‘Betray the original’ to succeed with novel adaptations, suggest producers

NEM Zagreb (Source: NEM)

Producers adapting novels should not be afraid to “betray the original” material to deliver unique series, according to execs here at NEM Zagreb.

Adaptations of existing IP soared as commissioners looked for cut-through titles to turn into TV and, with streamers and broadcasters now looking to reduce risk as budgets tighten, the potential of novels as source material has only grown, pannelists at NEM argued.

Treatment of the material, however, does not need to faithfully follow the story arcs of the book and Danijel Pek, founder of Croatian prodco Antitalent, said that retaining themes was key but new elements often have to be introduced to make shows accessible.

Danijel Pek (Source: NEM)

“You can betray the original sometimes,” said Pek, who is behind Cannes Film Festival award winner Murina and also has Jinx in development, with the 8 x 52-minute show based on Kristian Novak’s Gypsy, But Fairest Of Them All.

“It is of course very important to keep the core values of the book in place, but it is also required for readers and fans of the book to bring in new elements that they will recognise as new, to provide value that they didn’t get from the novel.”

Roni Pedahzur, Keshet International’s global drama development & co-productions manager, added that care has to be taken around the adaptation to ensure its ability to travel.

“Ideas that are too grandiose are not the ones that stick around nor do they manage to translate into different languages and territories, that is key when taking one IP and developing it for a different country,” she said.

Pedahzur pointed to the success of When Heroes Fly, which was loosely based on Amir Gutfreund’s novel and aired on Keshet 12 in 2018 before being picked up by Apple TV+.

“That show was based on the last chapter of the book, with very much an Israeli story about men who reunite to save somebody they’ve met in Colombia.

“But we have managed to translate that into Echo 3 for Apple TV+… and it shows that the key [to adaptations] is to identify that thing that people are able to connect with.”

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