Throughout the years, filmmakers have begun adapting theatrical performances more and more, but how much is too much, and where are the discrepancies? Film adaptations of theatrical productions frequently do them an injustice. Post-Production tools change the way the story is told, and the relationship between the storyteller and audience member is fundamentally different.
I think the biggest issue with film adaptations of theater productions boils down to one detrimental factor, and it is that the two are different mediums of storytelling. One immerses you in the world of the characters and their story, while the other serves as more of a window into the said world. Because the two are different art mediums, there are bound to be discrepancies in how they are translated into one another.
One of the most distinguishing differences between film and theater productions is that film has a post-production phase and access to a whole array of specialized tools to create a more realistic world. Tools like editing, animation, CGI, etc., enable filmmakers to bring monsters to life, create detailed fantasy landscapes, show us smaller details up close, and so much more. One goal of the film is to transcend reality, creating a world for the viewer’s mind to escape to. The film has the ability to make you believe that the stories exist in their own coherent world. But the drawback as a viewer is that- you are just that- a viewer. When you are in the theater watching a story unfold, you become a part of it. The actors’ emotions are more tangible, the power of singers’ voices physically resonates throughout the space, and you become physically immersed in the world. You can feel the energy of the story in the real world. As an audience member in live production, your energy affects the actors and their own energy, which in turn, results in a more organic delivery of lines and overall production. The story becomes not only real but authentic, having experienced it as it happened.
Furthermore, the access to post-production tools that filmmakers have can impact the way a story is told, not just in terms of immersion, as I already mentioned, but in terms of what is actually seen. When actors are on a stage performing, the audience can see a variety of characters at any given time, seeing how a scene unfolds on a larger scale. But in film, this dynamic between audience and scene becomes less clear cut, as the director is able to draw the audience’s attention to whatever they deem important. It is a useful storytelling technique, but in adaptations of productions with large musical numbers, it can limit how we understand things like choreography or how the characters are related in space.
While the film has many creative advantages, ultimately, not every show will translate from stage to screen very well. Creators should acknowledge the medium’s differences and strive to create content that best utilizes each given medium’s advantages to telling a more compelling story.