Adaptation Notes #1 -Bombay’s Republic (3bute #9):
3bute.com– this idea of using an image interaction platform to turn artists’ 3-page adaptations of African stories and journalism into pinboards/ story portals that can be distributed around the web and mashed with contextual material by anyone–just turned 8 months old.
While we work out the funding that will enable us commission other artists (i.e photographers, graphic designers etc.) to bring other styles to 3-page adaptations of some of the great examples of African literature and journalism on the web, I have in the meantime kept the trains going (not always on time) on the adaptation and production end of things, by researching, adapting and illustrating 10 stories so far, including a tribute to late Cape Verdean Singer, Cesaria Evora – a collaboration with the BBC Focus on Africa magazine which we will be putting up soon.
I have also been trying to bring in other viewpoints and storytelling styles to this rather unique process of extracting longer works into a space of 3 pages that still manages to tell a story. I think it’s best to think of a 3bute as a one-minute trailer for something much longer and I’m interested in seeing what story choices others would make; story elements they’d thought were important, which I might not have given a hoot about.
Saratu Abiola, who blogs at Method to the Madness and was part of the @zunguzungu organized Caine Prize 2012 blogathon, agreed to guest-adapt on 3bute #9 – Bombay’s Republic. Hence 3bute #9 is the first “3bute” I’ll be collaborating on with someone else, at least in the adaptation process, which also makes it a good place to start putting down some notes for the future on “adapting 3butes.”
After going through our notes on Bombay Republic over the phone, I made the thumbnail sketch (above) of the structure and layout for the three pages. Setting a gruesome tone and starting with the old jailhouse was Saratu’s idea. Which posed a problem at first because it meant starting too early in the story.
Ideally, you want to get to that defining image combining location and action as fast as you can, and then you keep your fingers crossed that you will find ways to add the backstory you need on the fly. However, Saratu stressed the writer’s use of the old jailhouse as some sort of bookend device for the story and that duplicating the effect in the adaptation would be, well, cool. I decided to go with her instincts.
A lot about adapting written stories into extremely short visual narratives boils down to 2 approaches you could take: 1) if you find a scene or image or sequence within the story which thematically captures what the whole story is about, then you might want to extract just that and break that down; or 2) you might want to summarize the story (or one of its arcs), which means picking a few images, condensing time/dialogue and coming up with a new narrative clothesline to peg all your choices on while praying your ass off that you can come up with transitions (like the one below) …
.. to make the time condensation not only work, but work in a way that keeps the clothesline of your plot strong and taut enough to carry all you need it to carry.
Finally, Bombay’s Republic also offered the chance to do something I’ve always wanted to do — a version of the “Tarantino trunk shot “ :
– bunmi john oloruntoba (June 2012)