Exclusive: Author/Screenwriter Emma Donoghue Discusses Adapting A24’s ‘Room’

Emma-Donoghue-Room

Emma Donoghue discuss her novel “Room” and its transition to film!

A24’s “Room,” based on the best selling book that captivated readers, focuses on a mother named Ma (Brie Larson) and son Jack (Jacob Tremblay) confined in a room. Audiences slowly piece together why they are in there and as you sit on the edge of your seat wondering what will happen next. I had the opportunity to speak with Emma Donoghue over the phone and discuss with her the differences between writing a book and screenplay, working with director Lenny Abrahamson, and why audiences are reacting so strongly to watching “Room.”

Film Fad (Kenny):

The author of “Room,” Emma Donoghue, had the rare opportunity to adapt her work into the screenplay.  And it is a masterful one at that. With delicate care, she constructs a tender and emotional powerhouse of dire circumstances and transformational characterization that optimistically blossoms in unexpected ways.

Emma Donoghue faced the reality that making a movie isn’t like writing a book. Immediately, there is a storytelling difference from “Room” the movie and “Room” the book that audiences need to understand to provide contrast to both mediums.

Emma Donoghue:

“The book is written in first person narration of Jack. The reader is in his head. We only get to know about the mom through Jack. So many readers begged me about knowing about mom. So the advantage of the movie is knowing her.”

Room-Brie-Larson-Jacob-Tremblay

Jacob Tremblay and Brie Larson

Film Fad (Kenny):

Emma Donoghue, consistently thought provoking and very passionate about her work during our conversation, understood the differences between writing a book and crafting a screenplay to a movie when it came to telling the story in “Room.” Even though you can be more constrained in making a movie, the emotional impact can hit audiences harder in that storytelling version.

Emma Donoghue:

“Books are wonderfully free form. You can stuff all things in the book where in the film is a time based medium. The overall effect can be more moving in a movie.”

Film Fad (Kenny):

“Room” provides more points of view from different characters than just Jack. Emma appreciated how “Room” (the movie) provided characterization of Jack’s family and how it becomes more of a focal point in the book than the movie.

Emma Donoghue:

“In the film you have to carve a lot a way but certain elements come to focus such as the family coming to the forefront. Allen and Brie are more focused. Brie’s performance is a flickering moments of downbeat and upbeats moments. Joan Allen’s role really comes forward.”

Film Fad (Kenny):

When a writer hands over a screenplay to a director, it can be bittersweet because the screenwriter gets to have their work made into a movie, but may wonder if their version envisioned will smoothly transition into the mind of the director. Thankfully, Emma Donoghue and Lenny Abrahamson were on the same page on how to make “Room” into a movie.

Emma Donoghue:

“You have to remember it is the director’s film. It isn’t an equal relationship. I handed it over to Lenny. I was exec producer and was included in the conversations. I have always known it is the director’s. Lenny pushed it to more naturalistic and it is his film. What excited me was to tell this story with cinema.”

“A lot of directors would have wanted to it be a thriller but Lenny Abrahamson comes from a European background. He was compelled by elements but not making it a thriller. One real pleasure of making this movie was we got to film in sequence. Lenny thought it was crucial for Jacob to understand what he needed to be doing and feeling. We all had a sense of what was helping him. It shapes a movie beautifully.”

Brie-Larson-Telluride-Room

“In Telluride, Brie Larson discusses Room outside of the Werner Herzog Theater with a fan who loved the movie so much, she watched it twice!”

Film Fad (Kenny):

Donoghue is excited that “Room” is garnering coveted awards season buzz after touring the fall festival circuit of Venice, Telluride, and Toronto and winning a big audience award at Toronto. When I saw it at Telluride, it impacted me and audiences reacted very strongly to it. With all this buzz, Emma doesn’t let it get to her head one bit.

Jacob-Tremblay-Room

“Audiences are captivated with the mature performance of emerging child actor Jacob Tremblay who wow’d the crowd outside the Werner Herzog Theater in Telluride.”

Emma Donoghue:

“I’m enjoying the fact that it is getting so much attention but I don’t get fixated on this. The film world seems unhealthy obsessed. We can’t buy ourselves the attention. We have to earn it. It sends out the message we made a great film. We are telling an amazing love story between parents and children.”

Film Fad (Kenny):

Audiences are reacting strongly to “Room” especially from the performances of the actors including emerging child actor Jacob Tremblay. Emma Donoghue knows that audiences can relate to the universal emotions that the characters feel too, even if the circumstances aren’t common.

Emma Donoghue:

“One reason people are responding so strongly is we tried to present universal moments. We experience those moments when we send the child away to something like summer camp and we don’t want to let them go. We experience this everyday but wanted to convey the importance of relationships and the value of family in “Room.”

“Room” is playing in theaters and will expand into more theaters. Do yourself a favor. Do not read any reviews or watch any trailers to “Room.” (except maybe ours…haha -From Ryan) Just buy a ticket to “Room.” The less you know, the better. You’ll thank me later. And just to clear the air. This movie “Room” has nothing to do with Tommy Wiseau. At all. Sorry. (A few people have asked me this.)

Kenny

Author: Kenny

Whether something is overlooked by Hollywood or whatever business trend has captured the Entertainment Industry’s attention, Kenny Miles loves to talk about movies (especially the cultural impact of a film). He covers various aspects of movies including specialty genre films, limited release, independent, foreign language, documentary features, and THE much infamous "awards season." Also, he likes to offer his opinion on the business of film, marketing strategy, and branding. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado and is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society critics group. When he isn’t writing, Kenny channels his passion for interacting with moviegoers working as special events coordinator in the film community. You can follow him on Twitter @kmiles723.

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