheers]
KH: Last night... I don't know about you, but the blast at the opening gala. I mean, Josée on the pole.
JG: On the pole.
KH: For those of you who don't know, Josée is the one that does every show's intro - her and Eric Scull - and that was Fawkes on the pole last night, doing her thing. So she's actually one of our experts that we had. We had her for Lesson 3 on translations, and then we had her again last week as we did our one-year anniversary show two weeks ago. How about that? One year.
[Audience applauds and cheers]
KH: Thank you. Thank you, guys. It's all because of you, the fans, that this show actually exists and we can't thank you enough.
JG: This show, too, is special because of our special guest here who I wanted to have on for a very long time. Because Keith is after me always to get people from the United Kingdom to come on this show and someone to talk about Hollywood. And Janet and I have known each other for at least a decade now...
JB: Something like that, yeah.
JG: ...fighting in the Potter wars or something. We're on the DVD together, the... what is it? Order of the Phoenix DVD?
JB:Order of the Phoenix, right.
JG: And I knew that she was the person to talk about this because I know nothing about films, and she knows everything about films and knows the books better than I do. So to have her on here for this show has been great. Because we couldn't get her on the show, so we decided to fly her out here to do a show in the gap of her teaching schedule at USC. So this is a wonderful coming together of events for this program. So I'm excited about the show, I'm excited about this event. This is going to be an exciting time.
KH: And for those of you who have not yet met, we are also pleased to have Ellie Darcey-Alden and her brother Joseph Darcey-Alden in the back...
[Audience applauds and cheers]
KH: ...and our special family guests here at the con. Make sure that you stop by, say hi to them. They're wonderful people, I've been hanging out with them for a couple of days and thank you guys for joining us. All right, so let's get into this show. I'm going to start it off and tell you a little bit about what we're going to be talking about. Is that all right, John?
JG: Please, please.
KH: All right, great. It's something of a given nature that everybody knows the Harry Potter books inside and out. We love them, that's what the fandom discuss. But we also have the film adaptations, okay? And there's this separate canon for the films. When you look at the films, you have your separate canon. It's a Goliath in the industry. I mean, it's the number one movie franchise of all time. Give it up for them.
[Audience applauds and cheers]
KH: All right. But what's missing from these conversations between the books and the films, in most cases a substantive look at the relationship of print books and film adaptations. So that's what we're here to do. MuggleNet Academia is here at MISTI-Con live in Laconia, New Hampshire, and we're going to be with Janet Scott Batchler, who is a professional screenwriter with Hollywood blockbuster credits. She did Batman Forever, she did Pompeii.
JB: Which is coming out next February 28th, so mark your calendars.
KH: Along with a whole bunch of other stuff. Plus, she teaches this craft at the University of Southern California. She's also a Potter Pundit of the highest caliber. She wrote a book called What Will Harry Do? The Unofficial Guide to Payoffs and Possibilities in Book 7, which was a challenging guide to what the Deathly Hallows books were going to be when they came out. So Janet today, welcome and thank you for joining us as the keynote speaker at MISTI-Con to talk about film adaptations - what did and did not work in the films and what effect the movies have had on the fandom. Was it good or was it bad? So welcome, Janet. First thing is - I always start out with the exact same question to every single guest we have - you are a noted scholar, someone who teaches a high degree of profession at a prestigious college, USC. You read the Harry Potter books, really?
JB: I really did.
KH: Okay. And what is it about the Harry Potter books that you got into and said, "Wow, this is what I need to study at some point in time"?
JB: Well, I read the Harry Potter books for the first time over the Y2K weekend. My husband bought them for me for Christmas and my writers group, we were all renting beach condos on the beach in San Diego to celebrate the turn of the millennium. And I brought the books along, and I started reading, and I read the first one and I said, "That was really fun." And I read the second one and I said, "I don't think I need to go to the zoo. You guys go to the zoo."
JB: "I think I'll just sort of lie on this couch and read." And really, by the end of the second one I was completely hooked. I believe I had read the books, all three books, through twice by the time that week was over. And it became part of our family. My kids were young then and I thought, "Well, they're a little too young for the books." And then my son came home from kindergarten and said his kindergarten teacher was reading him Harry Potter. And I said, "Wait a minute, she doesn't get to do that. I get to do that!"
JB: So we developed a tradition in our house where my entire family read Harry Potter first by me reading it to them. So every book that came out, I read it for myself, then I read it again to think about how am I going to read this? You know, what are the voices? And I read them all, all the way through, and it was just an amazing experience.
KH: All right, well here's the real test though: When Deathly Hallows [came] out and you have your children and you reading in the same household, how many copies did you get?
JB: We got one because they didn't get to read it!
[Audience and JG laugh]
JB: In fact, the day it came out, the next day they were going to camp for a week, and I called the camp and I said, "You need to make sure that nobody discusses Deathly Hallows."
[Audience and JG laugh]
JB: "You need a Deathly Hallows moratorium in camp." I said, "Look, it's not fair to the kids who haven't read it and some of them will have read it overnight and some will not." And they did it. And my kids came home from camp and we sat down and started to read. So that was their first experience of the books, and then they would pick them up and read them themselves.
JG: Did you read them before they came home from camp?
JB: I read them... oh, yes.
JB: No, I read them first, then I read them out loud. A wonderful experience and one that I'm so happy to have had, given that we're talking about movies today, because since I've read them out loud I had my own real understanding of who each character was before I ever saw the movies. So the movie voices really couldn't infringe on my own voices in my head. You know, when Order of the Phoenix came out, my husband was like, "You know, Imelda Staunton was amazing, but you'll always be Umbridge to me."
[Audience and JG laugh]
JB: And I'm like, "Thank you."
JG: "I think I thank you."
JG: I mean, just from that answer you can get how special Janet is in the fandom in that she lives in both of these worlds and operates at a very high level. I mean, at this time she's talking about this, she was also online at her own blog and at HogwartsProfessor.com arguing about what had to happen in Deathly Hallows when the fifth book came out or whatever.
JB: Right, right.
JG: And Janet and I were back and forth all the time because I'm the reading guy, okay? I'm the artistry and meaning of the text, and I know next to nothing about film, and I don't think about story the way that Janet does. She understands my perspective and then she has the extra layer of storytelling in a different medium. Now, we're going to play the same role again today. I've learned something about filmmaking just because of my conversations with Janet. Whenever I have a question about, like, the hijacking that happened with the Hunger Games film, I call Janet and say, "What am I missing? This is a disaster." And she'll say, "Well, John, they did this, they did that. Here's why that actually worked and you missed it." My first question for Janet is about... because I'm the book guy, and she's the film lady and the book lady, are you really just the apologist for the industry? Are you going to tell us that these movies, every book to screen adaptation, is a good one? I mean, tell me about maybe a bad experience you've had, where you've gone as a book lover to the film and said, "Oh my gosh, that was not what I wanted."
JB: Probably the... and I know I raise hackles every time I say this, but probably one of the most unsatisfying movie adaptations I ever saw was The Lord of the Rings.
[Audience and JG laugh]
JB: I am a deep, deep lover of The Lord of the Rings...
JG: For those of you listening, Keith's eyes just came out about an inch and a half from his head here!
JB: There was a lot they did right, but what they did to the sword that was broken, what they did to the character of Faramir, none of that had to be done. They did not have to violate the books in the way that they did. It didn't have to be done. They did a lot right, but there were things that, for me, as a deep, deep lover of those books... I sat there... my husband wouldn't sit next to me in the theaters because I would sit there going, "Yes, yes... no. No!"
JB: "Okay, that's okay." And then finally he was like, "Somebody [else] has to sit next to you. I can't do it." So everybody else in my family loves those movies. I can't watch them...
JG: Oh, this is great.
JB: ...because they deviate so much from the books in ways that I care about very deeply. And I realize that the world does not agree with me on that, but not every adaptation is a good adaptation. Not every faithful adaptation is a good adaptation.
JG: This is great. Because I'm the guy, like many of you, that goes to the Harry Potter films and does the, "What? You're kidding me. Where did the hippogriff come from, here? That hippogriff should not be fighting with the werewolf. What is this about? I'm totally... whoa!" And I get angry and my children are getting up and walking to different parts of the theater, or we're at home and they're saying, "Dad..."
KH: Did you put your name in the goblet, Harry?!
JB: Yeah, well...
JG: And this conversation is not going to be Little Whinging, here. We're not going to all turn into whiners about how the movies fail. But I really am glad to hear Janet say that she is not a shill for the industry, that there is a bad way to do this, because I sort of shudder every time I hear about the films, and Janet is going to tell us, I think, why actually they're much better than we think. But to get to that, and this is the part where... this is why I've been wanting this conversation for so long, is to get Janet to describe how this actually works. How do you get from a book which is... how many pages?
JB: Forty-five hundred, yeah. Four thousand, five hundred.
JG: But it might as well be forty-five thousand. How do you bring that down to, what, sixteen hours of film?
JG: I mean, that's just not doable. So what principles do you use? If you're sitting down with Jane Austen or Joanne Rowling or JRR Tolkien, what do you do as a screenwriter? As a person who teaches screenwriting at probably the most prestigious film school in the country, what do you do? I mean, in this industry, given historically that they're going to take stories that have sold well as novels, they're going to make them into films - they've been doing it since Edison was making movies - what are the principles involved with making that transition?
JB: Well, the first thing you have to do as a screenwriter approaching a novel is you have to find what we call the "spine" of the story. You have to find what holds the story together from beginning to end. And to do that, you look at the ending of the story and you say, "Okay, I need to get to this ending. What do I need to get to this ending? What are the beats, what are the elements, what are the character changes, what are the visuals that I must have to get to the ending?" And that becomes the spine of your story. One way to think of it might be that it's the trunk of a Christmas tree. You have the trunk, and now you can start hanging other things on it. And as you look for things to cut, you realize that you're going to have to cut things. Forty-five hundred pages of novel is probably one hundred hours of screen time. You're not going to get one hundred hours of screen time. You know, going in, that seventy-five percent of the books you're going to have to cut. Seventy-five percent is a given. So now the question becomes, what are you going to cut? So one of the things you look for is you look for story lines. Whole story lines that you can just pull out and set aside that don't belong... or that belong to the book but have nothing to do with the ending. So for instance, when you're doing the movies, you don't need SPEW.
JB: We love it, it is thematically important to the books, but...
KH: I need SPEW.
JB:...it does not in any way get you to the ending of the plot in any movie. So that's something that is easy to pull out. Other choices come harder. There are choices that maybe they should have made. Personally I would have pulled out Grawp. I would have just... he was expensive, and he really didn't get us anywhere that we couldn't have gotten without him. We [did] need him for the scene with the centaurs, and that's pretty much it. So I would have pulled him out. So you start looking for the whole story lines that you can get rid of, and then you start making the harder choices after that.
JG: So this is a distillation process because if it's sixteen to a hundred, it's more like eighty-five percent of the story has to die. That's an amazing thing. I can't imagine walking into a book and saying...
JB: Well, it's not quite that because you're getting back in visuals what you don't need. You don't need a page to describe what the Great Hall looks like, with the sky and the candles, because you see it [snaps fingers] like that.
JB: So you don't... you're not losing everything. Some of it you're getting back even more strongly than you had in the books.
JG: Well, say it's only fifty percent. Still, if I'm given Order of the Phoenix - which is a brick - and I'm going to say... and it seems... I've done the structure. I'll talk about the structure tomorrow and the ring composition, every one of those pieces is locked into place in terms of how its reflection is in the rest of the story. I'm going to say, "Okay, I'm just going to cut that out, I'm going to cut that..." I mean, that's... it's an entirely retelling of the story.
JB: It is a retelling of the story. It is... here's the way I like to think of it. Really, the films are not a new Harry Potter story. They are an interpretation of the story. If I read Hamlet, I'm reading the actual story. I have seen Ralph Fiennes...
KH: Really? I mean, Hamlet has been cut up and dissected over the years. We don't even really know what Shakespeare actually wrote.
JG: Well, we've got Folio...
KH: We don't have Shakespeare's actual text, right?
JB: We have the closest that we can get...
KH: Yeah, it's the closest but it's not really...
JB: ...without a Time-Turner.
JG: Right. We've got the Folio text though, which is...
JB: So I've seen Ralph Fiennes play Hamlet, I've seen Mel Gibson play Hamlet, I've seen David Tennant play Hamlet. All of them brought something new to my understanding of Hamlet. But my full understanding comes when I go back and read the play because those are all interpretations of the play. And yes, sometimes they are cut up. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. But they're all interpretations. The movies are interpretations of the books, but we all end up going back to the books. There are other interpretations. All of you who are writing and reading fan fiction are doing your own interpretation of the books. A Very Potter Musical and A Very Potter Sequel are interpretations of the books. They're not new creations. And I think sometimes in fandom, people look at the movies as if they're making a claim to be a new creation. They're not. They're an interpretation. They happen to be a very expensive interpretation.
JB: To do Hamlet, you need a couple of chairs and a skull. Anybody can do Hamlet. It costs a lot of money to do Harry Potter, so we're probably not going to see as many interpretations of them. But these aren't the last ones we'll see. All of you are creating new interpretations all the time. It's interpretations of that world, not a new creation. The books are the creation. They are the fundamental element that we come back to.
JG: What I want to get at, because this is something that you do so well, is... again, I'm the book guy and I think I have some grasp of how Rowling works her story in terms of the alchemy, the ring composition, the cryptics, and all that stuff. Almost none of that works in a film.
JG: If you talk about the ring composition in a film, the person is some sort of anal retentive madman making a film or whatever, it just doesn't work. It doesn't have the power it has in the film.
JG: How does the exposition of story differ from novel-writing to screenwriting?
JB: Right. So as a screenwriter, for me, exposition is anything the audience must know to make sense of the story. Okay? It's not the entire backstory of everything that ever happened. It's just what you need to know to make sense of the story that's being told in the movie. Now, when we write a screenplay, sometimes we're lucky in writing a movie because we have the opportunity to do a big exposition scene. "Tell me, Dr. Jones, what do you know about the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail?" And somebody sits down and explains. "How did they make dinosaurs?" And somebody explains. "Well, men, we're going to be invading Fort Knox and stealing all the gold. Here's how we're going to do it." And somebody explains. That doesn't happen in the Harry Potter books for the most part. We get a little bit. And as a screenwriter, when you get the chance for sort of an exposition "give me" scene, it's a gift from the gods because you can just teach the audience. You take the audience to school. But you do that early in the movie. Screenplays are traditionally thought of as being divided into three acts, even though there are no act breaks as in a TV show or as in a play. But just think of them as the beginning, middle, and end. Well, you take the audience to school at the beginning, and then you're ready to go for the movie. That's not what happens in the Harry Potter books. The books do something that is absolutely wrong for a movie, which is they take the characters to school - they take the reader to school - at the end. There is always the scene where Dumbledore sits down and says, "I will now explain to you everything that happened."
JG: When he's dead, he does that.
JB: Even when he's dead. Even when he's about to die. He's standing on the lightning-struck tower and he's saying, "So, Draco, there were two cabinets, is that correct?"
JB: He's still giving us that moment of exposition. We can't do that in a movie. We can't. You cannot stop the momentum of a movie to say, "Okay, we're going to put everything on hold and explain and sit and talk." You can't do it. Movies are carried by a different temporal momentum than books are. So the screenwriter's job becomes to figure out how to pull the exposition out of the end of the movie and get it into the movie so that the audience can figure it out as they go along rather than having it explained at the end. That is a very hard thing to do. That is a technically very hard thing to do. Often, we drop little bits of exposition in here and there. Sometimes, we have to rework entire story lines. So for instance, Barty Crouch in the Goblet of Fire. There's a lot to not like about the Goblet of Fire, but what they did with Barty Crouch I thought was ingenious. We see David Tennant, we see Barty Crouch Jr. in the very first scene. Who cares about this old Muggle who's going to die anyway? And we go, "Ooh, who's that guy? Who's that guy? I'd better pay attention to him. He's in the first scene." For the first ten minutes of a movie... good screenwriters know that the audience... for the first ten minutes of a movie or so, the audience is going, "Okay, I have to pay attention to that." You're teaching them what you have to pay attention to. And if you introduce things that they don't have to pay attention to in the first ten minutes, it becomes confusing. So we're seeing David Tennant right up front, we're going, "Who is he? Who is he? Who is he?" And then we see him again. He's not under an invisibility cloak, we see him cast the Dark Mark. And we see him at various times during the movie. And this is something that the actors can bring wonderful things to movies. David Tennant brought that delightful little tongue flick. He brought that and the filmmakers used it by having Mad-Eye do it so that now the audience could go, "Wait a minute, wait a minute, that was Barty Crouch Jr. who did that. Why is he doing it? Is he doing it just to tease Barty's father? Is he... what's going on?" And now that exposition is tied into the whole story so when we get to the end, we get it. And we're not getting to the end and saying, "Wait a minute, wait a minute, what do you mean a character whom I have never seen, who I only saw in a one-minute flashback, is the key to the whole story? Really?" You can do that in a book, you can't do that in a movie. That was brilliant. Same thing with Draco and the vanishing cabinet in Half-Blood Prince. By showing us "He's trying, he's trying, he's trying," we avoid the repetition of Harry saying, "Draco's up to something, Draco's up to something, Draco's up to something."
JG: "No, he's not."
JB: "Draco's up to something."
JG: "Oh, Harry, you're so silly."
JB: Exactly. We avoid that and we sit there going... instead, we as the audience are now engaged, going, "What is Draco up to? What is he up to?" And we're trying to figure it out as we go along. And then, of course, the other way that the screenwriter handled exposition - particularly in Deathly Hallows - was thanks to Hermione, the exposition goddess, because she just sort of knows things. She suddenly knows that Snitches have flesh memories. She suddenly knows all about Gregorovitch. She's just a little gift. So these are the things you have to do to make the movie make sense. You have to make some of these changes.
JG: One of my big objections to the film, as the book guy...
JG: ...is that Rowling's genius, really, as a writer is her narrative voice. That she has basically a house-elf with a minicam over Harry's head the entire series, occasionally sticking the cam into his head so we can hear what he is thinking or whatever. And everything is from above - in geek talk, it's third person limited omniscient. Harry is not telling the story, but it's not really God telling. You're not seeing what Snape is doing, what Dumbledore is doing, it's all what is happening around Harry. It's from Austen's Emma. If we did that in the film, of course it would be insane. We'd only see Harry's face if he looked into a mirror, right? There would be that way. But how... as a screenwriter, trying to adapt that story, the power of the films or the books is that we identify more and more and more with this guy from whose view the story is experienced. How do we get that power in a film if we can't use that perspective?
JB: That's the other real difficulty for any movie adaptation, is that we do not have access to characters' thoughts. In a movie all you get is what you see, what you hear, and what an actor can play. And that means that we can get a certain level of the character's emotions, and often the actors will do that much better than what we read in the book. It will be more real and it will sort of have a visceral jolt to it. But we can't see them reason, we can't see the logic, we can't see them work through things, we can't see Harry being conflicted about his feelings about Dumbledore. We don't have access to any of that. So you have to find ways to externalize it, and that's something you're never going to be fully successful in doing in moving from a book to a film. Some people feel that that is the primary difference between writing a novel and writing a screenplay, is the ability to enter into a character's thoughts, that that is the main difference. You are limited, you are very limited in a film. In a book, you are very limited in the visual, where you can describe it but you really can't describe it as fully as a picture.
JG: It's the reader's imagination.
KH: One of the most powerful scenes in the book - and to me also in the films - is Snape's memories...
KH: ...where we find out the truth about Snape. Does everybody agree there? Always.
KH: Luckily we have a little actress over here who played in that scene, okay? And actually got that characterization of Lily falling in love with Severus...
KH: ...so that we see it. How was that adaptation done where... did we, as the audience... I fell in love, I understood that Snape was in love with Lily.
KH: And it's what we get in the book. Was it done properly?
JB: I think that is just a masterful sequence. David Yates, who directed the last four movies, did wonderful things with montages. That's a montage, a series of quick, quick scenes just linked together. I think the picture of Severus holding Lily's dead body, that one shot, is...
KH: How many are crying right now?
JB: ...literally worth a thousand words. Literally worth a thousand words. That shot, to me, did everything about the Snape/Lily relationship that I didn't need the book to tell me that. Just that shot would have told it. I thought it was masterfully done.
JG: Okay, you've talked about this twice now in terms of that scene and something like seeing the Great Hall - I don't need to have a lot of time spent. Once you see the candles and the stars in the sky, we've got it. What other kind of... you're going to have a visual enhancement of the written word or whatever. Where does that... does someone fall down on that sometimes? Is there a good way, a bad way, a stupid way...
JB: Absolutely, absolutely. Sometimes... look, some of them were done really well. The temptation, and it's not always a bad one in making a movie of this size, in spending over two hundred million dollars on a movie...
KH: That is one movie.
JB: That is one movie. That is a lot...
JG: I got it.
JB: Yeah, okay. Well, you've got your admission. So...
JB: The temptation is always to make it bigger, make it bigger, make it bigger. Sometimes they do that and it doesn't make sense. The dragon flying away in the First Task in Goblet of Fire I think just doesn't make sense. They didn't need it, they just were sort of showing off. Look what we can do. Wouldn't it be cool if the dragon flew around the castle? And of course I'm sitting there going, why isn't somebody helping Harry?
[Audience and JG laugh]
JB: This is not the way it was supposed to happen. Why are they letting it happen? Why did they do such a bad job of chaining the goblin down - or the dragon down - in the first place? What happens to the dragon afterwards? Nobody ever says, "Oh, there's now a dragon on the loose."
KH: He's in the canyon. He's dead.
JB: Yeah. Harry managed to Accio his broom all the way from the castle, but it's ten feet away from him and he doesn't call it to himself to get away from the dragon. So there was a lot about that that was just visual extravagance for the sake of extravagance. Sometimes it works. Fred and George's swamp - lovely. One of my favorite moments of the book. But a swamp on screen sort of sits there. It sort of just sits there. And remember that we've already... because of time constraints, we've already had to cut a lot of the defiance against Umbridge. The swamp comes as the finale of defiance against Umbridge. But it's a swamp. It's very static. Movies don't like things that are static. You don't like things that are static when you watch movies. Well, you know what? The twins had the fireworks, that was already part of the story. So they took the fireworks and they went to town with the fireworks and they had that firework dragon chasing Umbridge which was wonderful, and it got to the point of the sequence. The point of the sequence is to show up Umbridge. And then they explode the wall of Educational Decrees, which also gets to the point and I wouldn't be surprised if Jo Rowling saw that and said, "Oh, I wish I'd thought of that..."
JB: ...because that got to the point of what that sequence was about. That was visual enhancement that really, really worked. Sometimes it's just extravagance for the sake of extravagance. Sometimes it's just a brilliant visualization and enhancement of what's there.
KH: You're creating these scenes in our heads and recreating them, which ones were good, which ones were bad, and all that.
KH: What about the whole film? Which film, in your opinion, was adapted the best and which one was adapted the worst?
JB: My opinion on the films, I would say probably Deathly Hallows 1 was the best. I think that the job of handling all the exposition about the Horcruxes that had not been placed, if it wasn't in place yet, plus just the sheer despondency of the search. I know people are like, "They're in the forest forever!" And I'm like, "Yes, that's the point! That's the point. They're in the forest forever. That's the whole point." I thought that was really, really well done and I don't think there were any really significant misfires.
JG: What about the dancing?
JB: You know, I'm not sure about the dancing. I sort of don't get the dancing. I thought it sent the wrong...
KH: You're a Hermione and Harry shipper, aren't you?
[Audience and JG laugh]
AM: I am absolutely not in any way a shipper because I think it doesn't have anything romantic at all about it.
JB: Yeah, the dance... I don't feel that the dance is romantic, but I think that many people can interpret it as romantic. So I'm not quite sure why it's there. I think they just wanted something that maybe felt lyrical and they wanted something that didn't use words, and that's what they ended up with. That's the one I think is the best. The one I think is the weakest, even though it does have many strong points about it, is Goblet of Fire.
KH: Yeah. I think that's a unanimous decision on that. But going with that and having the best as Deathly Hallows: Part 1, why [are] there no Oscars for any of the movies in any field?
KH: None. No screenwriting, no...
JG: They got some nominations.
KH: Oh. Wow, great. Thank you.
JB: Well, first of all...
KH: The number one movie franchise in the world, okay? And it didn't get it.
JB: Okay, so that's a question really about Hollywood and Hollywood politics more than about the movies. Hollywood...
KH: Because it's British, is that...
JB: No, it's because it made a lot of money.
KH: Okay, so did Lord of the Rings, and it won thirteen at Return of the King.
KH: And that had a lot of money.
JB: It won thirteen against a very weak field, and I think it was sort of... it was not three separate movies, it was three movies telling the same story, and I think it won partly out of sheer recognition of the feat that it took to accomplish it, partly because a lot of what it did was groundbreaking and new, and partly because Harvey Weinstein was a producer and he knows how to campaign for a movie like nobody else in the world. A lot of this is about politics. Why didn't the movies get nominated? Movies get nominated... the way movies get nominated has to do a lot with who campaigns for them, it has a lot to do with who likes people. They got nominated for a lot of what we call "below the line" awards. Above the line is directing, writing, acting. Below the line is everything else. All the technical awards, the sound and the music, and the editing got a lot of nominations, and I have to say it really is true when people say it's an honor just to be nominated. It really is. In town, you get the award it's gravy, but in Hollywood, getting the nomination is the real recognition of craft and of excellence. And people... basically the difference between getting the nomination and getting the award is what is listed in your obituary.
KH: Okay, but there's a lot of sets that are used throughout the whole Harry Potter film set, okay?
KH: Stuart Craig, production designer, masterful job on creating the Great Hall and every other set that we see. They're even featured on this massive tour at Warner Bros. Studio Tour at Leavesden Studio.
JB: Right, which I have been to. It's wonderful.
KH: And it's amazing.
KH: Has everybody been there? Anybody been there? Okay.
JB: In London. Outside of London.
KH: It's amazing, okay? And yet, here we have a Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park in Florida, one going up in California, one going up in Japan, an expansion that just got announced for Florida. No awards for production design? Seriously?
JB: Well, look, I think they should have been awarded an Oscar for production design. Absolutely. I think sometimes there is just jealousy, where people say the box office is the reward.
JG: Let's move from that back to the screenwriting thing. You talked about the producer basically being the political master of this kind of thing...
JG: ...where he has to know the industry, he has to know the town, who to talk to...
JG: ...where to place the full page ads, and that kind of thing, and they didn't do that. They didn't do that well enough, obviously.
JB: They did some of it. I have a whole stack of screeners. They sent screeners out to the whole town.
JG: Wow. Okay, but the producer is not the man...
JG: ...in the making of a film.
JG: Tell us about the relationship between... you're a screenwriter...
JG: ...and forgive me, until we had the conversation just last night about this, I thought the screenwriter writes the story. That's the person who... that's the Jo Rowling right there on the set, and you said, "John..." Tell them how naive I am about thinking a screenwriter has real authority and power on the set.
JB: The person with the authority and the power on the set is the director. The fact that these movies had two screenwriters, one screenwriter who did seven movies, that says to me that Steve Kloves, who wrote seven of the movies, all except number five, really got along very well with the directors because he could have been fired and replaced at any time, at any moment. So part of what he was doing was helping the director accomplish the director's vision. In the film world, the director is God. What the director says goes. Period. Nobody can contradict the director. There's even a very rigid set of etiquette on a set as to who can speak to the director, and also as to who can speak to the actors. There's... what the director says goes. So I think when you look at the individual movies, you have to, in part, look at the specific directors, what they brought to the movies, where they, maybe, let the movies down, and why the studio then chose to continue or not continue with various directors.
JG: I want to jump right into that because... here's John's silly story. When the first film comes out, my dad was visiting us. I was living on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, and he took all my children - and there's a bunch of them - to see Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. And the kids came home and they were just delighted and excited, wow, it was great, we loved it. My dad was saying, what was that film? He didn't understand any of it, and the criticism of Columbus's direction...
JG: ...was that he basically did a page turning thing, where he just did chapter by chapter, and you could almost feel the chapters turn. And I've heard that criticism again and again, that he was so faithful to the books that it wasn't really a movie. And my dad didn't understand the story...
JG: ...because of that. So what do you think of what Chris Columbus did? What was the best and the worst of Chris Columbus?
JB: Well, you have to realize, Chris Columbus has to get enormous props because one of the things a director does is he casts the movie.
JB: He casts the movie. Chris Columbus found the trio. He hired Maggie Smith. He hired Alan Rickman. He hired Richard Harris.
JB: This is... he did... and he also supervised the design of the world. Somebody has to take it off the page, and draw pictures, and build things, and the director says yes or no to all of that. So I think he gets enormous props for setting up the world. I think, maybe, his actual filmmaking was not what it could have been. I think he was very weak in linking individual scenes. Often with a movie... a movie can feel like just a stack of scenes, and I think sometimes the first two movies just felt like a bunch of scenes stacked together because he didn't tie them together. He didn't show why we were moving from one scene to the next. So for instance, in the next movie, in Prisoner of Azkaban, there's just a little throwaway where a Slytherin has drawn a cartoon of Harry being hit in the head with a Bludger, and then we go from that to the Quidditch game, and that lets us feel like, "Oh, there's a reason we're going to the Quidditch game now!" It makes sense to make this transition, where oftentimes those transitions were simply missing in the first two movies. I think the editing was probably weak. I think Warner Bros. was probably a little nervous, that they didn't want to mess it up and stayed very, very faithful to the books, and it was easier to stay faithful to the books because they were short at that point. But I think he has to get enormous props and I think he is very under-appreciated for what he brought to the movies in setting them up and getting the whole ball rolling.
JG: You mention the director of the third film, who only worked on one film, which many people think was the best visual adaptation and feel of the story - much more gothic than the other stories.
JG: Why no other stories? Why does he only do one and done?
JB: Okay, part of that has to do with the nature of filmmaking, and I'll describe it because we'll probably want to talk about this a little later - filmmaking versus TV making. When you're making a TV show, you have an enormous amount of material to get done, and it has to get on the air, and you're on a schedule, and it has to get done, regardless. It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be on time. So in TV, actually writers run TV rather than directors, but what happens in TV is you are posting the last episode. That means you're doing post-production, you're doing the editing, you're adding special effects, you're doing sound, you're adding all of that for that episode, while you're shooting this episode, while you're prepping the next episode. Prepping means finding the locations, it means doing the casting, it means polishing up the script, it means making all the decisions you have to make before you shoot, and you're doing them all simultaneously. In the feature film world, that doesn't happen. In the feature film world, a director makes usually a two-year commitment to a movie. They are there for all of pre-production... and by the way, during pre-production they are essentially not getting paid. So when a movie falls out, for instance when Guillermo del Toro left The Hobbit, he had spent two years on it and he got paid $25,000 for two years of work. And he had to leave because he had to go get some paying work and the movie wasn't ready to go. Directors get paid the first day of principal photography. So then they're with it for the whole shoot, and that's a massive job, that's at least 16 hours a day. And then they go into post-production, and they're editing, and they're adding effects, and they're adding sound, and they're supervising all of that. And a feature film director is used to doing that whole process all the way through, focused on one thing. They don't have to multi-task. They have the luxury of single-tasking. TV, they have to multi-task. Chris Columbus agreed to do two films and it almost killed him. He said, "I can't do it, I can't do it, I can't do this, it's too hard to do two films at a time." Alfonso Cuarón, they offered him movie number four and they said, "But you have to start now," and he said, "I can't start now! I have to post number three!" And so he turned it down because he wasn't able to do two movies at the same time.
JG: Many folks think that's a disaster, that he would have been perfect for Goblet, because many people were unhappy with Goblet for a lot of reasons. They said, "Oh, if only we had had number three as number four. It would have been great."
JB: You know, I actually disagree. I think the filmmaking is very, very good in Prisoner of Azkaban, but there are things that worry me a little about it. Directors like to "make the film their own." That's the phrase. And Mr. Cuarón made the film his own in ways that maybe... I think if he had kept making the film his own, he would have been going farther and farther away from the books. So we have just little things that he added - the boys making animal noises up in their room, just little things here and there that he added - and I'd be concerned... he redesigned all the sets, he redesigned everything. That didn't really need to be done. That was just him making it his own so that people couldn't say, "Well, he's just stepping into Chris Columbus' footsteps." So I think that we would have seen some real deviations in ways that would be problematic.
JG: What would you have put into Prisoner of Azkaban instead of that scene?
JB: I would have explained the Marauder's Map.
JB: I just sat there going, Lupin is looking at this map and Harry never says, "How do you know it's a map?" And Lupin never says, "I wrote it." And Lupin never says, "Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs." And Harry never says, "Who are those people?" I'm like, what? And that's important. That is important to know. And it's important to know later because in Movie 5 when Harry turns to Snape and says, "He's got Padfoot at the place where it's hidden," how does Snape know who he's talking about? Because Padfoot... I believe Harry uses "Padfoot" instead of "Snuffles" in writing to Sirius once. Where did that come from? So I think that there are just ways it would have made me nervous, as beautiful a job as he did, to see Mr. Cuarón continue to direct the films. And please let us also remember that the director casts the films, and Alfonso Cuarón cast Michael Gambon as Dumbledore. Okay?
JB: So that all falls at his feet.
JG: David Yates gets to do the last four films and the guy had never been a feature film director.
JB: That's right.
JB: But he had been a TV director. He was a very noted and awarded and excellent TV director in Britain. Some of you may have seen The Girl in the Cafe with Bill Nighy, which won an Emmy. Just a fabulous TV movie. And this is a guy for whom the idea of posting one movie, shooting another movie, prepping another movie - well, yeah, it's a little more complicated but that's what he does. That's what he does.
JG: And he's not bad at casting either.
JB: He is pretty good at casting. This is the guy who brought us Imelda Staunton as Umbridge. This is the guy who brought us Jim Broadbent as Slughorn. I mean...
JG: And Luna.
JB: And Luna!
JB: There are some... I've worked with some directors who say that the secret as a director that 90 percent of it is casting. I think David Yates casts beautifully. What picture perfect... think what a buffoon Slughorn could have been, what an absolute buffoon. Beautiful, beautiful casting. Beautiful performance. Even by the last movie, he even got Michael Gambon really tied back into the heart of who Dumbledore was by the final movie. I think it was an impossible job. An impossible job to churn out four movies of that size, of that scale, in that time frame. Absolutely impossible. Far beyond what Lord of the Rings did, really. So I think he gets enormous props.
JG: All right, we're going to start... we've got an incredible crowd here.
JB: We do.
JG: These people are knowledgeable about Harry Potter that... I love talking... Jon, how many times have I talked to the Group That Shall Not Be Named? I mean, this is where I go. If I've got something new and bold, I go to New York and I talk to Jon and his gang.
JG:[laughs] Their gang.
JG: So I want to get to their questions. But before... and Keith is ready to go. He's got the microphone, he's ready to get some questions here. But I want to ask before we go to that, my dream sequence is that Joanne Rowling decides to reboot this thing. Actually, Warner Bros. has finally broken her down. I'm sure they're already beating her door saying, let's do this again. Let's make a few more hundred millions, billions of dollars here. Our stock price could use the push here. And she finally says, okay, I want to give another hundred million dollars to the MS Society, let's go ahead and do this. But she decides, oh, I'm going to talk to my friend on the West Coast, Janet Batchler, and get her opinion about what I need to do for this reboot. And here's the dream scenario. They call you in as the consultant, Janet, and they want to know, how do we do this right this time?
JB: Well, after I pass out from sheer joy...
[Audience and JG laugh]
JB: ...after I come to again, I think what they need to do with it is a seven year TV series.
[Audience applauds and cheers]
JB: One year... and this way instead of two hours to cover up to 850 pages, you have... depending on if you're working on an American schedule or British schedule - let's say a British schedule - you're going to have 15 hours, you're probably going to have some version of a Christmas special...
JB: ...you're going to have probably 20 to 30 hours available to tell each book.
KH: Yeah, but do you have enough cliffhangers for each episode? There has to be a cliffhanger in each show.
JB: Yes, you do because some of them are not going to be cliffhangers. Think about watching a regular... every episode of Downton Abbey doesn't end with a cliffhanger.
KH: Yeah, but 24, the episode, the show that was here in America on TV with Jack Bauer...
KH: ...in every episode 24... episode season, each time, each one, had a cliffhanger.
JB: But that was the nature of that story. Here you're going to end with something, not necessarily a cliffhanger, but you're going to end... that's going to be the primary job of the writer.
[Audience and JG laugh]
JB: That's going to be the primary job of the writer, is going to be to find what's our out. What's the out of every episode? How do we end every episode so that people say, "Oh my goodness"?
JG: Gotta come back.
JB: "Next week on!"
[Audience and JG laugh]
KH: All right, well, before we... if you want to start lining up for questions if you have any, that's fine. If you want to start coming over here and ask questions for Janet Batchler, that would be great. I have one last question, and this is from our last show with John Mark Reynolds and the rest of the cast and also his canon episode. John Mark Reynolds is a provost at Arizona State University...
JG: No, no, Houston Baptist.
KH: Houston Baptist? Okay. He's a provost there, and he stated to our show that the film series killed future Harry Potter fans because all of the future Harry Potter fans, or a majority of them, are going to be coming to the book series from the films already spoiled whereas we, as purists here, have all been in line for Book 7, that anticipation. Generations don't have that anymore coming up. The books are all out. The books are there. The movies are all out. So... do you know what I'm talking about, John?
JG: John Mark's point is that the great majority, almost all of the people coming to the Harry Potter books now, have seen all the films. Daniel Radcliffe is Harry Potter. They don't know a world without Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter. And the films are kind of dated already. [laughs] As Janet was telling me last night, and she's right, just the hairstyles alone make this an ought series rather than a teen series. They come from a certain period of time and they already seem dated so people come into the books thinking, "I'm reading an expanded screenplay of a book which is old. It's my older brother and sister's thing. It's no longer my thing. I'm into Hunger Games instead." Janet, is John Mark spot on about his diagnosis but not about how it... tell me what you think of that comment.
JB: You know, I think in the short term there's an element in which he is right. In the long term, I think the books survive and the movies become old movies. But the books survive. You can't...
JB: You can't believe how much I am waiting for that to happen with The Lord Of The Rings series.
JB: The books are the heart of everything that is Harry Potter. There are people here who saw the movies first, went to the books, and fell in love with the books. Does it affect the image in our head? It's Daniel Radcliffe that we see in our head, maybe it does. Some people read more visually than others, so maybe they would never have had an image in their head. Some people are able to do that, some people aren't. For me, I know the only character that has supplanted, to a certain extent, my own voice in my head is McGonagall. The only one. And maybe just because she was perfection.
KH: Well, for me it was Luna.
JB: And she was better than me.
KH: Luna was perfect for me.
JB: Okay, okay, yeah.
JG: And to Jo Rowling, right? I mean, yeah.
JB: So I think that that's not an issue. Also, the books have sold four hundred and fifty million copies. Most of those copies were read by more than one person. We have one set in our house for four people. There are copies at libraries. There are copies at school libraries. So I think we could safely say a billion people have read the books. Safely. Because not too many people are going out and buying multiple copies of the books.
KH: Yeah, but the problem with this is that The Lord Of The Rings had five decades of readers before a film.
KH: Before any good film came out, okay? They had these other animated pieces of junk.
JB: Right, right.
KH: Same with CS Lewis.
KH: You know, you had six decades of reading and readers being in love with these books series and living by this before a... well, I don't think there was one good Narnia movie but that's besides the point.
KH: But the point is there, is that Rowling had not even a decade before the film series.
JB: That's true, and I think it does affect some people. But again, a billion people have read the books. The worldwide box office on the movies is 7.7 billion dollars, which is just astronomical. That's probably 800 million admissions to the movie. But many people have seen it many times. So how many people have actually seen the movies? Then how many saw them on DVD? It's really hard to calculate. But my bet is that the book readers still outnumber the film seers.
JB: And like I said, the books are there. The books are being... the books are mandatory in grade schools now. Kids read these books.
JB: Teachers know that if you want to get a kid to read you give them Harry Potter. So I don't see that going away. I think the books survive, and everything else has a shelf life and the shelf life fades and I think the books are classics and the books survive. People still read Alice In Wonderland, people still read Treasure Island, all of the classics. These are classics, they will survive.
KH: Before we get into our questions... we have a nice line here. There's going to be a lot of questions going on. Feel free to keep on coming up. The show will end at two, I guess, because I have to do Jeopardy. Sorry.
[Audience and JG laugh]
KH: But the questions can continue on. John can stay here and Janet can stay here and say something else.
JB: And I'll stay here and chat. And you know what? I don't know anybody here, so please come and talk to me so that I'm not wandering around MISTI-Con going, "I don't know anyone!" for the rest of the weekend.
AM: Hi, my name is Emma Brice and obviously I'm a huge fan of Harry Potter. I just wanted to know from both of you, what is the biggest headdesk moment that you think the directors had and the moviemakers had?
JG: A what moment?
AM: Headdesk, where basically they are coming into this obviously before the last book has come out from the beginning, and it wasn't until Movie 5 came out that we had all of the books.
JB: Right. Well, my biggest headdesk moment comes after all the books were out and it's the burning of the Burrow.
JB: I don't understand the burning of the Burrow. Okay.
JB: But I understand it from the studio's point of view. The studio is making movies that are fantasy adventure movies. And in Half-Blood Prince, nothing happens. The main villain is completely off screen, there is no conflict with the main villain of the story, and the book basically consists of Dumbledore talking to Harry. And then people falling in love. So what do you put on screen? They want action sequences. They want action sequences. Somewhere... this feels like a studio note to me. Some studio executive said, "What if we burned down the Burrow?" Oh, also, "We're paying a whole lot of money for Helena Bonham Carter. She's one of the highest paid actors in the series. What could we do that uses her and puts some action on the screen?"
JG: And my response - and I hope Janet will explain this because I don't get it - is the final confrontation between the Dark Lord and Harry Potter. It's not in front of the entire community or whatever. Basically it's a zero. It's basically the end of Order of the Phoenix where Dumbledore and the Dark Lord go at it one-on-one in the Ministry. I thought, "We're on the flagstones instead of in the Great Hall? What?" Janet, why do we do that?
JB: Yeah, I'm not crazy about that either. I think that's the one misfire of the final movie, the one big misfire of the final movie.
JG: Why do you think they did it?
JB: I think they did it for money. Every time... they were already spending probably 250 million dollars on the movie. Every time, when you have a big special effects sequence, every human character in the sequence makes it harder to shoot. So you have this big sequence and you say, "Okay, take two. Let's do it again," and somebody in the background doesn't do exactly what they did last time. You're going to throw it away. To shoot it in front of the entire community would have been the right thing to do, but it could easily have added another 20 million dollars to the budget.
JG: And these are not extras either, standing there.
JB: These are not extras. These are people who are getting paid, who have to be scheduled, they're getting paid a lot of money. It's just... when you're shooting something like that, they'd be lucky, lucky, to get one minute of film shot in a day if you had that many people involved in the shot. So my guess is, at some point they said, "We've got to keep this at such and such a price. What can we do?" And they said, "We're going to put the money into the dragon. We're going to put the money into the Fiendfyre." And it was just a choice.
AM: Hello. It's been wonderful listening to you. Your use of words is fantastic and you paint some amazing pictures.
JB: Well, thank you. I'm a writer, you know.
AM: I know that.
AM: I was just going to say. Your writing must be even more spectacular. My question is this, on writing, and Emma brought this up for about a brief second, is that... you spoke of the trunk of the tree in the story.
AM: As she said, we only had part of the story even written by the time we started making the movies. Now, yes, we know that Jo went and whispered in certain people's ears and said, "Hey, this, this, this, this. You still want to work for me?" But really, honestly, as a writer, if you would have come out there and said, "I really don't know the story as an entire arc. We're going to make little mini arcs of arc one, arc two, arc three, arc four, and just kind of figure this out. Would that really - yes, it's starting to rain - is that really kind of shooting themselves in the foot, not knowing the end of the story?
JB: Jo told Steve Kloves the end of the story. She told the screenwriter the end of the story. She told him the whole story. Yes, it would make a huge difference, and he needed to know it and she told him what she knew.
AM: That's really amazing.
AM: And one last thing, and this is really to John. You were speaking about how people coming into this knew. I worked for six months at the Harry Potter Exhibition. One of the gentlemen there had only watched four of the movies, spent an entire six months surrounded by spoilers the entire time, and decided to sit down and read the books for the first time. And myself, as a Harry Potter fan, was given this amazing gift of his updates every fifteen minutes and going through the last book with him was like literally watching a movie of seeing myself reading the book again. So people are coming to it and they're coming to it fresh, even literally seeing all of it ten feet in front of them. So it's amazing to see what's happening with it.
JB: That's a wonderful story. I'm glad you told that. I think something that we have to realize is how privileged and blessed we were to get to read these books as they came out.
JB: Oh, how wonderful to have that gap.
JG: Do you think we'll ever see it again?
JB: I don't know.
JG: Really, it's a once in a lifetime thing.
JB: It's a once in a lifetime thing. Yeah.
JB: Nobody, nobody else ever gets to have the experience that we had. Ever! Because they can just pick up the next book. So I think that may affect fandom and new people coming to the book easily as much as the movies.
JG: Janet and I wrote to each other for, what, five years?
JG: In the interlibrum, waiting for this and that. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. We finally met when the last book was about to come out...
JG: ...and meeting her was like, oh, we've had...
JB: Like we've known each other forever!
JG: That's right! That's hard now.
AM: Hi, I'm Melissa Aaron.
JB: Hi, Melissa.
AM: Hi. I want to say first of all, Keith...
JG: Wow! Melissa!
AM: What? No, seriously?
[Audience and KH laugh]
JG: She's going to be a guest on our show some day. This is...
AM: I hope so. Some people know me as Moonyprof. Just throwing that out there. First of all, Keith, you're brilliant. I totally agree with you about Hamlet. You win the coconut toss for today. I agree.
[Audience and JG laugh]
AM: Plays are adapted... no, I think you're right about adapting a play is different from adapting a novel. But what I want to ask you, you mentioned a television series, and I could tell so many people's hearts leapt up at the idea of a television series. And you also mentioned how difficult it is, considering Daniel Radcliffe is Harry Potter now. What would you think about an animated series?
JB: Animated series would be much more expensive to do than...
JG: More expensive?
JB: Yeah, animation is expensive. Animation would be more expensive to do than live action.
JB: Jeffrey Katzenberg, who is the head of Dreamworks Animation and who revived Disney animation back in the days of The Little Mermaid, he's sort of the guru of animation, and his approach to animated stories is always, "Why animate? What is the reason to animate?" So animals have to talk. We've already seen that there isn't a reason that these have to be done as animation. So...
KH: Does everybody know that when the movies were first going to be made, Steven Spielberg asked to be the director, and his vision of the movies was an animated film?
KH: That's the only way he saw it working.
AM: Because I was thinking 24-frame flash, which is a lot like the Saturday morning cartoon quality.
JB: Right. That would look cheap. That would look cheap. We don't want these to look cheap.
JG: Thank you, Melissa. We'll be talking to you again soon.
JG: It's Joanne. Joanne is calling.
KH: For those of you who don't have the podcast app, Melissa Aaron is a professor at Cal Poly Tech who I have on as a bonus feature. So you can hear her, actually, on the show.
JG: Here's a Pennsylvanian. I love it.
AM: Yeah, always got to represent Pennsylvania. My name is Rose Heil...
JB: Hi, Rose.
AM: ...and I have a quick question that was kind of addressed but I want a more direct answer for it.
JG: Like an ice-cream cone.
JG: There we go.
AM: It feels awkward standing this close. What was your personal, not professional, your personal most heart-breaking thing that they left out of the movies? What did you just want to cry because they left out? Like I know I was heart-broken that they didn't have Peeves because, to me, that was a huge... not necessarily part of the action, but just the character that I fell in love with. So I was wondering if there was anything like that for you.
JB: Peeves is an easy cut though, like SPEW. He's an easy cut. And a very expensive one. That is such a good question. I would have liked a little more of Dobby.
JB: For me, the things that they cut... Winky I could live without. The things that they cut that got me upset tended to be the missing plot points, like the Marauder's Map. As much as I admire the Deathly Hallows movies, I did sit there going, "How did Snape know where they were?"
JG: For me it was Neville, that Neville is... he's always the side player, but he appears again in Deathly Hallows 2 and we had to make the big spin back to "1"...
JB: Right, right.
JG: ...to really see him as the player that he is, the doppelganger to Harry, and he just... he's invisible through most of the films. He's just a background piece that has to stand there to say we still have Neville here.
JB: And I would jump off of that to say that one of the scenes that I wish we had seen was Neville and his parents at St. Mungo's.
JG: Oh wow, there you go.
JB: I understand why they cut St. Mungo's, but I would have loved to have seen that scene.
JG: Yeah, how do we get Neville so heroic in Part 2 if we don't see that experience with his parents?
AM: Hi, I'm Marguerite Dansby...
JG: Right up against that microphone. Thank you.
AM: Oh. Hi, I'm Margery Dansby. And my question was, did they truly have to make Half-Blood Prince the sappy love story that they did? The whole Hermione hitting Harry with the "But I am the Chosen One" thing just broke my heart because there were so much other stuff they could have put in there. So did they really have to turn it into a sappy love story?
JB: Well, obviously they didn't have to. I think the love story in the books is hinted at and it's hinted at early. I felt from the third book - I was like, oh, Harry is going to end up with Ginny - just from little things and not always about Ginny, sometimes it was things between him and Molly and I'd say, "Oh, Molly is his mother, Molly is going to be his mother." But they're hints, they're hints that sort of get slid over in the books, and I think frankly the reason why they did it was, again, nothing happens in Half-Blood Prince. So where do you go? You go to the romance because at least you have some continuing stories that aren't "And now I will show you another flashback." So I think that is ultimately what that was about.
JG: Was Half-Blood Prince the hardest film to adapt do you think? Because it was so much... she says, Joanne Rowling says, it runs right into Deathly Hallows...
JB: Yeah, Half-Blood Prince is really sort of the act one of Deathly Hallows.
[Sound of plane flying past]
JB: So I think in many ways it was a very, very tough adaptation.
[Audience and JG laugh]
JG: We're being buzz bombed right now.
JB: We're watching the sound wave of the plane on his screen, so...
AM: Hi, my name is Dan Sonyer.
JB: Hi, Dan.
JG: Hi, Dan.
AM: I'd like to know, since we all have an agreement over the portrayal of Snape in the "Snape's Worst Memory" chapter - or moreover, the one in Book 7 - that one was portrayed so well in the movies and it perfectly described what was going on in that chapter. But I want to know, how was Alan Rickman's performance from before that, where he's essentially doing nothing on screen...
AM: ...he's not showing any emotion at all and there's all these things going on behind the scenes that the readers... they can interpret it in a million different ways what he's doing in the book, but then you see a concrete example on screen. And how can you translate that?
JB: Oh, I thought his performance was brilliant from the first movie on.
JG: Alan Rickman, in many ways, hijacks the film. Snape is a big character in the books, but in the film every time we get a shot of Alan Rickman, it's no longer Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, it's Alan Rickman and everybody else in this film who happened to show up.
JB: Yes, and something that I really appreciated in the filmmaking of the two Deathly Hallows films is that, in essence, they both start with Snape. Snape gets an amazing entrance in both films, showing that the filmmakers knew this is the guy, he is important. Maybe he hasn't seemed important in the first six films, but he's important now. That entrance into Malfoy Manor, by himself, getting rid of Yaxley, just... and again, not just the framing of it and the shooting of it, but the performance, the physical performance of that walk into Malfoy Manor. And then also, at the beginning of Deathly Hallows 2, just that iconic framed portrait of him looking out the window. Why in the world are we looking at Snape at that moment in the story? The only reason we are doing it is to point a finger to say this... remember what I said about the first ten minutes of the movie? To say this man is important. And I think that moment when he explodes with emotion - if he had been emotional and if we had known what was going on through seven movies, would that moment have caused us to cry? That one shot? I mean, after that movie, I would talk to my friends and in every conversation somebody would say, "Snape and Lily," and we'd just go... [gasps]
JB: That explosion of emotion after everything being pent up I just think was a brilliant performance.
JG: I'm going to jump in. Forgive me. You have actors and actresses like Harris and Smith and Rickman working with child actors and actresses. Now, they do a wonderful job. They grow in the role or whatever, but really, eleven-year-olds with that kind of... [laughs] against that kind of acting...
JG: ...professionals or whatever. In many ways, do they steal the show just because of how they project onto screen and such and especially in the early going?
JB: Well, it's the director's job to make sure that doesn't... to make sure that there's a balance.
JB: Well, part of it is casting. You cast the best that you can. When you're casting an eleven-year-old you don't know what they are going to be like when they're eighteen, so you're guessing and you're hoping and you're looking for something. But when you cast children, you get what the children are. Children will bring what they are, and what they bring is honesty. And children who act work in commercials or they don't work.
[Audience and JG laugh]
JB: Child actors bring honesty and truth. Adult actors develop technique and the technique allows them to re-access the honesty and truth that they had as children. So as a director when you're directing children, there's some directors who will not work with children but there are some directors who are wonderful at working with children. And when you work with children, they bring what they are. We all know, I think, the story about Alfonso Cuarón asking the trio to write an essay about their characters before the shooting of Prisoner of Azkaban started. Emma Watson wrote a fifteen-page essay, Daniel Radcliffe wrote one page, and Rupert Grint never turned his in.
[Audience laughs and applauds]
JG: That's casting, right? That's casting, right?
JG: And Radcliffe probably got help from Emma Watson on his page, right?
AM: Hi, my name is Jillian Stanic and you had mentioned the whole you need your plot and then you can get rid of things. One of the things I like about re-reading the books and re-watching TV shows or movies or whatever is that as you re-watch them you can keep finding more and more things, and it feels to me like what they could have done with things like SPEW is just have a button. They could have those little nods to the people who knew what was going on built into the props or built into the an offhand comment or a joke or something like that that they do in other movies. I mean, they do it in the books and they do it in TV shows all the time. Why didn't they do that? Do you think they made the right choice?
JB: They did that with a lot of things. They did it where if you read the books you understand what's going on, and if you haven't read the books you haven't got a clue what's going on. Over and over. The Room of Requirement. I'm sorry, but the Room of Requirement is never explained and if you don't know what the Room of Requirement is it sort of makes no sense because it's a place for Dumbledore's Army to work and then it's a place where all the stuff is and then... it doesn't make sense. That's they're trusting that you've read the book and that you get it. Something like SPEW, all you're doing there is you're raising a question for people to say, "What's SPEW?" I think you're safer to just pull it out.
JG: Janet, how well do the directors do you think know the books?
JB: Well, I think they have to know them very well.
JG: They're not Michael Gambon saying...
JB: "I won't read." No, no, no. I think they're sitting there with the script and the book, and going back and forth and making decisions and talking to the screenwriter.
KH: Did Mike Newell read the book?
JB: Yeah, well...
JG:[laughs] No comment.
JB: Mike Newell has said in print that he felt that he was in over his head. So...
JG: Thank you.
AM: Alice Rhoades. My question is also about The Half-Blood Prince. You've talked about how they made some of their decisions to make up for the lack of action in it. So I guess my question is the one big action scene that actually is in the book which is the last one where the Death Eaters fight their way out of Hogwarts, and Harry and Snape have this violent confrontation on the lawn. Why did they choose to make it so dull in the movie? It's like they just stroll out of Hogwarts...
JB: That's a great question.
AM: ...and Snape is like, "I'm the Half-Blood Prince. Bye."
JB: That is a great question. My only guess is that they knew that the Battle of Hogwarts was coming and that they didn't want to have two Battles of Hogwarts.
KH: They actually said that. Yates was quoted as saying that.
JB: Okay. So see how well I guessed?
JB: But I would have put that in, absolutely. I would have put that in.
AM: Hi, my name is Matthew Thibodeaux.
JB: Hi, Matthew.
AM: I look at the movies as something that was very well done. I know some people don't agree, but personally I look at them as something very well done for the fans. I really feel that towards the end of the series they almost abandoned the average moviegoer in trying to explain what was going on and really concentrated on making the movies for the fans, especially a lot of nods to things in Deathly Hallows in the last few movies that weren't explained but fans knew what was going on. What do you think about... do you think that they just almost completely abandoned the average moviegoer towards the end?
JB: Well, John told a story about his father and I think the average moviegoer may have been abandoned very early on. I was driving carpool, right around the time Prisoner of Azkaban came out, with a bunch of ten-year-olds in the car...
[Sound of plane flying past]
JB: We'll wait for the plane to go.
JG:[laughs] For those who are listening, we are outside in a tent. A magnificent space, but it means that we get ambient noise that we wouldn't expect.
JB: What was it? Oh, so we were just buzzed by a plane, I guess.
JB: So I was driving carpool with a bunch of ten-year-olds and they're all talking about Harry Potter, and the conversation between the kids who had read the books - seven kids in my car - and the two or so who had not read the books was astronomically different. Even at that stage, the kids who had only seen the movies didn't have a clue what was really happening and the other kids were all explaining it to them. I think this is one of the reasons the movies drive people to the books, is because it's a little confusing. There's a lot. It's a whole world, and if you try and come in at the end of this world, there's just going to be so much you don't get. So I agree.
JG: Sort of a [unintelligible] or cliché in critiquing the films is to say they act as trailers to the books. And if that's your point, I think it's well made, that if the movies...
AM: I like your wording there.
JG: Well, the movies drive you into the books... this is John Mark's point, is it has a front and a back. Yeah, it brings you into the books but it brings you into the books through this filter. And the question we're going to see over time is what quality that has on people that experience the books first through the film and then the books. And I think that you're going to see a division in fandom. Those people who read the books first were part of the whole ten year adventure, and those people that came after that, they're going to have different experiences. And we're going to see that legacy play out in a way. The whole culture has been reshaped through the Harry Potter thing. The film industry certainly has a new idea about series than it had before Harry Potter. I mean, we're seeing franchises like Twilight and Hunger Games and Divergent now coming on. It's almost, I think, there's a formula. We see a series book going to film. Ding, ding, ding. It's being remade but we're going to see in the Harry Potter fandom what this group will be like in ten years. Who will come on.
AM: I feel like the movies are almost extra. Similar to Pottermore. They're not...
AM: They're something... I look at them as something for the people who grew up reading the books.
JG: We'll see.
AM: As a gift.
JB: Yeah, yeah.
JG: Thank you, Matthew.
AM: Hi, my name is Krista (Domain) and I have one comment. You mentioned, how did Snape know where to find them? But one comment about that scene, it's like the one place where I agree that the directors put, added in, something that wasn't in the books. We actually kind of made a drinking game out of it.
[Audience and JB laugh]
AM: It was when Harry was sitting there in front of the tent and you hear the whisper, and it says, "Trust me." And, like I said, we kind of made a lot about that in fandom because it's Snape's voice.
AM: So anyway, that's the one addition that I think was just brilliant. But then my question is - and you kind of touched on this a little bit before - how soon is too soon to do a remake? Whether it's movies or a book, or actually movies or a TV series or whatever.
JB: It's a question for Warner Bros. That's a question for Warner Bros. They're the ones who control it and they're the ones who are going to answer that. Was it too soon to reboot Spiderman and do another origins story of Spiderman? Yes, it was...
JG: Did it make money?
JB: ...except it made a whole lot of money. So maybe it wasn't. So I would imagine that they're thinking about it and they're waiting for the right time, the right team, you know.
JG: Hire Chris Columbus and David Yates to do the casting, right?
JB: Well, you cast from scratch. I mean, they'll all be cast from scratch if they do that.
AM: Hi, my name is Krista Risley and big fan of you, John. I've already told you this, Mr. Granger, and I really enjoyed your talk. You speak very eloquently about the books and knowledgeably - and the movies - and that's always exciting to listen to. My question goes back to what you said about Steven Spielberg was the first - [laughs] thank you - one of the first considerations for a director. If they had gone with him, and chances are the movies at that point would have then been made in Hollywood as opposed to the UK, and gone with an American cast instead as opposed to a British. Now this is given that JK Rowling would not have had as much of a say maybe in the casting decisions. What kind of future do you think the movies would have had given that the current crop of child actors at that time - some have turned out to be a major trainwreck since then - [laughs] and could the movies have been as successful, or as long lived, or as well loved?
JB: I think the movies would have been very, very, very different. I talked a little bit about the auteur nature of directors, that they make it their own. Spielberg would have made it his own and I think it would have probably strayed further from the books. He wanted to cast Haley Joel Osment from The Sixth Sense at the time and Jo Rowling said no, this is an all British production.
JB: And it really fell apart over that. So at that moment in time, Jo Rowling had more power in Hollywood than Steven Spielberg.
JB: And she used it to direct the course of the movies.
AM: Hi, I'm Susan Stacil. When I went to the movie Deathly Hallows: Part 2, one of the scenes I was looking forward to the most was the scene where Harry met his parents in the forest and I can't tell you how disappointed I was to see them middle-aged because I felt that JK Rowling made a point every time she showed a memory of Harry and his parents that they were young. They were contemporaries of his at that time. So what do you think about the casting and screenplay decision to cast them as middle-aged, which they never achieved in life?
JB: That's interesting. I've never really thought about that. I think probably they should have gone a little younger. I don't think it's a deadly decision.
KH: It was the same actor and actresses throughout the whole thing, so they stayed the same as far as actress and actor.
AM: They changed...
JG: One, it's a reference to the very final scene at King's Cross when Harry and company have been aged, so they're in their forties when they have young children. And they needed to have... I'm just guessing, obviously I don't know, but I'm assuming that they wanted to say these are people that are older than Harry. People... if they had actually had them in their twenties, people would have thought, "Who are these kids that Harry is talking to?" They had to show that it was older. Again, I think that was a gimme to the audience that wasn't so familiar with the book.
JB: I think it's also that they are contemporaries of Remus and Sirius.
JB: And Remus and Sirius are their ages, so...
AM: So Snape and Alan Rickman are 66 or 67. [laughs]
JB: Yeah, but he doesn't look it!
JG: That's right, yeah.
[Audience laughs and applauds]
AM: Hello, I am Clay Dockery, and I wanted to thank you for coming and all of the conversations that we had.
JG: Thank you, Clay. Clay is one of the directors of this whole production here.
JG: Thank you, Clay.
AM: So I had only a kind of moderate question that was related to one of the things that you were talking about earlier. It has to do with this auteur theory and the notion of the Oscar thing because it's what I think is related to that and why it's different from The Lord of the Rings and it ties in with the Spielberg thing and all of this stuff. I think one of the things... so the question is, do you think if one director, if one single voice had been the directing voice for these movies, it might have changed the way that they were taken within the industry? So that's kind of a specific question for you about that. And then whether that would have changed the way that we've... because you've been talking about Cuarón, and I actually love that scene and some of those other things because I like the idea of going the way of trying to... like that scene with the kids and making the animal noises and the way that it kind of makes you see them as children and relating as friends and that type of thing, I think, is a good way to go. And I love that he redesigned the sets because I kind of hated Columbus's sets, but that's...
AM: But that's one of those things that's a personal choice. But I was just wondering if you think that those two things, if we'd had a single voice... because that's the thing with the Lord of the Rings movies.
AM: There was a single solitary auteur who has a respect, and if it had been... caused more Oscars and that type of thing.
JB: Yes, I think it absolutely would have. I think that people would have probably fainted dead away at the thought of somebody doing eight movies in ten years...
JB: ...and just handed over an Oscar just for that.
[Audience laughs and applauds]
AM: Hi, my name is Jo, and I just have a really quick question. What is the cinematic purpose of changing the treatment of the Elder Wand? The way they changed... had him break it, had him break the wand, didn't have him repair his own wand. Why did they throw it away like that? And I'm trying to see a cinematic purpose to it, and I can't.
JB: Well, there isn't a cinematic purpose...
JG: That's a great question.
JB: ...in terms of the visuals. So it's really a story purpose. They downplayed the loss of Harry's wand quite a bit in the movie. He did lose his wand, but they downplayed it. The breaking of the Elder Wand disturbed me because I don't think wands are that easy to break, and I don't think that wand is that easy to break.
JB: I think at that point they were like, "Let's just finish the movie."
JB: Once he doesn't go back to see Dumbledore in his office in the portrait, you've lost the impetus to have that discussion. We see him drop the Resurrection Stone, but if you haven't read the book you have no idea why that's significant. I think at that point they're just trying... the movie is over. The movie is over the second he kills Voldemort, the movie is over. And unlike, say, reading a book of Dickens, when you read a book of Dickens the story ends and then there's six more chapters as we wrap up what happened to every single character. Once the movie is over, you've got three or four minutes to get out. So I think that's really all it was, was, "We're done, let's wrap up the movie."
JG: And I would add that Rowling has been so specific about the wand cores and their symbolic importance, and the directors don't get that. Symbolism is very difficult in a film because it has to be a transparency through which you can see some sort of supernatural reference. None of that works visually. So it's... the wand core element in the story - I'll talk about this tomorrow if you come to my talk tomorrow - it's a difficult thing to translate to film. So it was, as you said, seventy-five percent is going, gone.
JB: Yeah. For me, I was actually a little more disturbed that we saw that red-green clash between the wands when Harry is not fighting with his own wand. That was a little more disturbing to me than the failure to rebury the Elder Wand.
AM: Hi, I'm Missy, and I'm just blown away. I had such a really wonderful time listening to you guys. This was really, really great.
JB: Thank you.
AM: So thank you so much for coming. Like the other person who came up here to talk, my heart did absolutely leap at the idea of a seven-year television series, and I thought that was wonderful. But it also brought me back the idea that the auteur idea...
AM: ...and the worry that you had expressed that if one director had done all seven movies. I know that the writers would have a lot more sway, but how do we know that we wouldn't have some of those sways going in the wrong directions? What are your thoughts on that?
JB: Well, we don't. We don't. But in television... television is run by writers. Television is not run by directors. Directors come on, direct an episode, leave. Direct an episode, leave. Some shows, particularly sitcoms, will have directors that stay with the show because they understand the rhythms of the show. But for dramas, in particular, directors sort of come and go. And one director might direct two or three episodes of a season at the most. Writers run the shows, so if you got the right showrunner, they would carry the vision throughout. Whether that person carries the vision well or poorly depends on the person who's chosen.
JG: Do you think it would be a team of writers?
JB: It would absolutely be a team of writers. No, there would absolutely be a team of writers. There would probably be two or three showrunners on the show and a team of writers, actually writing, working under them. That's typically how it's done.
JG: I nominate you, Janet, for being one of the writers.
JB: I accept that nomination.
AM: Hi, my name is Patrick. I wanted to comment on something you touched on earlier about the asymmetry between the really strong actors and the young child actors, and I feel like especially in the scenario since it's such a... so many years go by, the strength of the older actors in the beginning mirror the authoritative figures that you see as a child. Or those child... you have those wonky kids coming in, and...
AM: ...they're the awkward actors because they're small, mirror that awkward experience of eleven-year-olds going a boarding school, and the strength of the older actors mirrors the respect that you would give... that everyone has that teacher that they respected and that teacher that they hated.
JB: Right, right.
AM: And the strength of the actors really balances that asymmetry there. And you kind of... at the same time, as the movies go on, that young actor reacts differently to getting smacked in the head with a book at the age of eleven versus as they get older, they may have something to say under their breath about it.
AM: You know, and they start to... and that kind of mirrors experiences that you can relate to in real life, and I think that adds dynamic to it as a moviegoer.
JB: And, well, also, think as a young actor what it's like to work with actors of that caliber. The amount that they learned during the shoot about their craft, the way they were able to develop their craft. Just amazing. Wonderful. I've known people, for instance, who got to act against Meryl Streep and came away saying, "Oh, she made me a better actor." Because she gave them so much in the moment that they became a better actor. So absolutely, we're going to see a lot of growth; a lot of natural growth that will parallel the growth of the kids as the years go by.
KH: All right, before we close up the show, one more time, a round of applause for Janet Batchler.
KH: Janet, we always end the show with one final question. And we're going to try to do one sign-off without messing it up. The last question is: Where would you be, where would your life be, would it be any different, if Harry Potter was not a part of it?
JB: My life would be immeasurably poorer if Harry Potter had not been part of it. As I said before, just getting to live through the release of the books was phenomenal. What it allowed me to share with my family was phenomenal. Through my own sheer selfishness of saying, "You don't get to read the books; I read them to you." The experience of reading the books out loud was one that I will treasure for the rest of my life. I don't... people ask you, "So who are your role models?" and I've never had an answer for that. I have never, never had an answer for the question, "Who are your role models?" I look around my life and I'm like, "Well, pretty much nobody." And I've realized sometime... really while reading the Harry Potter series, that all my role models have always been fictional. Always. They have always come from books. And that's part of what Harry Potter gave to me, was people to look at and say, "Yes. I want to be that brave. I want to be that loyal. I want to be that smart. I want to make the choices that these characters make." That's what a role model does. They show you how to make choices. And I know that they're only in books, but just because they're only in books, why on earth should that mean that they're not real?
[Audience applauds and cheers]
[Show music begins]
KH: All right, I want to thank the MISTI-Con staff once again. I was so excited to come here for the last year and then to be asked to be the keynote speaker for the MuggleNet Academia team is certainly a privilege. So thank you very much for having us as part of your keynote luncheon. It's been really a blast. And last sign-off, we're going to do this one time: From MuggleNet.com, my name is Keith Hawk.
JG: I'm John Granger, the Hogwarts Professor and author of The Deathly Hallows Lectures.
JB: And I'm Janet Scott Batchler, here from Hollywood.