This panel is about respecting the fan base. It discusses the rewards and challenges of adapting a well known and well loved story from one platform to another. This panel is moderated by The Listener showrunner Peter Mohan. The panel participants are Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery (Kill Shakespeare), Howard Wiseman, Maureen Jennings (The Murdoch Mysteries novelist), Alex Zarowny (The Murdoch Mysteries TV series writer) and Patrick Tarr (The Murdoch Mysteries webseries writer).
Peter first asked about their experience with fans.
Anthony loved conventions like Fan Expo. They get feedback directly from fans. They get an idea of which themes work better than others. Comics are serialized so fans tell them what they think via Twitter and Facebook on a regular basis. Maureen said that with novels, it is a little different. Feedback is not quick but she says her fans tell her she got it right. Howard does not deal with fans. He is a script writer. What he has learned is that you need to honour the material you adapt to a different medium. He adapted a Mordecai Richler story and he knows fans will get on him if he does not stay true to the source material. However, he said you also need to be ruthless because you are adapting the story to a different medium. Alex said that she had to protect Murdoch character and the history of Toronto for her TV series. They do not deviate from either or their fans will get angry. She says the writers now stick to stories that have issues that are relevant in today’s world. Patrick said he could not take the webseries too far away from the TV show. Fans would be angry if he did.
Peter asked about how much fan fiction is associated with either project.
For Kill Shakespeare, there is not a lot of fan fiction out there. They encourage it and try to incorporate it under the Kill Shakespeare banner. Recently, some fans pitched an idea to them and they published the story in their first Kill Shakespeare trade paperback.
For Murdoch Mysteries, Maureen did not think there was a lot of fan fiction either. Alex said that there is an eternal debate among the writers about whether Murdoch is a virgin or not. She has seen fan fiction pick up on that. The fan fiction she has read has him being sexually active.
There was an audience question about how to write a proper script. Howard and Peter said there were many online sites that have scripts. Use these as templates for your scripts. For writing a TV or movie script, keep in mind that it is a visual medium. Show it rather than say it. Alex recommended reading scripts from the Cohen brothers. You can visualize their movie after reading any of their scripts.
Another question was how much a director influences final product. For TV, it is a writer’s medium. Directors do not influence any of the episodes of the show. Films are more of a director’s medium.
Someone asked how to get a comic made into a movie. Anthony warned everyone to not use a comic as a storyboard. Movies and comics are different mediums. Peter says he has known people to make a comic to pitch an idea to executives since comics are visual.
The folks involved with The Murdoch Mysteries discussed how they balanced the new material with the original source material. Alex said the TV show requires one mystery per episode. What they focus on is to create a story that is relevant to the past and to modern times. The TV series takes a life of its own. You identify your audience and you make the shows for that audience. Maureen said that she loves the TV series. There are five seasons of the show. The actors have evolved the characters to something a bit different from what was originally written in the novel.
When asked about how Anthony and Connor started Kill Shakespeare, they said they were both business grads so they first made a business plan for creating the comic. They were able to raise some money and hired a good artist. They also discussed scripting with another audience member. They like collaborating with artist. You always get something different from what you expect.
One audience member said he had a creative friend who was studying business. He wanted to know how to coerce her into doing something creative. Anthony and Conor said that business and creative arts do not have to be mutually exclusive. Her business background may prove to be an advantage. Alex said art comes from pain. His friend should explore the pain.
The final question was about writer’s block. Maureen said to write down that you have nothing to say. Then, write anything that comes to your mind for twenty minutes. That should get you past your writer’s block.