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Sunday, 27 April 2014

My one-year Blogoversary!

Exactly one year ago I started this blog. At the time, I was unsure of exactly what blogging was all about and whether anyone would even bother to read it—outside my immediate family, of course. But I’ve been amazed by every comment, retweet, like, share and favourite and sincerely thank you for the support you guys have given me in my debut year as a blogger.

My first few steps into the blogging world were tentative ones. I imagined my blog would be a place where I could release my writing out into the world and hoped it would be of some interest to others.You can check out my first post here and see how far I've come!

As months, and blogs posts, went by I discovered a reoccurring theme to my writing. The posts mostly revolved around inspiration, dreams, goals and the magic of books, films and TV shows. Recently, I changed my blog name and design to reflect this focus. I’m a firm believer in Walt Disney’s seminal quote: “if you can dream it, you can do it”, and my blog will continue to keep this motto at the heart of all my writing.


Later, I ventured into writing reviews and I can’t tell you how excited I was to receive my first review request approval from a publisher – thank you Penguin Books Australia! I have loved reviewing booksa responsibility that I take very seriously, and look forward to reviewing many more titles. My favourite reviews so far have been:



                                                               

Recently, I started a new blog series that focuses on how to create successful book-to-film adaptations. As many of you know, I work in the film and animation industry and wanted to combine my passion for reading and writing with my love of films. If you haven't checked it out yet, you can find my first post for this series here.

One unexpected and wonderful benefit of creating this blog is being a part of the fantastic YA blogging community in Australia. They’ve been so supportive and I feel incredibly lucky to be included in such a great group of readers, writers and future authors.

Once again, I want to thank you so much for reading this blog. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that others are reading, and hopefully enjoying, what I write. I will continue to share my thoughts on books, films, writing and dreaming and hope to add a “My Books” tab to my blog in the not-too-distant future to keep you informed on my progress of becoming a published 
author.

If you have any suggestions or requests on what you’d like to see more of on my blog I’d love to hear them in the comments!




Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Short attention spans and the future of entertainment

I find myself surrounded by people who love books. Whether it’s following publishers and authors online, conversing with fellow book bloggers or frequenting book launches and events, I feel like everyone around me reads… But is this a proper representation of the general population? Or is my impression swayed by the company I keep?

Over Easter I caught up with my cousins who are in their early and mid teens. One cousin was excited about an upcoming movie adaptation of an extremely popular YA contemporary novel (I bet you can guess which one!), so I asked her what other novels she likes, prepared to bombard her with recommendations. Sadly, she said she doesn’t read frequently outside of school.

Then I was talking to my aunt about her son who isn’t really into movies. I found this an odd concept; surely everyone likes films of some genre? Then she told me he prefers watching videos on YouTube. Offhandedly, I commented that it might have something to do with a shorter attention span, as the younger generation are used to receiving their entertainment in short, immediate bursts such as with gaming, social media and YouTube. My aunt agreed that this could be the case, which concerned her a little.

This made me question my assumption that the younger generation are all avid readers. It also made me wonder about the future of movies and books. Will future generations still want to sit for a few hours at a time and watch a film if they’re not able to actively engage in it? Will teenagers still invest hours of their free time to read hundreds of pages in a novel? Or will short videos like YouTube and Vine Videos be the main form of entertainment?

With the Internet and social media constantly at our fingertips, it’s easy to understand how younger generations may lose patience with the more traditional forms of entertainment. They’re so accustom to actively engaging with their media and immediately receiving it whenever they want. Illegal film and television show downloads are a sad side effect of this. Audiences can’t, or wont, wait—sometimes only a few hours—to watch a show they love. They want to decide when and where they watch it, as they do for their other forms of entertainment like mobile games and online videos.

I’m hoping that novels can survive this change, as you can choose to read as many, or little, chapters as you like. The reader is more in control of how they engage with a novel, than with a movie. I suppose, as storytellers, this will also force us to work harder to sustain our audiences’ attention. Each scene must be impactful and meaningful, removing any superfluous content, or we’ll loose them.

Perhaps we will see a resurgence in popularity for short stories and films in the future. Or even poetry. 

What do you think? I’d love to hear from teachers, parents and of course from teenagers themselves—do you read for fun outside school? What do you see as the future of entertainment? Please let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Movie review: Divergent

From a box office perspective, Divergent is already a success with the current takings at over $124 million. Consequently the sequels have been green-lit and there’s talk of splitting the third book into two movies to further extend the franchise’s success and box office takings. As a fan of the novels (mostly books one and two, with less affection for book three) I’m not surprised at the film's success.

Author Veronica Roth created an intriguing dystopian world where the remnants of society are divided into factions, driven by one virtue: Abnegation (selflessness), Amity (kindness), Erudite (intelligence), Candor (truth) and Dauntless (bravery). At the age of sixteen, each member of the community participates in a test to assist in choosing a faction and either stay with their families and the faction they were born and raised in, or deviate and never return. Only sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior’s test is inconclusive, receiving multiple faction results. She is ‘Divergent’, someone who can’t be controlled. Being Divergent, being different, is dangerous to the stability of this society. Beatrice (later renamed Tris) must choose a faction and hope she is not uncovered for being Divergent.

Divergent is a well made film and the grey crumbling Chicago, in which the society lives, is eerily beautiful. The film's beginning made me hopeful that this was going to be a moody, tense film about differences, finding yourself and standing up for what you believe in. However, I found myself questioning the world’s logic. In the novel, it’s easier to accept that a war could have fractured the community into such distinct segmentations. However, on the big screen, seeing everyone dressed in their faction colours and behaving only within the confines of their faction’s virtue, was more difficult to accept.

This is one downfall of dystopian novels; the author has to completely break the world as we know it to be able to create a character, or characters, that will then stand and fight the new order. And sometimes it's broken to the point of unbelievability. Unfortunately, having only one virtue that defines you (aside from the Divergents) results in the characters being one-dimensional and hard to relate to.

Tris is often a difficult character to connect with, which unfortunately tainted my impression of Shailene Woodley’s portrayal. The novel is written from Tris's perspective so we gain a clearer understanding of her thoughts and actions that are absent in the film. There’s a greyness to Tris, and not just because of her clothes, but because she’s grown up in Abnegation where they’re taught to never think of themselves. This means Tris is a bit of a blank canvas, a work-in-progress: a “Stiff”. She thaws out a little during the movie, the scene where she zip-lines through the night’s sky is particularly satisfying, but unfortunately most of the time she feels a little out of reach and detached.

We need to be able to connect to our main character, it’s through her eyes that we see the film and garner our feelings and expectations. I wanted to love this film, to feel something, but unfortunately I was left somewhat apathetic. There needed to be more humour, more anger, more heart. Tris goes through hell, however I felt like I wasn’t taken along for the ride.

This is not to say I didn’t enjoy the film, I did. Theo James was well cast as Four, although standing next to Shailene Woodley, their age gap was a little too apparent. He did the strong and silent type with a hidden soft side successfully and I could see why he would catch Tris’s eye.

Kate Winslet played an entertaining villain and I also enjoyed Tris's friendships with her new Dauntless friends Christina (Zoë Kravitz) and Will (Ben Lloyd-Hughes), this gave her more warmth as a character. The action scenes and visual effects were impactful and effective and there was real suspense towards the end of the film, although I knew the ending.

Whilst I didn’t love Divergent as much as I’d hoped, it is a successful, and fairly faithful, film adaptation. Insurgent is a superior book in my opinion, so it will be interesting to see how the second film turns out.

I give Divergent 3 out of 5 stars. 

Have you seen it yet? What did you think?


Monday, 7 April 2014

From Page to Silver Screen: Fairytales for Wilde Girls movie

Welcome to my new series that combines my background in film and passion for reading entitled 'From Page to Silver Screen'. Here I'll present books I believe would make for great films. As I mentioned in my movie review of Vampire Academy, not all good books make for good movies and I wanted to delve further into this subject and suggest novels that would be ideal for a big screen adaptation, and what methods should be used to bring them to life.

These days it feels like all popular YA novels are being adapted into feature films. Film studios are determined to replicate the overwhelming success of the Harry Potter films, the Twilight saga and The Hunger Games. However, not all attempts have been box-office darlings or deemed sufficiently faithful translations by fans of the books. I believe this all comes down to the source material and how it has been adapted for the big screen. The films need to be accessible, and enjoyable, for fans and newcomers alike.

My first book-to-film adaptation suggestion is Allyse Near's debut novel Fairytales for Wilde Girls, which recently won the Aurealis Awards (Australia’s premier speculative fiction awards) for Best YA Novel and Best Horror Novel. I read Near's dark, whimsical fairytale in 2013 and loved the lyrical and emotive quality of her writing. I believe Fairytales would make for a great feature film due to its highly visual, mystical and captivating tale.

Fairytales for Wilde Girls follows Isola Wilde, a gothic Disney-esc princess raised on a diet of darkly twisted fairytales. Isola is protected from the harsh realities of her real world, and the often dangerous creatures of her fantasy world, by her "brother-princes": ghostly apparitions of mythical beings that only she can see. Isola has never been frightened of ghosts, until she discovers an angry, vengeful dead girl dangling in a birdcage in the forest that borders her home. The ghost is determined to destroy each of Isola’s “brother-princes” and take Isola's life. By uncovering the truth to the girl's death, Isola's fantasy world painfully collides with her real world.

There's such sweetness and beauty to Near's writing, which contrasts with the haunting, often gruesome, creatures of Isola's fantasy world. This blend of sinister and sweet would lend itself well to a stop-motion animation adaptation. Stop-motion films are charming, slightly-offbeat and often eerie forays into storytelling, à la The Nightmare before Christmas, Frankenweenie or Coraline. This medium would fit perfectly with Near's left-of-field, enchanting and shadowy fairytale.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Coraline (2009)
Frankenweenie (2012)
Coraline's Other Mother is still pretty frightening!
There's something inherently adorable about stop-motion animation, due to the miniature characters and worlds. Even at its most sinister and frightening, stop-motion manages to maintain a level of charm that other mediums lack. For example, in Henry Selick’s Coraline, a live-action Other Mother with buttons for eyes would be truly terrifying, yet the stop-motion technique prevents the tale from diving too far into the realm of horror. Fairytales would benefit from the tangible cute-ness of stop-motion, balancing the elements of horror and whimsy that the novel achieves so successfully. 

There's also a plot reveal towards the end of the book, which would work well in stop-motion animation as compared to live-action. I don't want to say too much as it would spoil the plot, but the story would gain from the magical misdirection only animation can provide.

Near's book is full of creative, loveable and slightly creepy characters that would spring to life as detailed stop-motion puppets. The book provides gorgeous illustrations of the “brother-princes” that yearn to be fully realised in three-dimensions: 


Evocative character illustrations by Courtney Brims


The enhanced textures in stop-motion animation would further imbrue the tale with quirky charm to counterbalance the bizarre and macabre, allowing the film to be accessible to a wider (and younger) audience. 

What do you think? Have you read Fairytales for Wilde Girls? Do you agree that horror elements are less frightening in stop-motion animation? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.