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From stage to screen

Adapting a play for the cinema can be challenging. Destiny Ekharaga talks about adapting Gone Too Far.
OK, so Gone Too Far was originally a play that played at the Royal Court Theatre. It won an Olivier. It was a huge success. And I saw it when it was at the Royal Court. And I loved it. I fell in love with that play almost immediately. And so the writer of that play, Bola Agbaje, she adapted it into a screenplay. And I got sent the screenplay maybe six months after she had started writing it. And then we were in development together. So basically, what that entails is, I didn’t write the script. So what tends to happen is that the director doesn’t write anything. This is Bola’s script.
But we kind of develop it together, because obviously, I have to take those words and make it– and put it on screen. So it sounds simple enough, but it’s actually really quite complex when you’re trying to get something that so dialogue heavy, and beautiful dialogue– and the challenge for me was how do I put that on screen and still make it entertaining. So we worked together on that. Bola was very visual in her writing, and whenever we would talk together about the script maybe sometimes I would be like, maybe we can– maybe they don’t have to say all of that, maybe they can just say two of those lines. And then Bola would be like, yeah, yeah, yeah.
And she’d write these two amazing lines that say everything. Or sometimes she’d be like no, actually, they have to say this. Because it means this. And I would have to think up how I would incorporate that visually. And how I would do that without it taking too long. So it was really interesting working with a writer that closely, especially on a feature. Because you kind of discover things about yourself as a creative. And also about your style as a filmmaker. Because there were so many challenges when you’re dealing with a script that’s– especially a script that’s so dialogue heavy, that you’ve got to think outside the box.
You have to think about, well, I can’t necessarily just have a tripod and just shoot it like that, and it’s so static. Otherwise that could be a bit boring for the audience, and stuff like that. So we would figure out together how we were going to do it. And Bola established this rhythm in her writing. And I was able to, hopefully, mimic that rhythm and put it on screen. So the whole development process with Bola, as a writer, was incredible. And I’d love to do it again. In fact, I am doing it again. So yeah, it was an interesting process. It was an exciting process. It was a frustrating process. It was a challenging process. It was a wonderful process.
One that I hope to repeat over and over again.

Gone Too Far was originally a successful stage play at the Royal Court theatre in London. The writer, Bola Agbaje, adapted her work for a screenplay, before Destiny was offered the chance to join the project as director.

In their case, working together on the film was a very positive experience, as they each learnt from the other and had a good understanding because of the nature of the project, given their similar backgrounds and experiences.

However, as Destiny points out, adapting a play for the screen can still be quite complex, as it’s not just a matter of filming people talking!

What other considerations are there in adapting a story from its original form for the screen?

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Explore Filmmaking: from Script to Screen

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