In going from a novel to a big budget movie or series, a critical step is a “Proof Of Concept” motion picture where potential investors are exposed to the market potential of the movie or series. The cost of reaching this POC stage is out of the reach of most “fandom” cultures as it involves translating the book into a screen play, which can be laborious, and then translating the screen play into actual motion pictures however low-budget.
However, the semiautomated translation from novel to screenplay is now plausible, as well as the semiautomated translation from screenplay to POC. Here’s an example of translating the opening scene from my favorite novel “Camp 38” to a screen play – which could then be fed to a semiautomated low budget text to video production POC:
Me to ChatGPT: Change the following book passage into the corresponding scene in a screenplay based on the book:
STATEMENT OF THE KNOWN FACTS
In San Francisco, last April, a man in his early twenties was hit by a city bus on Van Ness Avenue and died before reaching the hospital. There were many witnesses and the investigation was routine; the death was officially recorded as accidental. The victim aroused some interest because the lack of identification was so complete it looked purposeful. He had a new billfold with over eight hundred dollars but no identifying cards, no cleaning or laundry marks on his clothes, and there was no record of his fingerprints. I am a reporter for the San Francisco Post-Intelligencer. When the accident occurred I chanced to be driving behind the bus. A patrol car was also in the block; the police and I reach the accident at the same time and, while we were crawling under the bus to get to the already unconscious man, I found a red book on the street about four feet from the victim. Thinking it might be an angle on the story, I started to put it in my purse until I had time to look at it. One of the officers saw what I was doing and insisted on taking it from me. I let him have it at the time but, as the connection with the deceased had not been established, I later filed a claim to it as its finder. On the book were no traces of the victim’s fingerprints, but they could easily have been destroyed by mine or those of the police officer, and I am frankly of the opinion that the book was on the young man’s person at the time of the accident. However, because there was no conclusive evidence to that effect, a quirk of law makes it mine. It is now in my possession. It is a red cloth bound diary, six by nine inches in size, with full pages for each day of the year. The front pages up to January twenty-one had been torn out and the book then reused without regard to printed dates. The context of the diary makes it clear that if dates had been used they would not have been those of our calendar. At the time I found the book a folded letter in an unsealed, unaddressed envelope was closed within its pages. A photograph of the letter showing the handwriting, and a photograph of the diary were part of my story on the accident which appeared on page one of my paper. For reasons that are obvious from their contents, both the letter and the diary appear intended for personal delivery by the accident victim as a precaution against their falling into the wrong hands. An additional reason — that of introducing the young man to the girl to whom the letter was addressed — appears a high probability. Both letter and diary are reprinted here in full without editing. Only one thing has been added. The separate, undated entries in the diary have been numbered consecutively like chapters in a book.
EXT. VAN NESS AVENUE - DAY
A young man in his early twenties walks down the sidewalk, lost in thought. He crosses the street and as he steps off the curb, a city bus hits him. The man falls to the ground, unconscious.
EXT. VAN NESS AVENUE - DAY
A police patrol car and a reporter’s car pull up to the scene of the accident at the same time. The reporter, JANE, gets out of her car and starts to approach the victim.
(to police officer)
I’m a reporter with the San Francisco Post-Intelligencer. Can you tell me what happened?
He was hit by a bus. We don’t know who he is.
(looking at the victim)
There’s no identification on him?
(shaking his head)
(spotting the red book on the ground)
Wait, what’s that?
Jane bends down and picks up the book. The police officer approaches her.
What are you doing?
I thought it might be a lead for my story.
(looking at the book)
Let me see that.
Jane hands the book over to the police officer. He looks at it and then hands it back to her.
It doesn’t have any identifying information. You can keep it if you want.
The police officer and Jane crawl under the bus to get to the victim.
INT. JANE’S OFFICE - DAY
Jane sits at her desk, typing up her story on the accident. She types out the known facts of the accident and the lack of identification on the victim. She then types about finding the red book and the folded letter inside it.
EXT. JANE’S OFFICE BUILDING - DAY
Jane leaves the building, holding the red book and folded letter. She gets into her car and drives away.
INT. JANE’S APARTMENT - DAY
Jane sits on her couch, examining the red book and letter. She opens the book and sees that the front pages have been torn out.
She then opens the folded letter and reads it. As she reads, the camera zooms in on the letter and we hear the voiceover of the letter being read.
My dearest Rose, I cannot wait to see you again. I have something to show you, something that will change everything.
Jane finishes reading the letter and looks at the red book.
I have a feeling this book is connected to the victim.
She flips through the pages of the diary, seeing that the entries are numbered like chapters in a book. She then picks up her phone and starts to make a call.